2009, Movies

The Age of Stupid (2009, Franny Armstrong)

Somewhere in this movie there are the makings of a great “message” documentary about climate change. With some more money and a different “director” – if it was indeed directed by one person – maybe this could be the movie they wanted it to be, the movie some critics apparently thought they saw.

But this film is a fucking disaster as a film, and only the power of its message keeps me from giving it an even lower rating. It reminds me of How to Make Money Selling Drugs, another message film that feels like it was made in someone’s basement. Well, this film doesn’t entirely feel that way – parts of it feel professional, as does the inclusion of a name actor as the primary (but far from the only narrator) – rather it feels like 7 or 8 individual short films strung together by a very loose concept that doesn’t hold up at all. The CGI does feel like it was made in someone’s basement, though.

So, first, the “concept”. Pete Postlethwaite plays the Last Man on Earth living in this horribly CGI’d “archive” – by the way, all the CGI in this movie is TERRIBLE – talking to us – but who are us if everyone is dead ?!?! – about the past and humanity’s mistakes. If the filmmakers wanted him to be somewhat unreliable, well they did a good job, as the script veers from him narrating the various documentary footage as if he’s narrating a conventional documentary, to him wondering what happened, to him addressing aliens – presumably, as eventually this film is beamed into the sky with some kind of super laser!

The segments themselves are thrown together and mixed up. Sometimes Postlethwaite narrates, sometimes other people do – the subjects of the films, other people, including children! They are mixed in with brief animated shorts and even a musical number! I have no idea why.

Individual segments work better than others but they are all mixed up with this High Concept and so we lose the ability to decide which might have functioned well as separate shorts. That’s not to say the point isn’t clear; it absolutely is and I agree with it, but the delivery/execution is just so unbelievably clumsy.

I didn’t catalogue every single bizarre decision the filmmakers made, but they seem to have wanted this film to be all things to all people:

  • dystopian drama about climate change,
  • a portrait of people trying to change the world,
  • a portrait of people learning that the world is changing,
  • a portrait of people standing in the way of sustainable development,
  • a children’s film about the dangers of climate change,
  • and even other things.

Sure, there are lots of documentaries now that try to blend styles and forms – I usually don’t like them! – but this one tries to do seemingly everything.
Also, the film’s title comes from one of the interviewees, but honestly this is a terrible title. It’s not stupidity that is going to kill us. (Or, rather, if we’re stupid with our resource usage now, it’s not like we were always smarter in the past.) It’s our nature.

4/10 feels charitable

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