The impact of An Inconvenient Truth, the award-winning film released in 2006, was almost unprecedented for a documentary. There had already been a conversation around climate change, but many advocates and people generally in favor of promoting the notion that it was human-supported often lacked cohesion. One could always cite scientific consensus, but before director Davis Guggenheim and former vice president Al Gore teamed up for that film, the information had not been popularized or made into a single reference point complete with real-world predictions and examples.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
PG, 100 minutes
Violet Crown Cinema
Conversely, those who deny the human impact on climate now had a much easier target in Gore—his personal failings were the failings of the entire movement, his investment portfolio somehow proves that all of climate change advocacy is a racket, and it’s all just an attempt at relevance following his defeat in the 2000 election.
The legacy of An Inconvenient Truth is no small part of its successor, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk follow Gore as he continues his efforts to educate the public, inspire and train further advocates and promote renewable energy policy. Gore is seen giving his ever-changing slideshow presentation, including one in Miami, which he gives moments after walking through the streets following a massive flood. He sees the melting glaciers of Greenland, meets with heads of state and their surrogates and scrambles to cut deals to make the installation of solar energy more affordable.
Much of the film’s focus is on the effort to pass the 2015 Paris climate accord—the same one President Trump is pulling us out from. India is the big holdout in the talks, presenting an argument against the agreement that is more compelling than the denial from the right wing: Adopting these systems places an unequal burden on developing nations that do not have the credit of the industrialized world. Gore scrambles to make a deal between India and solar company SolarCity, and this helps to end the stalemate.
Much of the film’s focus is on the effort to pass the 2015 Paris climate accord—the same one President Trump is pulling us out from.
Any effort to win the climate debate is to be admired, and for this reason An Inconvenient Sequel cannot be wholly dismissed. Gore’s predictions of rising tides and worsening storms have come true, and his personal reflections on hopelessness and despair are fully relatable for those who cannot grasp why anyone would knowingly endanger our planet and our future for the sake of political posturing.
That said, the focus on Gore’s personal crusade is partially what makes the final result so murky. As a man, he is determined to focus on the issues rather than himself, using his high profile to do good in the world. But the film personalizes that which Gore himself is attempting to depersonalize; these things make Gore frustrated, that’s why they are bad. Gore likes these things, that’s why they’re good. SolarCity as a company—and Gore’s relationship to it—ought to be more fully described if we are to believe it is part of the solution. In other words, we are expected to already agree and support both Gore and SolarCity from the beginning.
As this film was already in full production in 2015, it is clear Trump was not on the filmmaker’s minds. The supposed “truth to power” comes as Gore goes to meet with the president-elect in Trump Tower. Trump had to figure in somehow, but for all the time spent on pursuing truth no matter the opposition, it is clear that this film is incomplete. He spoke truth to some power with the Indian delegation, which had legitimate issues. Left unaddressed is how to speak truth to power that is as reactionary and self-destructive as the current administration.
A film like An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power needs to exist, and everyone involved ought to be commended for trying. But with the thesis suggested by its title left dangling and its hasty, premature resolution, all we are left with is a reminder of how good the first movie was. The stakes are too high for half-measures; we need to do better than preaching to the choir, inconvenient though it may be.
Playing this week
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
377 Merchant Walk Sq., 326-5056
Annabelle: Creation, Birth of the Dragon, Dunkirk, Free Victory: The Great Dictator, Good Time, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Ingrid Goes West, Logan Lucky, The World’s End
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX
The Shops at Stonefield, 244-3213
All Saints, Annabelle: Creation, Birth of the Dragon, Despicable Me 3, Dunkirk, The Emoji Movie, Girls Trip, The Glass Castle, Good Time, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Ingrid Goes West, Logan Lucky, The Nut Job: Nutty by Nature, The Only Living Boy in New York, Spider-man: Homecoming
Violet Crown Cinema
200 W. Main St., Downtown Mall, 529-3000
Annabelle: Creation, The Big Sick, City of Ghosts, Dunkirk, The Glass Castle, Good Time, The Hitman’s Bodyguard, Ingrid Goes West, Logan Lucky