Adding a touch of sci-fi showmanship to its sounding the alarm on climate change, “The Age of Stupid” is a lively and accessible call to action before it’s too late — the tipping point, it argues, is just around the corner. Collaboration between helmer Franny Armstrong (“McLibel,” “Drowned Out”) and producer John Battsek (“My Kid Could Paint That,” “In the Shadow of the Moon”) has a decent shot at specialized theatrical distrib in various territories. Filmmakers are also likely to use every alternative means available to get the message out before December’s Copenhagen summit determining the Kyoto Treaty’s global-emissions replacement pact.

CG-heavy fictive framework (conceived only after test auds found an early cut too information-dense) features Pete Postlethwaite as “the Archivist,” sole guardian of a 2055 A.D. Arctic Circle fortress that houses the remains of a ruined planet’s past: art, historical records, pickled extinct species, etc. Recording a sort of last testament before beaming this accumulated info into space — hoping somebody, somewhere will receive and preserve Earth’s dying gasp — he laments, “We could have saved ourselves, but we didn’t.”

“The Age of Stupid” (the term the Archivist labels our recklessly self-annihilating, see-no-evil decades of mass consumption) leaves the heavy scientific explanations and graphs about global warming to the likes of “An Inconvenient Truth.” The focus instead is on a few individuals who provide examples of the causes, effects and preventions of climate change.

The catastrophic damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina, whose intensity provided one likely taste of global warming’s escalating weather-pattern impact, is witnessed by paleontologist Alvin DuVernay, heroic rescuer of more than a hundred stranded New Orleans residents. His erstwhile employer, Shell Oil, is indicted throughout as one corporate despoiler of the environment, as Layefa Malemi testifies. Oil profiteering only exacerbated the rich/poor gap in her native Nigeria, while related pollution destroyed her village’s health and natural resources.

Tykes Jamila and Adnan Bayyoud are Iraqi refugees in Jordan, not too young to articulate hatred toward an America whose troops killed their father in a “war for oil.” Still-active 82-year-old mountain guide Fernand Pareau leads tourists over Alpine glaciers so drastically shrunken that multiple ladders are required to descend to their surface. Doing their bit to prevent further such damage is an English farming family that has reduced personal energy consumption/carbon emissions to an admirable degree.

These human-interest threads are deftly woven into a mosaic of news reporting (mostly archival, occasionally faked to portray the future), interviewed experts and zippy editorial/visual gambits, including some clever animation segments. Tone is often antic but never flippant, as Postlethwaite wags his finger at auds to get active or else. Pic stresses many scientists’ claim that if we don’t cap carbon emissions by 2012 and begin drastically reducing them thereafter, worst-scenario outcomes may be unavoidable — not excluding eventual extinction of all species, ours included.

While CG work might not be summer-blockbuster-grade, the docu succeeds at being a colorful and entertaining package that’s well turned in all departments.

The Age of Stupid


  • Production: A Spanner Films presentation in association with Passion Pictures. Produced by Lizzie Gillett. Executive producer, John Battsek, Andrew Ruhemann, Emily James, Paul Goodison. Directed, written by Franny Armstrong.
  • Crew: Camera (color, HD/HDV-to-35mm), Armstrong; editor, David G. Hill; music, Chris Brierley; production designer, David Bryan; costume designer, Heidi Miller; set decorator, Fran Coop; sound, Nigel Edwards; sound designer, Boo Armstrong; visual effects supervisor, Katie Roberts; animation director, Jonathan Hodgson; lead animators, Roberts, Marc Knapton, Cath Elliott, Bill Porter, Dan Haskett; assistant director, Paul Judges. Reviewed at San Francisco Film Festival (competing), May 4, 2009. Running time: 89 MIN.
  • With: <b>With:</b> Pete Postlethwaite, Jamila Bayyoud, Adnan Bayyoud, Alvin DuVernay, Piers Guy, Layefa Malemi, Fernand Pareau, Jeh Wadia.
  • Music By: