"AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER — 2 stars — Al Gore, George W. Bush, John Kerry, Angela Merkel; PG (thematic elements and some troubling images); in general release
Coming from a man who claims to be a recovering politician, Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" feels awfully political.
"Inconvenient Sequel" is the follow-up to 2006's "An Inconvenient Truth," which established the former U.S. vice president as a featured voice on the issue of climate change/global warming. The new film opens with a defensive stance, playing audio of Gore's critics over the top of imagery of melting glaciers.
The us vs. them stance continues throughout the film's 98-minute run time, combining a variety of fact and figure sequences supporting climate change theories with accusations against those — typically labeled "deniers" — who have interfered with Gore's efforts to address them.
The bad guys are pretty much who you would expect: big business, Republicans and former President George W. Bush, who canceled the launch of a special satellite designed for environmental study Gore had been involved with prior to the 2000 presidential election.
"Inconvenient Sequel" also makes multiple references to the Supreme Court decision that gave Bush the election nod over Gore, going so far as to share a clip of Gore's own reluctant acceptance speech. Including material like this alongside a visit to Gore's childhood home, where he reminisces on his beginnings in the world of politics, one wonders if "Inconvenient Sequel" is more of a biography of an ex-politician than an advocacy of his cherished cause.
Indeed, "Inconvenient Sequel" follows Gore around the world as he visits various "climate leadership training" seminars, always careful to note how many countries are represented by the participants. Eventually, in one of the film's more interesting passages, we see Gore working behind the scenes of the Paris Climate Accord developed in late 2015. Here, Gore works hard to sway India, which has extensive plans to pursue traditional fossil fuel.
Gore had already traveled to India earlier in the film, where in one poignant scene, an Indian representative asks the former vice president why India, an impoverished, developing country, should not benefit from the same 150 years of fossil fuel use that the U.S. enjoyed. Images of smog-infested Indian cities support Gore's assertion that it is already too late for that.
It's a rare moment of transparency in a film that is heavily one-sided. "Inconvenient Sequel" is a piece of unabashed propaganda, complete with a social media recruitment pitch over the closing credits. It's an effective articulation of Gore's perspective, but little more.
That being said, "Inconvenient Sequel" is at its best when it showcases the environmental successes that have taken place in the last decade, mostly in the development of renewable energy. Segments such as one that takes place in a red-state Texas town have a much more cooperative and positive tone than those that put Gore's political enemies in the crosshairs, and will be far more likely to persuade skeptical audiences.
Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk have also added a brief mention of President Donald Trump's withdrawl from the 2015 Paris agreement to the film, which debuted earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival. Trump is another frequent target of the film, as you might imagine.
As Gore wistfully describes the famous "Blue Pearl" photo of the Earth taken from outer space, articulating his passion for protecting his home, it's easy to relate, but also feel a little disappointed. There is much in Cohen and Shenk's film that could bring audiences together, but Gore's fixation on old political battles will limit "An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power's" appeal potential.
"An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power" is rated PG for thematic elements and some troubling images; running time: 98 minutes.