How Donald Trump Made ‘An Inconvenient Sequel’ 10 Times More Relevant

Al Gore

The force of Trump has turned Al Gore's climate-change sequel into an impassioned answer to the force of Trump.

If you take in enough socially conscious documentaries — about the crackup of Syria, the power of the pharmaceutical drug industry, the rise of drone warfare, the machinations of the new gilded age, the nature of processed food, the mass incarceration of African-Americans, the lives of trans teenagers, the mystery of Alzheimer’s — then you know that a lot of them are out to change the world. That makes sense; the challenge of getting a feature-length documentary off the ground is such that it may be impossible to make one without hoping for it to have a major impact. Yet that doesn’t mean that a lot of them do. Documentaries help to create a slow and steady drumbeat of awareness about an astonishing range of issues, but only rarely does one come along that exerts a seismic, game-changing, point-tipping influence.

In 2006, “An Inconvenient Truth” was that kind of movie. It was impeccably well done: a proudly wonky, weirdly gripping cinematic lecture by Al Gore that told the story of what was then still referred to, more often than not, as “global warming.” Yet it was also a case of the perfect movie at the perfect time. The very transition in consciousness represented by the leap from the phrase “global warming” to the phrase “climate change” — i.e., we’re not just talking about a world that’s getting slightly warmer, which sounds like the difference between an okay day in Orlando and a really bitchin’ beach day in Orlando; we’re talking about the entire climate of our planet going slowly but steadily haywire — was crystallized by the extraordinary popularity of “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Much of the film may not have been headline news to self-styled activist-progressive types, but that, in a way, was the whole point. The problem with global warming as a political issue is that, for too many years, it remained stuck in the marginal zone of being viewed as a hippie-dippy liberal-left trope: a cause for tree-huggers. That’s one of the lingering reasons why Donald Trump is such a self-righteous, pro-fracking climate-change caveman: He’s still fighting the symbolic culture war of the ’70s — cracking down on the “wimps” he thinks are out to reign in his (and America’s) masculine “energy.” To him, a phrase like “solar panels” must sound like “macramé.”

Climate change, not just as an environmental cause but as a cultural issue, needed to be shaken free of its whole Save the Whales/No Nukes/Greenpeace/hippie roots, and “An Inconvenient Truth” is the movie that helped to nudge the issue across that line of perception. It said, vividly and powerfully: Forget the protest politics. This is science. This is our future. (Or non-future.) The movie marked — and majorly influenced — the moment when a left-wing “elitist” issue morphed into a commonsensical mainstream issue. And that was the sneaky appeal of Al Gore’s Southern-gentleman professor-with-a-pointer anti-charismatic charisma: He was too staid and earnest, too straight and narrow, too enthralled with the numbers-don’t-lie intricacy of his PowerPoint charts not to be giving you the straight story. Even climate-change skeptics walked away from “An Inconvenient Truth” going “Hmmmm…” That was the sound of a documentary making a difference.

Since Gore, though, really did bring the news, pushing it to the center of the mainstream conversation, how could his follow-up bulletin of a climate-change doc, “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,” coming out eleven years later, possibly have a comparable impact? If you’d asked me a year ago, I would have said: It couldn’t. I would have said that Gore’s relevance as a herald of looming environmental disaster had been diminished by his own success. He no longer owned the issue, because we all did. And that would be a good thing!

But when you see “An Inconvenient Sequel,” which played at the Sundance Film Festival in January and opened yesterday, to promisingly huge numbers, in limited release (it goes wider next weekend), the film takes on a radical urgency that even Al Gore probably didn’t plan on. In a way that neither Gore nor the film’s co-directors, Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, could have anticipated, “An Inconvenient Sequel” makes the case for climate change as a fundamental political/economic/moral issue of the 21st century in a way that shoves it right through the teeth of Donald Trump’s destructive ignorance.

If Hillary Clinton were now president, the film’s politics would be more or less congruent with that of her administration. Instead, “An Inconvenient Sequel” plays as a bolder statement: a movie that might have been designed to answer the current rollback of environmental policy — and to address America’s backing out of the Paris Climate Accord, since the film documents, with fascinating on-site political detail, how, exactly, that accord was reached in 2016 (complete with participation from Chinese president Xi Jinping and Trump’s BFF Vladimir Putin).

