Will We Ever See a Good Global Warming Movie?

Will we ever see a good global warming movie that’s not a documentary and not a futuristic disaster movie?

chaos experiment The other night I watched a movie that I had read about several months ago called The Chaos Experiment. The premise was promising: a professor locks six people in a Turkish steam bath, aiming to show the world the threat of global warming by exposing his prisoners to extremely hot temperatures. You are probably already asking yourself, “is the movie any good?”

Sadly, no— in fact, the movie was quite horrible even though it starred some well-known actors like Val Kilmer, Armand Assante, and Eric Roberts.

One reviewer summed it up pretty well: “There are bad movies. There are stupid movies. There are shitty movies. There are awful movies. And there is Phillipe Martinez’s The Chaos Experiment, which is an awful shitty, awful stupid, awful bad movie.”

 If you are still curious though, I suggest watching the movie preview below. It’s really actually much better than the movie itself.

Despite being so bad, The Chaos Experiment did get me wondering if will we ever see a good movie about global warming/climate change that is 1) not a documentary and 2) not concerned with what a futuristic Earth would be like after massive-scale natural disasters?

Sure, we’ve had documentaries like An Inconvenient Truth and a number of apocalyptic disaster movies involving global warming like Waterworld (which now at least one person believes was “an eco-parable whose message was ahead of its time”) and the more recent The Day After Tomorrow.

But would a different kind of movie taking place in our present circumstances be better?

waterworld I ask this because futuristic disaster movies only provide so much persuasive power for people to think about climate change, consider its potential impacts, and then perhaps act accordingly. In most disaster movies, an explanation of global climate change’s consequences is only provided in about 30 seconds to 1 minute of discussion—or it is simply the vehicle for a special effects extravaganza, or a high concept flop (I’m looking at you Waterworld).

Documentaries, granted, have much more educational power than movies for entertainment, but generally speaking their audiences are much more limited. The Guardian even recently pondered “Have Eco movies had their day at the box office?” suggesting that “Some might argue that a hit animated film such as Happy Feet is likely to have a far greater influence on a population's attitudes to industrial-scale fishing than The End of the Line ever will simply due to the number of bums on seats it will attract.”

But getting back to fictional commercial movies, fellow Celsias writer George Monbiot offered some interesting opinions in the Guardian several years ago when The Day After Tomorrow was released: “it is a great movie and lousy science…But movies, of course, are all about dramatic effects, and a film about the slow-rolling, complex transformations induced by climate change would be about as gripping as a speech by Geoff Hoon. I suppose we just have to accept that a major movie house would never dream of tackling this subject if it had to stick to the facts.”

Five years have passed since Monbiot wrote that, and still no one knows who Geoff Hoon is. Joking aside, I do think that there are now climate change stories that could potentially make for interesting commercial films. For instance, how about a dramatic, fictionalized film involving climate change refugees?

The story could revolve around one family out of the 500,000 people displaced by flooding in Bangladesh in 2005. You might be saying, yes, but this a disaster movie. True, disaster would play a role in the movie, but the film would be more about how a family functioned before and after the event over several years. You can even make the case that a movie about refugees in Darfur would have a relevant global warming element as people scramble to survive as natural resources become scarcer.

clueless Or perhaps the movie could be a comedy. Certainly a fictionalized movie about a teenage boy changing his life to battle climate change in over-the-top ways to win a girl could be good material for laughs. Maybe it could be something of a No Impact Man story but in the style of a traditional teen movie like Clueless. It could still have some serious, thoughtful discussions about climate change.

Then of course, it’s only a matter of time before we get some kind of suspenseful evil corporation/conspiracy style movie about climate change’s corporate brokers (if this type of movie doesn’t already exist).

If you don’t know what I mean, I’m talking about movies like Syriana (bad oil companies), The International (bad banks), and The Constant Gardener (bad pharmaceutical companies). Bad, bad, bad, those powerful corporate interests!

It’s these kinds of movie that I think, however, even if they are serious, comedic, or suspenseful that could really make people --at minimum-- to think a little bit more about climate change.

Getting back to The Chaos Experiment, I thought its premise was promising because it was about a professor taking extreme, fringe measures to get people to think about global warming. Despite the good premise, the movie was a failure and featured a character who did a crazy thing to fight climate change, rather than someone tackling the challenge more rationally.

So what do you think? Will we ever see a good movie about climate change that isn’t a documentary, and doesn’t focus entirely on disaster or on crazy people doing crazy things?

Check out more cool stories on Celsias:

The Politics of Climate Change

The Age of Tradeoffs

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Despairing (anonymous)

The film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's The Road is starting to make the rounds of the film festivals now. Although it has been in post-production hell for a couple of years, I've read good things.

The only problem is, the apocalyptic disaster which befalls the human race is never named in the book. It's certainly not climate change, I always suspected a supervolcano eruption. But it may get some people to think along environmental lines.

Written in September 2009

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  • Posted on Sept. 11, 2009. Listed in:

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