The filmmaking is more pedestrian, the visuals a bit too heavy on travel and meetings and phone wrangling.
And the shock and optimism of the Oscar winning “An Inconvenient Truth” is more muted in “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.” It’s never self-congratulatory, rarely “I told you so,” although if anybody on Planet Earth is entitled to owning that phrase it’s Al Gore.
“Truth to Power” revisits Gore’s life project, educating the world of the increasingly obvious perils of climate change. It follows him from Washington to Paris, Miami to the Philippines, and lays out the Sisyphean task of convincing the developing world to shoulder part of the challenge and the developed world to stop listening to the paid propaganda of Big Fossil Fuel and its compliant right-wing mouthpieces.
The numbers, statistics and charts are more damning than ever. Just last week, another weather “anomaly” in Miami caused that “once in a century” flooding that the film shows Gore witnessing two years ago. “Hottest day ever recorded” pops up in the news around the globe. In India, the asphalt streets are melting into a scalding quicksand for days at a time. Beijing’s mayor has labeled his city “unlivable” thanks to the polluted air and rising temperatures.
Filmmakers Bonni Cohen (“The Rape of Europa”) and Jon Shenk visit imploding glaciers in Greenland and a typhoon-sacked city in the Philippines. We and Gore witness the smog-clogged skies of India and China and hear out the developing world’s jingoistic pushback against curbing its carbon emissions.
And there is Gore, talking, training others to spread the message, showing his ever-evolving power point presentation and patiently dealing with setbacks big and small.
The biggest? America electing Donald Trump, a climate denier untroubled by facts, truth or insurance rates which will start to bite his properties — should he bother to pay his bill.
The movie meanders somewhat, giving screen time to a failed worldwide climate wake-up call telecast from Paris that had to be abandoned during the citywide terrorist attacks of 2015.
Do we really need to revisit the 2000 presidential election to know how far backward America and the world were pushed, thanks to a Supreme Court ruling?
The film feels also less personal, although Gore comes off as better-informed on the subject than ever, more committed to the task at hand, and when need be — folksy and self-effacing in the face of abuse from the dumbest and most politically cynical voices in America.
When Gore preaches that “despair can be paralyzing,” we get it. When he wades through record flooding in Miami Beach, he can make a crack like “I just wonder how the governor (climate change denier Rick Scott) sloshes through this and doesn’t notice.” sting.
The warnings are dire, and before great progress can be made “on the climate crisis,” we have to fix “the democracy crisis.” He visits the New York Attorney General suing Big Oil to find out how they’re financing misinformation campaigns. This subject was politicized long ago, and it wasn’t politicized by Al Gore.
But he is selling, above all else, optimism. He talks the most with mayors, and those folks — from Miami Beach to Georgetown, Texas — get it. Georgetown is the largest city in America to move to renewable energy.
It’s mayor crows that “It’s the reddest town” in a Red State, but the energy cost savings and moral high ground the city can claim trump even Trump among Trump voters.
A seriously backward town I used to live in, Kodiak, Alaska, used to be powered by a diesel generator plant. Now it’s lauded for running 100% on renewable energy. If it can happen in Kodiak, it might even happen in Florida.
When Volvo announces it is abandoning gasoline engines, and Toyota and Mazda announce plans for a shared North American electric car plant, when solar and wind power take root and take over the power grids of countries from Denmark and Portugal to Chile, there is cause for hope and little chance of giant steps backward.
“Sequel” doesn’t have the novelty of its Oscar-winning predecessor. But it still has its Nobel Peace Prize-winning star, fighting the good fight, riding a tide of changing awareness toward that ever-nearer tipping point, where this issue is no longer debated, even by the most cynically-corrupt and their unthinking lemmings.
Cast: Al Gore, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, George W. Bush, Donald J. Trump
Credits:Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, script by . A — release.