Please go see 'An Inconvenient Sequel,' even if it's a sophomore slump
Al Gore reminds us that we should have listened to him in a movie that exists only because it needs to exist.
‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’
Directors: Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
3 (out of 5) Globes
“An Inconvenient Sequel” will make you long for more PowerPoint. The rare sequel upfront about wishing it didn’t exist, the second go-around with climate change crusader Al Gore is miffed Americans treated environmentalism like a fad. We were supposed to do what its host said, or else nature would rise up and reclaim itself from the planet's knuckle-scraping polluters. We didn’t do what he said. And now we get a second warning, which punishes us by making us watch a film whose makers have no idea what it should be, which only exists because it needs to exist.
The original “An Inconvenient Truth, from 2006, is the kind of movie that sounds like a drag but isn’t. It’s a doomsday warning delivered by a political figure “The Simpsons,” not undeservingly, used to depict as a droning somnambulant who actually might be a robot. It finds an unfairly failed presidential candidate stands in front of a screen slightly smaller than the one you’re watching, explaining charts and showing us graphs and telling corny jokes. It also revealed Gore was a charmer, more comfortable with popular science than politics. His folksy way of explaining complex, scary shit in layman’s terms (i.e., to a nation of idiots) managed to inspire masses into taking action (or at least penciling that into their calendar then forgetting about it). It also managed to soothe us, our host’s down-home Southern drawl lulling us away from the inevitable panic attack.
Then we went and treated climate change action like nu-metal or Jennifer Love Hewitt; we forgot we ever paid attention to it. So here we are again. Gore and team attack “An Inconvenient Sequel” like stoners who forgot to do their final paper of the semester until the night before it was due. It’s a shambles, flailing about for focus. It does have a little bit of PowerPoint. Gore visits a Climate Leadership training session in Houston. He opens with a joke. Then he shows video of glaciers exploding as though they were being hit by the German planes in “Dunkirk.” He could spend the entire movie on that stage, lecturing us and calling us rude words. And we’d deserve it.
Instead, the makers of “Sequel” seem to have listened to those terrible naysayers who said the PowerPoint-heavy “Truth” was boring, probably without having seen it. The action quickly drifts away from the stage, but the filmmakers don’t know where to go. Sometimes they follow Gore as he globe-trots. Sometimes they cough up intel (floods in Miami, droughts in Syria, etc.) we may already know. We get a lot of Al Gore, person. He talks a lot about how worried he was about running for president back in the late ’80s, what it would do to his family. What would his kids think of sharing a home with Secret Service goons?
Right, where were we? Ah, yes, the apocalypse. Humanizing Gore was a subtly integral part of “An Inconvenient Truth”’s success; masses wouldn’t listen to him if they didn’t like him, and half the country didn’t. This time, all the business about Gore’s personal life plays like padding — a bait-and-switch meant to distract you from how the filmmakers have no idea what they want to say beyond the obvious.
And it should have a lot to say. Since 2006, evidence that Gore was right has piled up like cars in a John Landis movie. Gore helped launch a climate change craze, as well as a cottage industry of climate change films. Some of these are better than “Truth,” let alone “Sequel.” The new one arrives in theaters a mere fortnight after “Chasing Coral,” in which scientists and techies find a way to film coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef, showing that climate change is killing them dead. It’s horrifying. Gore’s version has nothing like that on its plate. It’s like someone fumbling badly through a solo on “Guitar Hero,” even though that someone is Joe Perry and he wrote the solo but can’t play it on that dumb fake-guitar controller.
So why the positive rating? To be frank, because ratings seem particularly arbitrary when you’re talking about a subject that may kill us all — or if not us, the next generation, or the one after that. It’s a B- movie that gets by on a lot of good will but not much else. It’s important that a lot of people see “An Inconvenient Sequel,” because “a lot of people” will probably never watch “Chasing Coral” or “Chasing Ice” or “Time to Choose,” one of the few visually stunning climate change docs, and one that also concentrates on what we can do. They probably didn't even watch that one with DiCaprio. (Or the one he made before that.) “Sequel” is all about trading on its name, as well as its beyond righteous cause. So we give it a pass for doing the bare minimum. After all, all it had to do was show up.
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