Before I saw An Inconvenient Truth, I figured the Kyoto Treaty was something designed to handle the Godzilla problem in Japan. So, for a dummy like me to walk out of Davis Guggenheim’s Al Gore documentary with a clear understanding of the impending doom of global warming is no small accomplishment.
The movie is informative and easy to watch, but it’s basically a concert film of Gore giving a PowerPoint presentation, mixed with cartoons and striking nature footage. If this film succeeds, I imagine we’ll see a sequel about reducing the deficit with an hour of hot spreadsheet action.
During the interview I had with Gore under the glow of energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs in a San Francisco hotel room, he said, “I see this as the ultimate action movie because it empowers the audience to act.” He’s got a point; though Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me made it clear that McDonald’s serves death burgers, it didn’t ease my craving for Quarter Pounders—but after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, I’ve already started riding my bike more, and I think twice about driving when I don’t need to.
Of course, I still feel guilty for driving to San Francisco twice in two days to see the movie and interview Gore. To the Green crowd, that’s like attending a Klan rally before watching Mississippi Burning.
The scenarios An Inconvenient Truth presents are scary indeed. Scientists speculate that if an already deteriorating arctic ice shelf falls into the ocean (as has already happened elsewhere), the world’s sea level could rise by 20 feet. Animated simulations show Florida, the Bay Area and massive parts of India and China displacing hundreds of millions as a result. Real-estate speculators might want to start buying future oceanfront property in Fresno just in case. Like I said, I’m no scientist, but the evidence Gore shows, of shrinking glaciers, increased carbon emissions and rapid species extinction, paints a pretty clear picture that we’re screwed if we don’t change the way we live. (The end of the movie offers lots of handy tips.)
Many folks feel this film is an attempt for Gore to get back in the public eye and perhaps test the waters for another try at the presidency in 2008. Though the film seems genuinely to want to educate about global warming, its footage of Gore’s past and passions suggests he may have ulterior motives after all. It’s as much a movie about Gore himself as it is about the environment. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The story of the 2000 election fiasco is drama at its finest.
My only real complaint regards the movie’s excessive footage of Gore pounding away on his laptop—with its prominent Apple logo—as he travels the world. It’s just unnecessary product placement. But, for the most part, An Inconvenient Truth is a good film that’s able to balance all the facts and figures with powerful images and compelling evidence.
After a question-and-answer session with the crowd at the San Francisco premiere, Gore cited the word-of-mouth success of March of the Penguins as a model for how this movie could reach a big audience. But I imagine that cute seabirds may ultimately sell more tickets than drowning polar bears.
Ultimately, this is one of those films that’s a great teaching aid and accordingly will have a shelf life long after the Hollywood hype has faded. I’m sure it’ll be required viewing in many high-school science classes. And if you have friends who think global warming is a hoax, this film will likely change their minds.
The movie’s Web site urged a million people to see An Inconvenient Truth on its opening weekend. But even with carpooling, that would put nearly a quarter of a million vehicles on the road. Grab your bike or walk there if you can; otherwise, the environmentally responsible thing to do is to wait for it to come out on DVD.