This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2017.

Starring: Al Gore

Director: Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG for the Disturbing Implications of Glaciers Breaking Apart

Release Date: July 28, 2017 (Limited)

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power opens with shots of nature accompanied by audio snippets of climate change deniers taking Al Gore to task for what they believe to be the former vice president’s mass hoodwinking. But this dismissal, at least of the aggressively reflexive variety, is few and far between in the rest of the film. The effects of global warming are already too real and overwhelming for the point of Gore’s campaign to be just convincing people about the truth anymore. During one presentation, he notes that the most criticized part of An Inconvenient Truth was the speculation that parts of New York City could soon be underwater. As anyone who survived Superstorm Sandy knows, he may have actually undersold that possibility.

While knowing the facts about climate change is essential for any inhabitant of Earth, I am worried that watching a documentary like An Inconvenient Sequel may actually be counterproductive. The crisis it presents is so depressing and overwhelming to the potential point of debilitation, especially in light of all the other calls to action out there. Back in 2006, An Inconvenient Truth could very conceivably have been the only significant coverage of global warming you saw all year. But in 2017, the average Inconvenient Sequel viewer may very well have in the past month also watched the Netflix doc Chasing Coral, read that apocalyptic New York Magazine cover story, and seen multiple climate-based VICE segments. Is it necessary to take in all of it?

If you want your answer in cinematic terms, An Inconvenient Sequel is far from the most compelling documentary format. The original got a lot of guff for being just a recording of a straightforward Powerpoint presentation, but in retrospect, that lo-fi approach had its charms and offered a useful degree of focus. But Sequel has little in the way of a distinct structure. At least the (sadly incomplete) narrative is compelling, and Gore remains an agreeable personality. He likes to joke that he is a “recovering politician,” and indeed, his current work has cured him of much of his robotic stiffness.

An Inconvenient Sequel does its best to end on a hopeful note, perhaps naïvely. But if we are going to survive the time we have left on this planet with any semblance of sanity and pleasure, some unwarranted optimism may be necessary. Gore is tangibly excited by the world’s increased use of solar panels, and I am similarly heartened by the number of cities that are embracing renewable energy. That will all help stop the spread of greenhouse gases, but it will not reverse the dangerous amounts that have already been released. That likely requires some wholly unprecedented out-of-the-box thinking. I am glad that An Inconvenient Sequel is around to keep spreading the word, but we need to go deeper.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is Recommended If You Like: Tormenting Yourself with the Planet’s Demise, Solar Panels, The Comedy of Al Gore

Grade: 3 out of 5 Solar Panels