In 2006, Al Gore turned his slide show about global warming into An Inconvenient Truth, one of the most successful documentaries in box-office history. With the help of director Davis Guggenheim, the former Vice President won an Oscar and a Nobel Peace Prize, while the political right laughed its collective ass off and dismissed the movie as full of alarmist crap. Expect more divisive reactions to An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, with Trump leading the fake-news assault. This follow-up, directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, follows the celebrity eco-warrior around the world as he instructs and inspires Climate Leadership Training seminars and shows trainees what’s at stake. The emphasis here is on show, not tell.
I’m sure Gore meant the new film as a celebration of the progress we’ve made in eco-awareness since the first film, and the cut of Sequel that was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in January preceded Trump pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Accords on climate change. So the doc was re-edited to include reference to what Gore calls Trump’s “reckless and indefensible action. If President Trump won’t lead, the American people will.”
His latest cinematic salvo in the fight to save our world certainly makes a persuasive argument in its depiction of eco-disasters, such as soaring temperatures, rising sea levels, a shrinking glacier in Greenland and flooded streets in Miami. Gore visits the Republican mayor of Georgetown, Texas, “the reddest city in the reddest county in Texas,” where citizens are already 90 percent invested in renewable energy over fossil fuels. It’s that kind of horse sense that stokes our tour guide’s optimism for a future when the public will realize that pollution isn’t politics – it’s an urgent issue of global survival.
Of course, some audiences will always think that being lectured at is the moviegoing equivalent of being forced to eat vegetables. And there are a few spinach-fueled sermons in this sequel that can rankle, along with the mythologizing of Gore as a spouting fountain of wisdom. (Even Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau treats him like a rock star.) He jokingly calls himself “a recovering politician.” Ironically, it’s as a seasoned politico that Gore is most effective, making deals behind the scenes at a 2015 UN climate summit, and getting India to stop foot-dragging and join the battle.
Truth to Power sprawls when it most needs to focus, diluting the power punch of the original with too much bobbing and weaving. But it’s hard to argue that the crusade isn’t still vital. Gore recalls how the first film was roundly mocked for suggesting that storm surges could flood the 9/11 memorial site in Lower Manhattan – and as footage here shows, that’s exactly what happened during Hurricane Sandy. Eco-deniers will continue to throw stones, and for those with no intention of joining the choir that An Inconvenient Sequel is preaching to, Gore offers a simple alternative: Don’t go to the movies. Just look at the world around you.