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Sunday, August 26, 2007

review - AIT - the movie

Obligatory disclaimer...

Well, I've finally seen the movie. Actually, I had to watch it twice because our dvd player was dying and I couldn't really see it the first time, so a proper viewing had to wait until we replaced it.

Having already read the book, which I reviewed here and here, not much has changed as far as my opinions of AIT. I'm not going to go too much into arguing the "science" behind the movie, as there is just too much, and others have done it better than I have. I recommend this site in particular, if you want to see where Gore got it right, wrong, and something in between. There are only a few points that I will discuss that have not been discussed elsewhere that I know of.

As I expected, the book was pretty much the movie in print form, though the book was able to expand on some areas while some things were completely dropped. Most of the slide show images were in the book, plus a few stills from the video clips used. In general, the two were very much alike.

First, the good. Al Gore is a fabulous orator. In between scenes of his slide show, he narrates throughout the movie. He has complete voice control. All the inflections, emotions, pauses - he gets them all perfectly. It's downright poetic. He's also a very good actor, with marvelous control of his facial expressions, down to the subtle nuances. He is clearly able to connect to an audience, both live and through film. He earned that Oscar.

He's also very passionate about his subject. Whether or not that passion is genuine, I increasingly find myself questioning, but he is passionate.

That's about it for the good, unfortunately. Like the book, this movie is more about Gore and how wonderful he is, than about global warming. This could best be described as a vanity movie. There are lots of scenes of Gore working on his laptop (you get the impression that all he ever does on that thing is move around scenes from his own slide show). There are lots of scenes of Gore looking pensively out of windows, with serious expressions on his face. You see crowds of smiling, worshipful people crowding around and taking pictures of him. You see slide show audiences hanging off his every word, clapping and cheering, or looking serious and worried, in all the right places. And, of course, laughing at all his jokes.

Actually, it was the jokes that started to get to me after a while. They are mocking jokes. They are insulting jokes. They display his contempt of the "so called skeptics," all of whom are, according to Gore, in the pockets of Exxon Mobile.

Oh, that was another good one. He actually portrays himself as some sort of eco-Dick Tracey. In an obviously staged scene, he's in his office, working on his laptop and his cell phone rings. "What did you find out?" he asks. "Working for who?" He, you are made to believe, has just 'discovered' that somebody working in the current administration (because Bush=Evil) is actually under the control of Exxon. Have you also noticed it's always Exxon? There are so many oil companies out there, but only Exxon is the company named. Go figure that one out.

But I've gone too far ahead, here. It was much earlier in the movie that I saw a clip that quite literally had me sitting with my chin down to the floor. I'd heard about an animated clip by Matt Groening. I was stunned when I actually saw it. Picture cheerful, friendly Mr. Sunbeam, sauntering over to the Earth to say hello. Then he says good by and turns to leave, only to be accosted by a gang of greenish, leather jacket and hat wearing blobs of green house gas. They proceed to beat friendly Mr. Sunbeam to death.

That's right, you have an animated murder of innocent Mr. Sunbeam by evil green house gases. Soon, a pile of Mr. Sunbeams forms with their "rotting corpses" heating up our Earth.

And this is a movie schools require our children to see, and wanted to send home with kids this past summer? (Actually, I think they did, but I can't find the article to verify that.)

This was only the first of several clips I found disgusting. Gore is quick to bring in Katrina and the destruction of New Orleans, blaming it on global warming, even though hurricane experts said otherwise. The movie goes back to Katrina later on, with plenty of emotional scenes of death, sorrow and destruction.

There are quite a few scenes used inappropriately. Among the more innocuous, but no less misleading, are the scenes of smokestacks while he talks about all the CO2 "pollution" being spewed into the air by industry. CO2 is an invisible gas. All those smokestacks? They're spewing steam, not smoke, not CO2.

Then there was a cgi clip of an anthropomorphized polar bear, swimming in the open ocean, unable to climb onto the one tiny ice floe it finds, complete with the sounds of distressed breathing, as Gore talks about how, for the first time ever, polar bears are drowning. Never mind that his claim is based on a report of 4 - that's right, four - polar bears that were found drowned after a storm. Never mind that the people who actually *live* in the north say polar bears have drowned before. Never mind that polar bears are land based animals, that happen to make use of the ice floes. Never mind that polar bears are far from endangered, but that their population has been steadily increasing. We can't let a few facts get in the way of a dramatic, emotional scene, now can we?

Speaking of facts, one of the things Gore brought up was what would happen if too much fresh water gets dumped into the ocean. This has actually happened in the past, when Lake Agassiz suddenly broke through an ice jam and emptied huge amounts of fresh water into the ocean in a very short time. I happen to be familiar with Lake Agassiz, since I grew up on what used to be the bottom of it. We had a gravel pit on our farm, and we frequently found fossils from when that area was underwater. In the movie, Gore says that the Great Lakes are the remnants of Lake Agassiz, and that when it broke through, it created the St. Lawrence Seaway. While Lake Agassiz had indeed drained in that direction occasionally, the Great Lakes are not remnants of Lake Agassiz, as you can see by the map here. Lakes Winnipeg, Manitoba, Winnipegosis, etc. are the remnants. Also, the time Lake Agassiz suddenly drained into the ocean, it was through what is now Hudson's Bay.

There were many other problems I had with the movie. For example, the absolute focus on CO2, describing it as a pollutant, and the occasional interchanging of CO2 with Carbon, as if they were the same thing. There were also a great many references to "my friend" so and so, who did this study or that study. After a while, it seemed like so much name dropping. I wonder how many of these people actually know they are his "friends?" There was also the constant references of "they, them, science," and "scientists," as if Science were one great homogeneous being. There was his insistence that this is a "moral" issue, which of course insinuates that anyone who disagrees is, therefore, immoral. This was even more interesting, when you consider his love-in with China.

I could go on, but I'm already writing for too long, so I'll jump ahead. On the dvd, there were some extras. I never did finish watching them, as it went on so long, I finally stopped watching. I never got a chance to go back before we had to return the movie. From what I'd seen, it was a lot of Al Gore talking directly to the camera, with a few clips to illustrate, including a couple of extended scenes from the slide show. He goes on about how, since the movie was made, even more science has come out to "firm up the consensus." An interesting claim, since I've noticed that more and more scientists are actually willing to risk their careers and come out in public with their disagreements. Heck, even those that agree with him have objections to some of the stuff he has in his movie.

What I found almost funny, though, was when he started talking about population. In the movie, there's a slide show clip where he talks about how high the population explosion will be in the next while. In the extras, he does acknowledge that this is no longer believed to be accurate. But does he point out that, as nations become more secure, as people, especially girls, become more educated, as sanitation improves, and wealth increases, people tend survive longer, therefore they tend to have fewer children? Nope. According to Gore, the reason population *isn't* exploding as predicted in the past is strictly thanks to "science." That the population is expected to stabilize at 9 billion is a "success" story for "science."

Wow. And here I had the audacity to think that how many children we had was a personal choice.

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