The pulling out of the Accord was, of course, another case of macho semiotics on Trump’s part: “I’m not going to go to your girly-man Euro garden party. Too regulated!” But since the President of the United States is now a captive of magical thinking on the environment (his plan to take America back to the glory days of coal mining makes about as much sense as returning to the gold standard), we are once again in dire need of a crossover documentary that can demonstrate what the stakes are. And “An Inconvenient Sequel” does just that. The force of Trump turns this movie into an impassioned answer to the force of Trump.

The new film is built around the clear-eyed ornery passion that has driven Al Gore to turn this issue into his life’s work, and Gore does more that lecture this time; he gives you a grand tour of the planet. All the while, he’s asking: Are you — are we — going to deny the knowledge of our minds combined with the evidence of our senses? The movie shows us the melting ice sheets of Greenland, which link up to the staggering recent news report about a chunk of ice the size of Delaware breaking off the Antarctic Peninsula. It shows us the unprecedented flooding in places like Miami — and the storms that, in an atmosphere now saturated with excess moisture, drop “rain bombs” on the great plains. It cites climate-change statistics that are more daunting, even, than the ones in “An Inconvenient Truth,” since the eleven years since have brought us several more of the hottest years on record.

The movie also offers Al Gore’s aging-like-fine-wine eloquence. Near the end, he gives a speech in which he makes an analogy between the climate-change movement and the Civil Rights movement, casting both as revolutions too moral not to be inevitable. His fervor is stunning — at a moment like that, you can feel Gore expanding your vision.

“An Inconvenient Sequel” offers a great many ominous signs and warnings, but there is one change, right at the center of the film’s meticulous reporting, that’s suffused with optimism, and it is this: The development of wind and solar energy is now an unstoppable economic locomotive (forgive the dirty-energy metaphor). You can generally count on money to speak more loudly than liberal sanctimony, and the banner-headline news of “An Inconvenient Sequel” is that the economics of climate change now favor a proper response to climate change. The film syncs right up to recent reports about how U.S. state governments, in the wake of Trump’s bludgeoning indifference to any opinion on environmental policy that couldn’t have come from a fossil-fuel executive, are now taking the lead in shaping policy. They’re doing what makes sense — to save the planet, and to build industries that have a future.

What’s become more and more clear about Donald Trump is that despite his background as a real-estate tycoon, as president he doesn’t know how to build anything. He only knows how to wreck things. He will wreck whatever you give him: health care, the environment, decades-old global alliances, his own presidency. Saving the future — that is, saving the world for a time when Donald Trump will no longer be around — isn’t in his vocabulary. How do you fight a toxic narcissist so enthralled by toxicity that he literally prefers poisoning the environment to nurturing it? You fight him with a movie like “An Inconvenient Sequel,” which updates the meaning of climate change — why it’s happening, what it looks like, what it portends, why we can and will triumph over it — in a way that might have been designed to answer Donald Trump. It’s part of Trump’s karma that his presidency will now radically up the profile of a movie that preaches the gospel according to Al Gore. “An Inconvenient Truth” marked the moment when the climate-change issue acquired a critical mainstream mass. “An Inconvenient Sequel” may mark the moment when it finally stopped being inconvenient.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 32

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Jeff Reynolds says:

    “An Inconvenient Bomb” bombed at the box office.. Nobody buys into Gore’s fraud scheme to make himself rich

  2. Richard Wicks says:

    10 times more relevant? According to Rotten Tomatoes, it’s pulled in about $125,000 so far, at the time of this writing. If it was 10 times less relevant, this would have made $12,500.

    About 15,000 people or so, have paid to see it, and I’m being generous with average the ticket price.

