22 September 2009 | RichardSRussell-1
Good Intentions Don't Guarantee Good Movies
The Age of Stupid (NR, 1:26) — Borderline, bargain basement, original, OSIT cynics
I use the "Borderline" category for movies that can be viewed from one angle as SF&F but from another as realistic (such as "Was it a dream or not?" puzzlers). This one qualifies because the framing device is a look backward from the 2055 vantage point of a post- apocalyptic archivist (Pete Postlethwaite), one of the last human survivors of the global- warming catastrophe, but the guts of the movie comprises modern-day video clips that he's sadly reviewing, wondering how people ever let the planet go to hell without even trying to stop it.
So, if it's science fiction, it's lots more science than fiction, and therein lies the film's primary problem. It should be gripping and involving, but it doesn't follow even an unconventional story line. Instead it skips here and there around the globe, its conventional graphics and news footage (a la An Inconvenient Truth) playing 2nd fiddle to documentary interviews with 6 actual denizens of 2008: Jamila and Adnan Bayyoud, Iraqi child refugees now living in Syria, hoping for a chance to kill Americans Alvin DuVernay, a Shell Oil geologist who retired about a year after Hurricane Katrina wiped out his home in New Orleans Piers Guy, a British wind-turbine installer fighting NIMBYism Layefa Malini, a Nigerian woman aspiring to be a doctor to help people like those in her destitute village, just downstream of another Shell Oil operation Fernand Pereau, an elderly Alpine guide who recalls, from the bottom of a 150-metre ladder, that in his youth there was no ladder, because the glacier filled the valley to the top Jeh Wadia, Indian entrepreneur, who wants to bring 1-rupee airline fares to the masses
All of these people see bits and pieces of the puzzle, but their efforts to solve it are either ineffective, thwarted, missing altogether, or willfully blind about it. There's a moral here, but it's not exemplified by any of the interviewees. And, of course, since the film is almost entirely talking heads, it falls completely flat as drama.
The movie speaks of global climate change as if it were a single problem in and of itself, completely ignoring the effects of overpopulation. For example, the good-intentioned Guys are trying diligently to reduce their carbon footprint, but they apparently have 4 kids, and the question of whether this is commensurate with responsible planetary stewardship is never even whispered.
I'm glad I saw this movie, but I feel obliged to review it according to the way it was presented, as SF. As dystopias go, it's not anywhere close to being in the same league as The Matrix, let alone such exemplary cautionary tales as 1984 and Brave New World. It needs to preach to more than just the choir, but it's not at all compelling for anyone who's not already a true believer.