Climate change is a heavy subject everywhere, but in America its very existence is considered controversial. In 2006, Al Gore released An Inconvenient Truth, a synthesis of his own climate presentation and video footage of the effects of the planet warming, in an effort to educate and inspire people. Whether or not it succeeded in its goal is debatable, but the effects of Al Gore’s own career as an activist, according to An Inconvenient Sequel at least, are not.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a documentary about the current effects of climate change, what Al Gore has been up to since the last film, and the events surrounding the Paris Climate Accords. If this sounds like a lot to cram into a two-hour running time, you would be correct. The film swings erratically between clips of disasters and current green technology, and scenes of Al Gore giving speeches, talking to people from up and down the class spectrum, and oddly enough giving a tour of his house. While much of what the movie shows is interesting, there is a distinct lack of cohesion and not enough investment in any one story to grab the viewer. The most compelling of the many narrative threads laced throughout the film is about Al Gore’s struggle to get India to sign on to the Paris Climate Agreement, but even this is only given a small amount of screen time.
Taken individually the pieces of the film generally work on their own. The clips of the current state of the world are well chosen for their visceral effect. Some are upsetting, such as the ones displaying the effects of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines; others predict a creeping catastrophe with footage showing Miami streets underwater during high tide. The nature scenes that were filmed for An Inconvenient Sequel show gorgeous Arctic landscapes that have been ravaged by the rising temperatures melting the ice sheet and raising sea levels. Accompanied by dramatic orchestral music, it would be difficult to see these things and not be moved by them. However, when the film flips to focusing on Al Gore’s work as an activist, it takes on a slightly reverential tone and, while the scenes are occasionally interesting, they are always overlong. When these pieces are strung together it feels like a series of YouTube videos on a science teachers’ playlist instead of a coherent documentary.
It is clear from An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power that Al Gore truly cares about the planet and those who live here. For better or worse, he has influenced how everyone views the climate crisis. However, it is also clear that while progress has been made with advances in technology and government commitments, there is still a catastrophe happening around us. That An Inconvenient Sequel chooses to focus more on the particulars of Al Gore’s contributions than the situation at hand is an unfortunate misstep.