  3. Peter says:

    Owen you probably look very suave in your slip-ons,no one would ever guess you are incapable of managing lace ups. If you and that love child,Al would notice we’ve had “Climate Change” for approximately 5 billion years.The pnly difference now is that for the first time we can deal with any eventuality a lot better than any time in the history of mankind.This northern winter has been most severe,we survived. I just put on another pair of off-pink Long Johns and coped.Summer ? 1% hotter ? Turn on the air conditioner, supplied from the coal fired power station. Who knows,we might all die.So what ? We die every day by the millions,that’s life.But I’m taking all my ill gotten gains with me and not dying red faced because I gave it all to some scam artist who coughed all the way to the carbon trading bank. This is just another hook perpetrated with religious fervour just like…..a religious hook.Sin no more or you will burn in hell…and I just happen to have the way to salvation….send me your Credit Card details and you will be saved….

  4. says:

    Yes, Trump made it more relevant, because all the Chicken Little predictions during Obama’s reign, didn’t come true. Now Al Gore and the other junk science sycophants are being called on the carpet.

  5. David says:

    Total anti-Trump BULL! CO2 is NOT the problem, industrial pollutants and geoengeneering ARE!!! “HOTTEST YEARS ON RECORD” – TRY GOING BACK A BIT…

  6. Mark Stevens says:

    “To him, a phrase like “solar panels” must sound like “macramé.”” – I loved this line!

  7. eddie willers says:

    So ManBearPig has a sequel. And he’s even more cereal.

  8. mailtemp1234 says:

    There are millions of people that support Trumps Economic Nationalist Agenda and do not agree with Open Boarders and Slave Labor Globalism, as usual Left wing writers like this one ooze there disdain and exaggeration of what they think TRUMP represents when they really have no IDEA of the man. Trumps message has been so overwhelmed by the SMEAR CAMPAIGN and FAKE LIES paid for by the ALT LEFT NEOCONS, In the USA there is a NO HOLDS BARRED RUTHLESS POLITICAL system and the Truth never gets a chance, not about Trump or about Climate Change. This does a disservice to America and those people that KNOW Climate change is real but are not willing to agree with the ALT LEFT extremism. When people on the left and especially journalists show respect for Trumps policies and his fight for the middle class ONLY then will RIGHT WING Conservatives respect the reality of CLIMATE CHANGE. If People think Climate change will be dealt with WITHOUT Right Wing Conservatives or the White middle class Christian Freedom Loving people of the USA they are sadly mistaken.

  9. CLIMATE “science” NEVER agreed beyond “could be” the end of days. Look it up.

  10. Doug S. says:

    How can this silly movie be “10 times more relevant” than it ever was in the first place? Something that has zero relevance cannot be multiplied. Simple math: 0 x 10 = 0. The big dummy Al Gore predicted the polar ice caps would have all melted by now but they didn’t. Matter of fact NASA has proven the ice caps have increased in size. Don’t you just hate it when those pesky facts get in the way of wacko-left wing ideology?

  11. I am looking forward to seeing this film!

  12. Toni puccini says:

    Nothing to see move on. Same old bully bash and banish Trump till he’s King. We have you to thank. And your still doing it going on two years. Stop. Just stop.

  13. Jack Richardson says:

    When the author is done expressing undying love for Al Gore, he might want to do a reality check. The pompous windbag is not a scientist. His arrogance, smugness, and glaring hypocrisy are one of the major stumbling blocks to wider public acceptance of active response to global warming. Jetting around the world spewing more CO2 than 1000 SUVs, and setting up carbon credit exchanges where he gets obscenely wealthy skimming off the transactions only make him look like, well, an unscupulous con-man taking advantage of the stasrry-eyed gullibilty of climate activists. He doesn’t do any of the research whose results he refers to, nor does he give credit to the hsrd working unsung heroes who do the heavy lifting. Just IMHO

  14. susan726 says:

    I didn’t know about the 1st one & will look for it thru our library system. Looking forward to seeing this sequal as well. Doing what I know how in this is only a beginning. Want to learn how to do more. Thank you Al Gore.

    • Richard Wicks says:

      Certainly watch the first one. Pay attention to the predictions it makes, and be aware it was made in 2006.

  15. Cheesecake says:

    Go back and watch An Inconvenient Truth and then ask yourself which of all those predictions from Gore came true. Be honest with yourself.

