It’s been just over a decade since Al Gore released his climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Now, he returns with the follow-up sequel.
“Ten years after the Academy Award-winning An Inconvenient Truth brought climate change to the forefront of mainstream culture, former Vice President Al Gore continues his tireless fight to educate the next generation of climate champions. Eye-opening and alarming, this compelling follow-up shows that while the stakes have never been higher, the solutions to the climate crisis are still within our reach.” – Official Description
We’re going to say this upfront: this review is not about personal beliefs or opinions on climate change. It’s a controversial issue, and one we would prefer to not really discuss here. This review is simply a look at the quality of the documentary and the arguments presented within and not a judgment or reflection of the documentary’s success or failure.
So, let’s get started.
People interested in this movie have likely already seen the first film Gore released in 2006. That documentary centered around a lecture the former vice president was providing to a group of college-aged students. Narration by Gore, video from his life, and video evidence to support his lecture were intercut with scenes from the presentation. He concludes the lecture with several predictions about the future of the world should climate change not be taken seriously.
Now, just over a decade later, Al Gore returns with a new documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth To Power. The narrative for the sequel is completely different. Whereas the first documentary attempted to put facts front and center, the sequel is grounded in emotions.
It begins with audio clips and written reviews criticizing the original documentary and attempting to counter Gore’s arguments. He quickly informs his audience that the original was not as successful as he had hoped. Evidence is provided to show that several of his predictions came true and led to devastating results around the world. Still, he feels that his argument is unheard by many world leaders. There is a much darker and more dire tone this time around.
Gore is not defeated, though. We learn that his original lecture led to training programs meant to empower individuals to call for change on their own. He has been leading these sessions that he believes are equipping the future climate change leaders of the world with the knowledge and ability to effect change regardless of individual power, wealth, or status.
It is this tireless and relentless Gore that we follow to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a global conference dedicated to climate change that eventually led to the Paris Agreement. Gore explains to the cameras that he is unsure of his role at this conference. We see that his help is almost immediately requested to negotiate a deal with India. It is the success of this deal that guides the movie from its original despair to its ideas of hope and possibility for the future.
After his success in helping India reach a sustainability agreement, we see more deals and changes take place across the world. From specific towns to entire countries, Gore details how changes are being made. The film now takes on an uplifting and encouraging tone. There is hope for change, Gore argues.
This tone is briefly halted. The documentary concludes with President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. It’s hard not to feel for Gore after the amount of work and effort viewers have just watched him pour into making the agreement happen. Yet again, he attempts to bring the narrative back to one of hope for the future by discussing the idea of speaking truth to those in positions of power.
Unfortunately, this documentary suffers from the same flaw as the original: a weak “get involved” discussion. Gore spends two documentaries attempting to convince people of the dangers of climate change and that they must help; however, he does not provide them with many ways to do so. The first movie really glosses over this part and leaves suggestions about how individuals can help interwoven with the credits. Yes, the “get involved” is in the credits. The sequel doesn’t do much better. Gore stresses that individuals must take responsibility for making changes happen and cannot wait or rely on governments to do it for them; however, many of the changes he suggests making involve petitioning local government authorities to make changes. A viewer who is persuaded by Gore’s arguments may want to make changes at home, but suggestions on how to do so are largely bypassed. Given the dedication and detail put into these documentaries, it almost feels like a letdown that viewers aren’t shown a real way to make a difference other than lobbying politicians.
Quickly, let’s look at the video quality. Unlike the predecessor, this sequel is presented in Blu-ray, and the switch really enhances footage shot outdoors. The only real issue with the video quality itself is the use of white subtitles often against white or very light backgrounds such as icebergs. These are nearly impossible to read. Other than that, the video itself looks fine.
– Effecting Change: Speaking Truth To Power (26:43) – This mini-documentary allows audiences to hear not only from Al Gore, but also from husband and wife director team Jon Shenk and Bonni Cohen. They explain how they met the former vice president, what led them to support his causes, and how they filmed the documentary on location throughout the world.
– OneRepbulic “Truth To Power” Lyric Video (3:42) – This song was written specifically for this movie, and here you can see the lyric video to the theme song.
– Truth In Ten – The Facts About Climate Change (11:29) – In this short, Gore presents the quick facts of global warming and climate change.
The special features are a nice addition. While the lyric video isn’t really necessary, the Truth In Ten segment works as a nice recap for viewers who want a refresher on the first documentary. The Effecting Change mini-documentary does a nice job of introducing the directors and allowing them to discuss why this project mattered to them. After two documentaries centered around Gore, it’s interesting to hear this much from other people who attended the same events. In a way, they help to frame Gore’s status in the world of climate change.
Unlike An Inconvenient Truth, this documentary, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, is grounded in emotion rather than fact. This new narrative attempts to guide viewers from despair in the present to hope for the future. Gore stresses the importance of individual change but again suggests limited ways for this to happen.