In the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, Al Gore admits that environmental banner issues like global warming are difficult for an active politician to get involved with because it immediately pigeon-holes them into a dangerous area for a political career. If Truth winds up being the only thing Gore does in his post-political career, his losing the Presidential Election just may have been worth it. Without the restrictions of office, Gore offers an enlightened, honest view of a major environmental concern for our planet and comes across as someone who genuinely cares about our future. The concept of global warming is nothing new to me. I grew up in a part of the country surrounded by flower-child communes dedicated to returning to a more natural way of life to help save the planet. Somehow, hearing about the risks of global warming from the former Vice President of our country carries a lot more weight than hearing about it from people who preferred to bathe in their own sweat than water and smelled distinctly of marijuana most of the time. It’s not just a matter of education; it’s a matter of presentation.
Presentation is definitely what An Inconvenient Truth has going for it. Director Davis Guggenheim skillfully weaves an impressive presentation by Al Gore about the facts surrounding global warming together with personal narratives from the former Vice President. The result reveals a little about how Gore responded to losing the 2000 election and a lot about his interest in the condition of our planet – a subject that he has followed since his college days. Gore comes across as authentic, warm, and entertaining – all descriptions I never thought would be attributed to the man who was once described as having the warmth of a ventriloquist dummy.
Gore is clearly passionate about spreading the word about global warming, and to do that he has definitely done his homework. Graphic examples of the dangers that are causing our planet’s potential environmental shift are stunning, but pale in comparison to the visuals that are offered as examples of what the predicted consequences could be if we can’t reduce our impact on the planet. Aiding in the impact of Truth’s message is the fact that Hurricane Katrina was in mid-impact as the documentary was being filmed, giving Gore’s message a face that almost every American has been affected by. Despite that natural tragedy, Gore never attempts to appeal to the emotions, instead making his plea to sensibilities and sticking to facts instead of heart-tugging pleas.
An Inconvenient Truth may not have a powerful enough message to dissuade all skeptics, but then those people probably aren’t even going to see this film. For those who do choose to watch it, be prepared for an astounding presentation that will open your eyes a little more to the planet around you and possibly even make you want to make some changes in your own little world to help ensure it’ll still be livable for future generations. True to its message, the packaging for An Inconsiderate Truth is far removed from the old debate of plastic jewel case or snapper packaging. Instead, the package is a cardboard envelope, made from 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper. The packaging also encourages people to, “Watch it. Share it. Donate it.” This may be one of the only times a movie’s message outweighs the studio’s need for profit. I’d like to sit here and complain that with a cardboard envelope my copy of the DVD is much more likely to get scratched or dirty, but the truth is I have too much respect for the stance Paramount Classic has created with this packaging.
The movie has two commentary tracks, one from the producers and one from the director, but let’s be honest – this isn’t exactly the type of film that asks for a commentary. It’s neat to know some of the technical things that went into making this film and the ideas behind it, but the movie is the message. There’s no need to dilute that message with kudos and trivia. I’m not saying the commentaries are good or bad – I’m saying I had no desire to pay much attention to them. The ten minute “making-of” featurette provided enough of a glimpse behind the scenes for my tastes, showing the creation of the venue where Gore makes his presentation in the movie.
The gem on this disc, highlighting the benefits of the DVD format, is “An Update with Former Vice-President Al Gore.” Gore sits down a year after the documentary was shot and presents updated information that is now in his presentation, as well as a few extended scenes from the movie that cut out information he thought was still valuable. Considering some of the data used is from as recent as August of this year, this really shows how versatile this kind of presentation can be. Gore’s arguments are already relevant in the film, but he makes them even more relevant through this update.
The disc holds little else other than a music video for Melissa Etheridge’s theme song “I Need to Wake Up.” It doesn’t need to. Any other supplementary material for the movie can be found at www.climatecrisis.net, which the DVD packaging directs you to (as do the end credits of the film). There information and materials can be updated, maintaining relevancy without wasting time (and energy) publishing them on the DVD. Although light on extras, An Inconvenient Truth makes what little it includes really count. We could be so lucky from other major motion picture releases.