As Hurricane Irma sets her eyes on the southeast U.S., it's an uncomfortable time to review an inconvenient movie.

 

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power (2017) comes 10 years after its Academy Award-winning predecessor, An Inconvenient Truth. Despite the fact that the original film was essentially a Doomsday-rific PowerPoint presentation, it received nearly universal critical acclaim for bringing climate science beyond the doors of niche university classrooms into the consciousness of the masses. The fact that Al Gore was often as stiff on screen as he was on the campaign trail was irrelevant because there are two types of documentaries — educational and human-interest — and An Inconvenient Truth was firmly the former.

 

Of course, climate change should be and is a human-interest story, and in the hands of directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk (the original film was directed by Davis Guggenheim), we see less bar graphs and more people. The filmmakers take us on the ground of Miami in 2015 as Gore and city officials walk through knee-deep flood waters discussing architectural plans to elevate the entire city; on the other side of the world, a woman in India falls over on burning pavement as her shoe literally melts into the street; and a Filipino tsunami survivor turned political activist breaks down and cries, “I was so scared” as he remembers the 2014 storm.

 

While all these moments certainly carry an emotional punch, it's hard to know exactly who An Inconvenient Sequel is targeting — perhaps even more so then its predecessor. On the one hand, despite intermittent clips of Trump (the film's timeline coincides with the U.S. presidential election), Gore seems reluctant to mention Trump or his 2000 presidential opponent, George W. Bush, by name. More likely than just a voldemortian superstition, the filmmakers must hope in avoiding ad hominem attacks, they won't be alienating any conservative viewers who got lost and found themselves at a screening.

 

But at the same time, as with its predecessor, Sequel focuses a lot on Gore training the next generation of climate educators in lecture halls and conferences around the world. Since these groups already have a basic understanding of how heat gets trapped in the atmosphere, true novices are unlikely to glean the fundamentals. Their conversion, if there is any chance at one, will come through the emotional impact of seeing these storms on screen and humans responding — of which, frankly, given that a study has shown the American electorate votes more often on emotion than facts, there should have been even more time spent on the ground.

 

Of course, facts do have their place too. Gore is the forefront spokesperson on climate change, as is plain when the film takes us along to the 2015 Paris Climate Summit. He even steps in on behalf of then-Secretary John Kerry to talk to world leaders — most importantly in diplomatic conversations with emerging power India. But to reach the uninitiated, Sequel would have been wise to borrow from one of the largest trends to hit documentary in the last decade: quirky motion graphic sequence to explain complex or convoluted topics. Or hell, they could have pulled a The Big Short (2015) and gotten Selena Gomez to explain the greenhouse effect.

 

All right, that's probably a step too far, but the point is climate supporters and deniers alike are unlikely to learn much from this film — the target-audience sweet spot is probably left-leaning voters who are getting the message for the first time and will be provoked by images of icecaps melting and towns under water to learn more on their own.

 

But at least the film does try to address some of the criticisms head-on, and does so rather effectively. Some points comes off a little “I told you so” — as it does when it replays an animation from the first film, showing the World Trade Center memorial site under water, but a good 20 minutes dedicated to problem solving India's unique situation (they simply don't have the money to adopt solar without devastating their booming economy) gives the most weight to the film's title. As it turns out, talking to the world's leaders can make a difference. After receiving a $2 billion loan, India sign onto the climate agreement, giving poor Al Gore perhaps his only concrete victory of the movie.

 

Regardless of any shortcomings, the Sequel's message remains as relevant as it was in 2006. Perhaps the real shortcoming isn't the film itself, but the fact there aren't more films on the topic. We need a Schoolhouse Rock!-style intro to climate science film. We need Ira Glass to get on the ground and track a family's road to recovery after a storm. But first we need to regain the narrative, and to that end, An Inconvenient Sequel is a good first step.