Synopsis: Al Gore returns with an update to 2006’s documentary, An Inconvenient Truth (AIT). An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power provides solid climate science, and a unique backstage pass of how global climate change political deals are done.
**** out of 5 stars
Its been eleven years since Al Gore’s ground breaking documentary on climate change, An Inconvenient Truth. It was released to critical acclaim and won Best Documentary at the 2006 Academy Awards and was a box office success, as Al Gore brought the issue of global warming to the public forefront.
Fast Forward to 2017, and we get An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power (AIS:TTP) Call it AIT 2.0. The movie provides a good mix of climate science, economics, and global politics, all wrapped in one basket. The documentary gives a backstage pass of high stakes climate policy poker at the maximum level, which provides extra documentary value for the viewer.
This is what sells AIS:TTP as a compelling well thought out documentary. AIS:TTP has a balanced mix of showing the science of climate change, and its effects and tying it into the recent clean technology trends.
The opening section has Gore taking a jaw dropping trip to Greenland to see the effects of climate change there, melting area ice glaciers. In one scene, you can see the glaciers, crumble faster than an imploded house, which you could have taken out of a 1980’s science fiction movie. However, this is happening now and not in some science fiction flick.
If that does not make you think something is wrong, the Gore’s slides showing the effects of climate change from extreme weather events will get you pondering why we are seeing more of these violent weather phenomena (ranging from dramatic floods in Louisiana to wildfires in Alberta). Gore gives you a “walk through the book of Revelations” as he genuinely puts it into perspective for the public to understand how we see climate change risks in 2017.
While AIS:TTP does show the severe risks society is facing with climate change, it also showcases the rapid rise of cleantech since the original film. I was pleased how there was a good discussion of how the economics of wind energy, electric vehicles, and especially solar power worked out since AIT. Gore hits the point home of how much the price of renewables has fallen, especially solar today (which has dropped from $77.00/watt forty years ago to around $0.55/watt)
This also plays a critical aspect behind the second point of why this documentary works: AIS:TTP gives you a front-row access to the challenges, and deals behind the Paris climate agreement and how renewable energy policy plays a significant role in this deal. I appreciated how the films show you, as a viewer, of not only how the dynamics of global politics play out in the 21st century, but also how technology is attempting to bridge the gap for infrastructure for developing countries, including India. Consider India ranked fourth in global carbon emissions in the world, and is a rapidly growing player in the global economy. This leads to the film dynamic of India arguing they need to advance their economy to improve their citizen’s lives. Even if it means using fossil fuels, as Gore works feverishly in the lead up and during the COP21 in Paris to find a way to get India on side in signing onto the Paris agreement. Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk do an excellent job of not letting any stone unturned in the behind the scenes political dealings, and the aftermath of the Paris climate agreement. It gives viewers in understanding the scope and scale of how political deals not only work, but the importance in an era of Trump and anti global sentiment, of why building global political capital is critical, especially in the 21st Century.
While AIS:TTP is very strong, the only down point of this film was at times it felt like an update, rather than something new. AIS:TTP does a good job on updating info about the science, risks related to climate change, and the economic benefits of falling cleantech prices. That is what any good updates should do, is provide the public with the most up to date information for them to make educated decisions on the main issues which will affect their livelihoods.
That is what you I guess you should expect from sequels to documentaries: Good solid updated information, but nothing earth shattering. This is why its hard for sequels to documentaries to be wildly successful. That lies part of the challenge why AIS:TTP has not done so well, compared to the original, where AIT made $50 USD million. This film will not even come close to making what the original did.
Another reason why AIS:TTP has been lackluster at the box office has been Paramount Pictures having it in limited release for opening weekend, then only adding a few selected theatres the week after. In Winnipeg, it did not open up on August 4th, but rather the next week August 11th. There has been disappointment amongst environmentalists on the lackadaisical promotional strategy by Paramount Pictures.
Third, and the primary reason why AIS:TTP has not done as well is that there are much more options in distributing and seeing films. Although in 2006, when AIT came out the Internet was around, there were not as many streaming options as there is in 2017. Today, in an age of Netflix, there are so many ways to distribute a film, including digital download, Blu-Ray, DVD, and streaming services. Factor in going to see a movie cost around $10.00 and you wonder if it’s not just AIS:TTP, but documentaries in general, which could be more suited for these different distribution platforms, and achieve a high reach of engaged viewers. Look for example the critically acclaimed documentary, Sons of Ben, which focuses on the rise the soccer supporters group, which played a critical role in landing the Philadelphia Union in Major League Soccer. It gained critical acclaim while reaching a wide audience amongst both the soccer community and public.
Despite these challenges, AIS:TTP is a definite must-see in a year of weak movies (Besides Dunkirk). A likely Best Documentary contender at Academy Awards time. Go see This film. Not only to be inspired by the rise of the sustainability revolution through the sharp price drops in renewable energy, not only for the updates on the increased risks of climate change towards society, but go see it for the most important part: Go to it for The Art of The Global Climate Deal. This will be the invaluable lesson you will get, and ensure we strive to limit the worst impacts of climate change, while we help developing nations leap-frog past their dirty fossil fuel infrastructure.