Review: ‘The Great Warming’

A kinder, gentler global warming docu, Michael Taylor's "The Great Warming" promotes essentially the same message as the Al Gore-hosted "An Inconvenient Truth," but is aimed at a different target audience.The church connections notwithstanding, most viewers will catch this on the home front.

A kinder, gentler global warming docu, Michael Taylor’s “The Great Warming” promotes essentially the same message as the Al Gore-hosted “An Inconvenient Truth,” but is aimed at a different target audience. If “Truth” preached to the tree-hugging choir, “Great,” which comes heralded by prominent Evangelicals and was previewed in local churches, seems designed to redefine ecology as a crucial Christian cause. A more diffuse and prettier case for global calamity that accents the positive and stresses the possibility of reversing the planet’s headlong rush to extinction, pic will be released in major U.S. cities by Regal Cinemas on Nov. 9. The church connections notwithstanding, most viewers will catch this on the home front.

A pared-down, American-skewed version of a 3-part Canadian TV series from 2003, docu is backed by a coalition of religious, scientific and environmental groups. The Rev. Richard Cizik, head of the influential National Assn. of Evangelicals, significantly states that since most of his denomination’s 30 million members are registered Republicans, the party had better respond to their environmental concerns.

Docu, narrated by Alanis Morissette and Keanu Reeves, roams all over the world to examine the impact of global warming. Unlike Gore’s imagery, culled from various archives over the years, the filmmakers here rely almost exclusively on footage they shoot themselves. In the hands of lenser Michael Ellis, this strategy leads to lovely shots of, say, a Peruvian coastal village, but fails to bring home pic’s dramatic points.

Where “Truth” juxtaposed shots of rapidly shrinking glaciers, “Great” shows Noravut elders against a shimmering Arctic seascape conversing about how their world has changed. The viewer, however, is not afforded a vision of what it looked like before.

Footage taken in the Louisiana bayous before Katrina traces the erosion of natural barriers, but the destruction wrought by the hurricane is visualized via Tarot cards.

Different countries and individual citizens are visited in intimate vignettes, but this personal approach seems inimical to any overarching sense of urgency and cohesion.

Once the docu moves to possible solutions to the problem, though, the anecdotal sampling method starts to pay off, albeit not quite as the filmmakers intended. International responses to the threat of global warming are as disparate as they are situation-appropriate, ranging from solar panels in Mongolian yurts to aquaculture fish cages in Bangladesh.

In the United States, the wild spectrum of experimentation exposes the utter isolation of any single effort in the absence of a coordinated national policy: College teams in Arizona compete to design a low-emission SUV, while a theater company in New Hampshire busily rehearses an ecological musical.

The Great Warming


A Regal Cinemas release of a Stonehaven production in association with Discovery Channel Canada. Produced by Karen Coshof. Directed by Michael Taylor.


Camera (color), Michael Ellis; editor, Scott Mason; music, Leon Aronson; sound, John Martin. Reviewed on DVD, New York, Oct. 28, 2006. Running time: 82 MIN.


Narrators: Alanis Morissette, Keanu Reeves.
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