Review: The Age of Stupid (RATING: 5/10)22 March, 2009
I wish I could say I liked this movie. I really wish. It heralded itself as the new Inconvenient Truth, shepherding in a new generation of caring environmentalists. I heard that it was bringing those concerns to a wider audience by fictionalizing the narrative, rather than the fact after fact that Mr. Gore gave us. And that part, at least, was true.
A little background. The Age of Stupid is a movie that was primarily crowd funded (and this shows at points), with a main character played by Pete Postlethwaite looking back at the recent history of the earth from 2055. The climate has been destroyed, and so has the human race. He is an archivist who is trying to figure out why we didn’t save ourselves when we had the chance. Although it is fictional, it primarily follows, as a documentary, five stories from real life—an oil scientist from New Orleans, a doctor-to-be in Nigeria, an old mountain guide in Switzerland, a cheap flight start-up in India, and a wind farm planner in Britain. (I think I didn’t forget any.) These people, as you can probably tell, at least for most of them, directly affect or are affected by climate change. And so this movie shows the true effects of climate change, and what is causing that change. It intersperses this with some fairly obnoxious animations about consumerism, the future, etc., etc. It succeeds pretty well at telling these stories in a moving fashion, and, if it weren’t preaching to the converted (myself included), which is one of the largest criticisms of the movie, would incite people to act.
And that’s where this movie fails. However great it is at gaining attention, gaining funding, showing the world as it is, it does not tell us what to do. There’s a brief mention that everyone can do their part to help, but not once—or at least not once in a clearly set out way—does it suggest a course of action. And that’s what this kind of movie needs to do. Whatever it shows, it needs to tell the world how they can help. Whether they have just accepted climate change as a product of man (through this movie or otherwise) or if they’ve been a strong proponent of change from Day 1, for something like this to be useful it has to give people something to do. And this doesn’t. For the few stories that are about champions of climate change, it shows what they do, but clearly not everyone can put up windfarms. There’s a general hint towards demonstration, activism, to show the government that we care, but it’s not clear. And it has to be clear for it to do any good.
I went to the premiere of this movie. I didn’t see it then, but I saw the stars. And so today, a week after, I went to its test opening weekend, the one that decides the real distribution of the film. There were about 15 people in the theatre of 300. And I wish I could do a better job of promoting this film. I wish I could help it out by saying “Go see this movie now!” But, honestly, I can’t. If you want to see a movie about climate change that will move you, both emotionally and to action, then see An Inconvenient Truth. It didn’t win an Oscar for no reason. Or maybe The 11th Hour (which I haven’t seen.) Leave this one alone. Keep thinking about its impact, its goals, but in this case, the means are not worth the end (if you’re “the converted,” going for the end already).
So as a final thought, I’ll plug its website, its movement. Make sure the Copenhagen conference is useful (and listen to a fun little speech by the President of the Maldives). Notstupid.org (It truly launches April 1st, but you can sign up now.)And you don’t have to see the film.