DirectorBonni Cohen, John Shenk
Release Date(s)2017 (October 24, 2017)
Studio(s)Participant Media/Actual Films (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: A
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: B
- Extras Grade: B
Before I begin this review, I’m going to ask you to do something before reading: Set aside your political beliefs and your preexisting assumptions. That’s not easy, I know, but it’s important. That done, let me tell you a couple of stories:
About 25 years ago, I was working at Mazda – the car company. And I had the opportunity to speak with one of their lead car designers in their Design Lab. Ten or fifteen minutes into our conversation, I asked him when Mazda was going to start making electric cars. His reply was: Probably never. When I asked him why, he explained that batteries were no good, and that even if you could get good enough batteries, you still had to generate the power to run the car and that meant burning coal and oil. So then I asked him: Why wouldn’t you generate that power on your own roof with solar panels? And he shook his head again and dismissed the idea by saying that solar panels weren’t good enough and they were too expansive. Even as he said all this, I knew that he was wrong, just simply incorrect. I knew from my own research that batteries were improving quickly, as were solar panels, and that the costs were dropping rapidly, that in fact these technologies were advancing at the same exponential rate as computer chips. But here was a very smart guy, a leader of his industry, so imbedded in the conventional wisdom of his field, that he simply couldn’t see what was happening right before his eyes. Indeed, batteries have improved and are now powering what auto enthusiasts consider to be the world’s best car – the Tesla Model S. The solar and wind power industry is now exploding, offering prices that are quickly surpassing fossil fuel sources in affordability. Mazda began leasing demo electric cars in Japan in 2012, and expects to bring their first mass-market electric car out widely in 2019. Virtually every other major global auto manufacturer, too, is rushing to electrify their vehicle line-ups going forward.
Let me tell you another story: When Elon Musk decided that he was going to start a company to make and launch rockets affordably, and build rockets that would land themselves and be reusable, every single expert in the aerospace industry said it was impossible. Every single one, the smartest people in the field. I’m no rocket engineer, and neither was Elon Musk at the time, but I’ve certainly been a spaceflight enthusiast my entire life and I know a good deal more than the average person about the subject. And I too thought it was impossible, or at least highly unlikely. But Musk knew that technology advances very, very quickly – faster than even many experts in those fields realize. He researched the subject, and knew that the conventional wisdom on the subject was simply wrong. It may have been right ten years before, even five years before, but materials science, computing, and other necessary technology had progressed to a point where landing a rocket was now possible. Flash forward to today: SpaceX is a fifteen year old company. It’s now launched 40 successful missions with its Falcon 9 rocket. It’s landed 18 of those safely – 18 in a row, I might add. And it’s reused 3 of those rockets to fly additional missions, with plans to reuse many more, all at a tremendous cost savings to satellite providers and to American taxpayers. That’s the power of the free market. Capitalism at its finest. Yes, assisted by government investment, but every serious industry receives such support, especially at first.
These two stories might seem irrelevant to this review, but bear with me. They taught me, and reinforced for me, a very important lesson, best summed up by a quote from the economist Rudi Dornbusch: “In economics, things take longer to happen than you think they will, and then they happen faster than you thought they could.” This is also true of technology... and possibly climate too.
Let me now switch gears and tell you a more personal story: I’ve been the editor of The Digital Bits now for almost 20 years. Many of you will be aware that I correctly predicted the outcome of both the DVD/Divx and Blu-ray/HD-DVD format wars, really almost from the start. I’ve been asked many times over the years how I did that. And the truth is, the process was really quite simple. It’s just that very few other people put all the pieces together in quite the same way I did. When I was in college, I initially studied journalism. I didn’t go that route ultimately, switching to film instead, because I could see the difficulties that industry would face in the years ahead. But as part of those early studies, I learned some valuable skills – skills that have served me incredibly well in the years since. Chief among these were the ability to research any subject, to sort good (reliable and accurate) sources of information from bad, to identify actual experts from those posing as such, and most importantly to detect bullshit very quickly. So when these format wars happened, while most industry experts were distracted by the conventional wisdom of the time, and while most enthusiasts were only consulting each other (and Google) online, I was able to identify the people who were actually inventing, improving upon, and working with the technology behind these formats directly. I went to their industry conferences, labs, authoring facilities, mastering facilities and met with them. I spoke with them at length and often. They were amazingly willing to talk with me and to show me everything they were doing. Armed with that information, I was very quickly able to see past all the marketing messages, corporate politics, and propaganda. I was able to see which studio and manufacturing executives were being truthful and which were simply trying to shape consumer perception. The result was that I had a very clear picture of what was actually happening behind the scenes in this industry (at the studios, at the manufacturers, etc), a picture that most fans and enthusiasts in the many online forums, and even most longtime industry observers, simply didn’t have. And I predicted, correctly, that both DVD and Blu-ray would win. It was, to me, obvious right from the beginning.
