In late July, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power hit theaters. The documentary is a follow-up to Al Gore’s highly politicized 2006 film, An Inconvenient Truth, which warned Americans of the incoming perils of climate change. The sequel bears the same message, with the update that we have the capability to transition to clean, renewable energy as a last-ditch effort to stave off the dire repercussions of climate change that many around the world are already facing.
But as reviews from critics roll in, it’s clear that the film, as expected, is extremely polarizing — uncannily so.
As one redditor pointed out Wednesday night, the public reviews of An Inconvenient Sequel reflect a perfectly divided country.
Of the 1,345 user reviews on the film’s IMDB page, 561 gave it a one out of ten, and 543 gave it a perfect score. That means only 241 voters — just 18 percent of the reviews — fell between one and ten. And even so, a quarter of those votes gave the film a nine out of ten. Women generally rated the film higher than men across all age groups for which there were enough votes to run the numbers, but even then, most people still rated An Inconvenient Sequel as either a masterpiece or an unwatchable travesty.
The survey suggests that people are primed to either love or hate Al Gore’s climate change documentaries, and that’s likely because of their political leanings: Researchers have found increasing evidence that people are motivated to align themselves with their political party above all else, regardless of what the actual facts are.
With such a polarized response to the film, it’s valid to wonder whether Al Gore will change any minds or accomplish anything with his films. The people most receptive to his inconvenient messages are those who already agree with him about acting quickly to slow down the rate of climate change and global warming.
And those who disagree with him will not be swayed easily. While the new film has an advantage over the original “Inconvenient Truth” in that it no longer needs to speculate about coastal flooding or other troubling signs of the times, the people who Gore hopes to persuade will likely dismiss the facts he presents, according to recent studies.
Researchers have shown that most Americans make decisions and formulate their viewpoints by selecting the facts and perspectives that fit and reinforce their existing worldview.
Effectively convincing climate change deniers to accept the reality of human-induced climate change requires finding a way to do so without challenging their identity or allegiances. They need to feel comfortable that they can change their mind without abandoning who they are as a person, and, if critics’ reviews are any indication, hard-hitting films like An Inconvenient Sequel will not make it easier for them to feel that way. If these trends continue, the next American civil war, it seems, will be fought on the battlegrounds of IMDB review pages.