In An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore stands before a group of true believers and delivers a fairly engaging Power Point presentation about global warming. The same dynamic will be played out in movie theaters, except that cinemagoers will also get Tales of Young Al Gore, stories from his life that end up having some bearing on his beliefs, values, or occasionally serve as a metaphor for our current climate change problem.
Which leaves me with a very simple question – what’s the point of this movie? Who is this movie supposed to reach? Even if you could drag a conservative into the theater with you, your right wing companion would tune out as soon as Al Gore showed up onscreen, which is pretty much as soon as the movie begins. This is a film whose audience is already delineated – the faithful, made up of Democrats and left-leaning independents. Unlike Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 this movie won’t mobilize people to theaters because there’s no controversy – An Inconvenient Truth won’t be the kind of movie you must see just to have an opinion about it at the water cooler on Monday. But it is the kind of movie you must see if you want to be educated about the stark facts of global warming.
Gore’s presentation is surprisingly personable and humorous – maybe the whole point of this film was to help him shed his “wooden board” persona before mounting another assault on the White House in 2008. Unsurprisingly, his presentation is very convincing. Using simple science and facts (I know, I can already imagine the science-hating Bible Belt recoiling in horror like a vampire at a cross, an analogy that tickles me too much) he shows how human pollution has created a perilous situation in our global climate.
But you knew that. Everyone with a working brain who has seen the weather of the last few years knows that. The thing is almost no one denies global warming anymore – what the dishonest Right does now is deny human involvement. This is usually accomplished by way of unscrupulous scientists working for oil companies, and by Bush’s lackeys in regulatory agencies. The best parts of the film expose these people – at least that creates some sense of outrage. Much of the rest of the movie creates a sinking sense of doom. Holy shit, you realize, we’re already fucked.
I don’t think that’s what Gore wants the film to say, but you can’t help picking that up. You may also feel doomed during the Gore biographical bits, or at least I did. Despite what some of my readers might assume, I don’t like Al Gore. While I respect his leadership on the environment, I consider him to be a hack politician in many other ways. One of the messages of An Inconvenient Truth is supposed to be that he’s not a hack anymore, I think. The movie tries to position him as a man with a quest, a lonely warrior traveling around the globe spreading his doomsday scenario – maybe they should have called it Have iBook, Will Travel. It almost succeeds, but there’s something so deeply untrustworthy about most politicians that I couldn’t help but realize that the biographical and behind the scenes material was as realistic as the usual fluff films they play at nominating conventions. It’s not that I expected the film to harshly criticize Gore in any way, shape or form, but the handjob is too obvious to ignore.
Which is a pity, because again, the message is right on. I wish that there was a way to get the facts in this film in front of the audience that needs to see it, the audience who take the word of human mockeries like Michael Crichton and Michelle Malkin as gospel. I wish this film could be played in grade schools, but the anti-science fanatics and religious zealots would never allow it. It’s the usual dilemma with films like this – the only people likely to go see a global warming documentary are going to be the people who already care about global warming. So here’s what you do – find a friend who doesn’t know much about global warming and treat them to the film. Find a friend who doesn’t believe in the human contribution to global warming and stop talking to them.