What does all of this have to do with a review about a climate change documentary starring Al Gore, you might be wondering? In my college years, before I settled on film as a subject of study, I explored a lot of different subjects including meteorology and climate. A side effect is that climate change has been another interest of mine going on thirty years now. Applying the lessons I’ve learned since, in part though the stories mentioned above, I’ve researched this subject as a hobby, learned to set aside all the politics, identified who the actual experts are, constantly questioned my own assumptions to ensure that they were valid, and very quickly sniffed out all of the many BS peddlers there are in the media and online – and believe me, there are MANY. As a result, I’ve reached some conclusions about the subject that, to me, are obvious. The Earth is warming. It’s not due to natural causes or cycles; it’s us – human activity is the cause. If we don’t start getting very serious about addressing this issue, our children and grandchildren are going to pay dearly for it, indeed our entire civilization will. Climate change is the single most serious problem we face on this planet today, not only because of the dangers it poses directly, but because it’s going to act like a force multiplier that will exacerbate virtually every other problem we have in society – poverty, conflict, disease, jobs, profits, deficits, infrastructure, etc. It’s time to set aside our political beliefs, our conventional wisdom, the assumptions of our friends, and even the positions of the leaders we trust, and see this problem for what it actually is with our own eyes. I don’t care what your politics are. I’m not writing this review as a Liberal or a Conservative. I’m not here to lie to you. I’m talking to you as a human being who’s paid attention to this subject and is concerned about all our futures. You longtime readers will know that I have a long track record of trying to give Bits readers the best and most accurate assessment of things that I can. I call it like I see it. And these things I’ve told you about the climate – they’re quite simply true.
I don’t care what you think about Al Gore. I’m hear to tell you that An Inconvenient Sequel – the follow up to the original An Inconvenient Truth (2006) – is a great documentary film and a very accurate look at the realities of the global warming problem. The filmmakers, Bonni Cohen, John Shenk, and their team, do a beautiful job of capturing not just the detail and the science, but also the humanity of Gore’s efforts. Together with Gore, they show you what’s happening and why it’s happening. There are few people who have better scientific data than Gore does, because he knows all of the experts. Gore is putting the pieces together on this issue in ways that few others are and has been doing so for decades now, long before the subject was even on the radar for most people. Take the time to watch this film and he’s going to show you what you already know is happening if you’re willing to admit the truth to yourself. He’s going to show you how the streets of Miami are starting to flood without storms. He’s going to show you how 100-year, 500-year, 1000-year flood events are happening again and again, year after year, in the same places – not even including what’s been happening in Houston just this year (after the film was finished). He’s going to show you how whole cities are catching fire now – not even including what’s happened in Napa Valley and Santa Rosa in recent weeks (again, after the film was finished). But he’s also going to show you how many positive things are happening – how solar, and wind, and battery technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s going to make oil and coal irrelevant in our lifetimes. An Inconvenient Sequel is worth your time and attention.
Paramount has released An Inconvenient Sequel on Blu-ray in 1080p HD at its original 1.78 aspect ratio. The HD image quality is quite good – not a reference experience, but of course this is a shot-on-HD video documentary. Detail, contrast, color, and overall quality are all solid. Audio is available in an equally solid English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix that more than does the job. You also get English Descriptive Audio, and 5.1 Dolby Digital mixes in French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Optional subtitles include English, English SDH, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. The film itself runs about 98 minutes.
Paramount’s Blu-ray includes a trio of bonus video features all in HD:
- Effecting Change: Speaking Truth to Power (26:43)
- OneRepublic: Truth to Power – Lyric Video (3:42)
- Truth in Ten (11:29)
The first is a look behind-the-scenes at the making of the film – it’s quite good. The music video is self-explanatory. But the best extra is Truth in Ten, which is essentially Al Gore’s 10-minute presentation on the climate problem: Why we should care and what we can do about it. Think of this as a perfect Cliff’s Notes primer on the subject. You also get a Digital Copy code on a paper insert in the package, and the packaging itself is made of recycled cardboard.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power is a great film and one that you should watch with your whole family. Polls show that those 30 and under – especially kids – correctly identify global warming as one of the most important issues they will face in their lives. So start a conversation with them about it. This film is a great way to do so. And if, in the end, you just can’t get past the fact that it’s Al Gore delivering this message, let me point you to another source: Katharine Hayhoe, who is a wonderful climate scientist and atmospheric expert and who is also a conservative, a Texan, and an evangelical Christian, the daughter of missionaries, and whose husband is an evangelical pastor in Lubbock. You can find her here on Facebook. Hayhoe has an outstanding web series called Global Weirding (available here on YouTube) that explains all of these same issues in highly accurate and very easy to understand video clips.
If I leave you with any message at all in this review, it’s this – and its the same message the film leaves you with: You have to get involved. People of goodwill, everywhere, need to fight to help find a solution to this problem.
Fight like your planet depends on it. Because your planet depends on it.
- Bill Hunt