    • Doug S. says:

      No need to thank the idiot Gore. He doesn’t need any thanks. He’s already made hundreds of millions of dollars by spreading his nonsensical flat-Earther pseudo science around and fooling people like you.

  16. mjweir0317 says:

    Yeah, I get your point but I think you don’t understand the idiot in the oval office. He wants to be one of the kool kids and in the dingaling right he’s found his ignorant home. He says the stuff he says because he’s trying to get attention, not because he cares or in fact even understands the issue well enough to care.

    He just likes the cheering he imagines from his stupid base. He’s like the kid who bangs his head against the wall until it bleeds so the other kids will look. As long as they look that’s all that matters.

    • Kaboom! says:

      At least he isn’t Obama the great liar, you know the guy who said over 20 times: “If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you like the doctor you have, you can keep your doctor.” He too thought he was a kool kid, singing and dancing like a Hollywood starlet. In reality, he was a failure.

      • Richard Wicks says:

        *”Please, Trump lies more in a week – sometimes a day – than Obama did in 8 years.”*

        Oh yes, and the reason the United States went into Libya was for humanitarian reasons, to stop Gadaffi from raping his own women while taking Viagra, so once it was in Civil War, we just left.

        He also won the Nobel Peace Prize, for bombing 7 nations over 8 years.

        Also, a 7 year old child was sending out tweets in Aleppo, saying she was about to starve to death because the infrastructure collapsed, she just happened to speak English, and miraculously even though her city was leveled, the Internet worked, on every day that Bana al-Abed wrote on twitter.

        Obama was just another Neocon murderer, as bad as Bush was, as bad as Clinton was, you know, the Butcher of Libya? How can you not realize this yet?

      • Smith Cassidy says:

        Please, Trump lies more in a week – sometimes a day – than Obama did in 8 years. It’s documented. Facts matter. Now go back to the drawing board and try again.

        Also, this is about Trump, Republicans, and their denial of science. Not Obama,.

  17. BillUSA says:

    Admit it Variety, when you went all-in on the Hillary endorsement and woke up with egg on your face, you had to get back at President Trump.

    You’re nothing but conservative-hating, self-despising, undisciplined ass-hats who think everyone should see things your way.

    Do yourself a favor, cut the political activism shtick and get back to what your once-respected publication made its name on – entertainment news.

    • Response says:

      When America has a non-reality show/non-beauty pageant president again, I’m sure Variety will be more than happy to go back to strictly “entertainment news”.

    • Doug S. says:

      Denial of science?? Oh please. There is no “science” here to deny. That’s just the point. All this is, is an anti-capitalist, left-wing liberal ideological religious cult not based in any fact but rather on how you enviro-wacko utopians envision the world. And you’re all nuts.

    • oakmcculloch says:

      BillUSA is spot on. The author is nothing more than a butt-hurt liberal who is taking whatever opportunity they can to smear the President of the United States.
      This article became an Op Ed based on emotion instead of news based on facts the moment they called President Trump “such a self-righteous, pro-fracking climate-change caveman.” No need to read any further after a haphazardly thrown mudsling like that. HAHA

    • Mr. Vesanen says:

      You sir are exactly the kind of person who needs to see this movie.

      • Doug S. says:

        If rather be tied and dragged by a speeding car naked across a field of broken glass than to spend one second of my life watching this left wing propaganda b.s. From the big idiot Al Gore. Hey dummy, did you know that the Great Lakes were once glaciers that melted and receded thousands of years before any of us evil people were driving our evil cars or using evil oil and gas products in industry? So what caused those glaciers to melt if no “man-caused” CO emissions were around to contribute to their demise? (Crickets)

      • Cheesecake says:

        Vesanan is exactly the type of group-thinker that Orwell wrote about as the future fascists. And, he made Al Gorgon rich in the process. Nice job, leftist lemming!

      • Kaboom! says:

        Is it anything like the first movie? In that one Chicken Little screams the sky is falling, yet it didn’t happen, but Chicken Little got mega rich, flies around in his private jet, and laughs at the gullible liberals who made his life so wonderful.

More Film News from Variety