Poor Al Gore. Ever since he stepped into environmental activism over ten years ago with An Inconvenient Truth, he’s been mocked and ignored as much as he’s met with success. With An Inconvenient Sequel, he’s back, with PowerPoint slides in hand and an impassioned sense of right and wrong. But while Gore’s energy remains relatively undimmed by time, the standards of the documentary surrounding him have slipped; for this film seems less interested in the specifics of contemporary climate change activism than it is in the personal life of its subject, unable to distinguish between the humdrum and the vital.
Beginning with the standard image of water dripping off glaciers, directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk try to catch us up on the impact Truth had, and where Gore went from there. While plenty of pundits – mostly Republicans – made fun of the documentary’s “alarmist” attitude, the politician was mostly proved right, including when flooding hit New York and damaged the 9/11 memorial. Obama ascended to the presidency in 2008 and made climate change a top priority, and Gore split his time between running educational workshops for businesses, and travelling the world, attending conferences and meetings with world leaders.
The issue is that not much is given sufficient detail and context. The environmentalist travels to Florida, where flooding is commonplace, and the authorities agree that it’s a climate problem. But why? The data is surely there, but the filmmakers dwell on cameraphone footage and interviews with victims. India is shown to be uncooperative regarding energy, but we only hear from Gore and the politicians in public meetings – again, context and data would be useful. It might seem strange to say this, given their inherently un-filmic quality, but one wishes there were more footage of his presentations, which at least were educational.
The most fascinating section comes during the Paris Climate Change Conference, where the nitty-gritty of making energy deals is brought to the fore, and Gore’s talent for negotiations is genuinely impressive. And if An Inconvenient Sequel’s priorities were clear, it could illuminate the former vice president’s loneliness more effectively. Yet it exists at an awkward mid-point between educational and personal cinema, and ends up feeling familiar and bland as a result – surely the opposite of what this movement really needs.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power here: