A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Reverses what was believed to be a positive approach to climate change, leaving viewers with a sense of hopelessness. But it also has themes of curiosity and perseverance.
Positive Role Models
The filmmakers allow their curiosity, intelligence, and study of science to guide them toward probing authority to get real answers, even when it means shattering their own world views.
Violence & Scariness
The film is about a major threat to human existence and is therefore quite bleak. Scenes of nature blowing up. Disturbing shot of a cow and horse thrown into an enormous grinder (unclear whether they're alive or dead going in). Orangutans shown in serious distress after their habitat is destroyed.
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"F--k" is used twice.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Planet of the Humans is a critical examination of the green energy movement. It's directed by environmental journalist/activist Jeff Gibbs, who co-produced Fahrenheit 911 and Bowling for Columbine. It's surprising that this documentary is executive-produced by Michael Moore, since it upends and even vilifies the liberal heroes of clean energy efforts, essentially taking viewers step by step through the argument that green energy doesn't really work. While curiosity and perseverance are clear themes, the ultimate (and awfully bleak) message is that it's too late to undo climate change and that effective solutions will take centuries to put into place. The film is here to smack us into reality -- and hopefully, the next generation will be open to that wake-up call. Expect to see some unsettling images involving animals toward the end, including a cow and a horse being thrown into a machine to grind them up. "F--k" is used a couple of times. Note: Controversy after the film's release ultimately led to four seconds of footage being removed. This review was written before that change was made. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Jeff Gibbs is here to tell you that your life is a lie -- and if this bleak documentary didn't have Michael Moore's name on it, you might not believe it. According to Planet of the Humans, the green, clean energy we've been chasing for years doesn't really exist. In some cases, the film says, it's worse than coal or natural gas. As executive producer/distributor, Moore's involvement lends the information in the film credence -- he's as liberal as it gets -- and Gibbs often writes on pressing ecological issues for environmental publications. So when these two cast aspersions on the Sierra Club, the Nature Conservancy, and climate change saint Al Gore, it's jarring -- can no one be trusted? If An Inconvenient Truth was a wake-up, Planet of the Humans is a shake-up.
While liberals will need to watch the film with their most critical and independent thinking hats on, it certainly doesn't give conservatives a free pass (Gibbs isn't suggesting that we toss up our hands and turn up the fracking). It turns out that the real solutions are going to be much tougher to implement, and getting a very late start on them could put us in the "it's too late" space. This film isn't about the light at the end of the tunnel; it's more like the light of the train coming at us: It shows us, step by step, how we're doomed. It argues that the leaders who've spent countless hours trying to reverse climate change were actually barking up the wrong tree (especially when they started removing the trees to solve the problem, aka "biomass energy"). What feels particularly unpleasant is the finger pointing at those whose hearts were likely in the right place, even if their efforts were misguided. Gibbs also uses some (Moore inspired?) manipulations: Footage shows him ambushing some of his targets at an event while viewers see disturbing images with a tenuous connection to the issue in order to get a strong emotional response. Frankly, the biggest detriment to getting this essential message out is that Gibbs falls short as a narrator. Removing the charismatic but polarizing Moore from the film might allow PIanet of the Humans to be better/more widely received, but Gibbs' passion for his subject matter is muted by his not-expressive-enough voice. Here's hoping that his delivery doesn't lead to young adults checking out.
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