Friday, June 16, 2006

REVIEW: An Inconvenient Truth

The problem with Global Warming is that it's Warming that's Global.

The problem with Al Gore is that he's Al Gore.

The problem with "An Inconvenient Truth" is that it needs to be "the Global Warming Movie," but it's stuck being "the Al Gore Movie."

And the problem with being "the Al Gore Movie"... is being "the Al Gore Movie."

*sigh*

Former Vice President Al Gore's 2000 election loss to George W. Bush (yes, he lost. Get OVER IT already and think about stuff you can actually DO something about!) was subject-zero for the current, oft-lamented stereotype of Democratic politicians as being blackbelts in the art of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. A combination of ego, poor planning and innability to recognize his own blind-spots did him in that time, and now it does him in again; transforming what could well have been a full on image-changing public-reinvention into yet another missed opportunity for both the man and his movement.

And he almost made it, too. That's the sad part.

About 80% of the total running time of "An Inconvenient Truth" is made up of what could easily have been the most nobly-intended, simply-executed pretext for a mass-market documentary in recent years: A sober-voice, calmly-demeanored man who obviously knows his subject inside and out stands on a stage before a large video screen and explains with hard science and matter-of-fact visual aides the realities of a serious, controversial issue. In this case, global warming. In a pleasant-surprise, the automatic humor that comes from the fact that our lecturer is the nigh-mechanical former Veep subsides pretty quickly at first. One starts to notice that Gore is more animated here, doing his power-point presentation, than he ever was in politics. "He'd be a decent teacher," you realize.

So it's off to a good start. "The way to screw this sort of thing up," you may surmise, "would be to make it overly political and/or engaged in hero-worship of the star." So guess what they do?

This is the problem: If you go to see a movie "starring" Al Gore, and in the film Mr. Gore makes an offhand reference to humanity "making mistakes" and the film follows with a "Florida Recount 2000" montage and eeeeeevil slow-mow shots of now-President Bush, and in response you laugh/applaud/smile-knowingly... you're already "sold." The message of this movie reached you before you even saw it. And that's fine. Great. Hurrah for environmentalism. BUT, well... you're only half of the people Gore himself says his message needs to reach. The other half, whatever you may think of them, are the ones that all this plain-spoken science and easily-digested message-relaying really needs to get to... and cheap, unnecessary political shots like that and a dozen others mean they'll probably feel personally-attacked and stop listening.

The rest of the film executes a swan-dive into the hero-worship mistake. Getting more screen time than ANY of the death, devastation and turmoil caused or said to be caused by global warming are endless shots of Gore. Gore looking sadly out of windows. Gore visiting his old family farm. Gore sheepishly towing his luggage through customs (awwww, see? He's just like YOU!) taking phone calls while working at his laptop, etc. In short, the film ceases to be about Al Gore's warning about Global Warming and instead becomes about what a wonderful, selfless, heroic and generous fellow Gore is for taking the time to warn us.

When one thinks how easily this could've been turned into a good, even great documentary... with more multimedia, more footage, someone OTHER than Gore doing the talking (Morgan Freeman, maybe?) it's just kind of sad to watch. The unfortunate truth is that Gore has cast himself as the only hope for saving the Earth... and if I was the Earth I'd be pretty damn worried.

FINAL RATING: 4/10