An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power Directed by Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen. Rated PG. Opens Friday in select theaters.
Eleven years have passed since Al Gore preached the dangers of climate change in the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and there’s been both good and bad news since then. On the positive side, humanity has belatedly taken real steps to solve the problem, even if our current president seems determined to unilaterally reverse course here in the U.S. On the negative side, we’re still potentially doomed, and extreme weather patterns are already wreaking significant havoc around the globe.
Well aware that An Inconvenient Truth helped sound the alarm, Gore now returns with An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, in which he once again attempts to convey just how urgent the situation is. By this time, though, almost anyone who’s persuadable has long since been persuaded. Making a follow-up doc is a bit like someone pressing the elevator button again in the hope that doing so will somehow speed things along.
An Inconvenient Truth, it’s clear in retrospect, derived much of its power from the banal homeliness of its presentation. Gore had so many facts and figures to impart that there was no time for “cinema”; that movie consists almost entirely of the same PowerPoint lecture he was touring the country with at the time. Sequel functions more like a normal documentary, which makes it at once more visually compelling and less rhetorically arresting. There’s still some dry PowerPoint material, but we also accompany Gore to places like Greenland (to stare in horror at melting ice sheets) and Paris (where he takes part in negotiations for the worldwide agreement that Trump recently announced we’ll no longer honor). The film also spends a surprising amount of time “humanizing” Gore, hoping that skeptical viewers will be more receptive if they warm to him as a person. Indeed, at times it’s possible to forget that you’re watching a documentary about climate change and not a documentary portrait of Al Gore. Seeing him get angry about the world’s inaction makes him more relatable, but “I told you so—why didn’t you listen?!” isn’t an especially productive message, and it’s all that An Inconvenient Sequel really has to offer.