Skip to main content

Leonardo DiCaprio's global warming doc is the most depressing world tour ever

Leonardo DiCaprio's global warming doc is the most depressing world tour ever

/

A primer for someone who isn't aware that the planet is in a lot of trouble

Share this story

Courtesy of TIFF

Celebrities are keen on adopting righteous causes, but few are as vocal as Leonardo DiCaprio about his quest to save the planet from ecological collapse. "I am consumed by this," DiCaprio told Rolling Stone in a profile earlier this year. "There isn’t a couple of hours a day where I’m not thinking about it."

With Before the Flood, DiCaprio is asking us to sample a fraction of his daily burden. Directed by Fisher Stevens, Before the Flood documents DiCaprio as he jet-sets from Greenland to Indonesia to Miami and beyond, speaking to world leaders and, per the film’s liner notes, "bearing witness to climate change on a scale that no one should deny." In the vein of An Inconvenient Truth or DiCaprio’s own 2007 eco-doc The Eleventh Hour, Before the Flood is meant as a clarion call for viewers to stand up, take action, change the world, etc.

'Before the Flood' is meant as a clarion call for viewers to change the world

Global warming is an objectively urgent crisis facing our planet, so it's a special achievement that DiCaprio's film manages to evade that sense of urgency almost entirely. It certainly isn’t for lack of visual stimulation. If you like watching Leonardo DiCaprio do stuff, you’re in for a treat. Here’s just a partial list of stuff you can watch Leonardo DiCaprio do in this movie: tour the UN with Ban Ki-Moon, speak in front of the UN General Assembly (twice), ride in a snowmobile sled across a melting glacier in Greenland, listen to narwhals coo, push children on a swing on the Pacific Ocean island Palau, tour a washed-out onion field in India, fly over a smoldering Indonesian rainforest, chill with an elephant, gawk at robots inside Tesla’s Gigafactory with Elon Musk, awkwardly greet Secretary of State John Kerry, offer baby orangutans fruit, stroll the White House grounds with President Obama, and kiss the Pope’s hand and give him a book of Hieronymus Bosch paintings.

If that sounds like a lot of stuff to do in one documentary, you’re right. Which gets at Before the Flood's primary flaw: a 30,000-foot approach. Unlike well-honed environmental documentaries like Gasland and Blackfish that pick a subject and dig in, Before the Flood offers a smorgasbord of issues, breezing through subjects like strip mining, deforestation, rising oceans, tar sands, desertification, coral reef destruction, vanishing glaciers, and more to paint an overwhelmingly dire vision. Certainly these problems are interrelated, but by taking on so much the documentary breaks down complicated topics — each worthy of investigation! — into bite-sized, reductive takeaways: Solar energy? Good. Eating beef? Bad. Eating chicken? Better. Fossil fuels? Bad. Consuming less? Good! The film's message can be summed up in one sentence: the environment is fucked, and we should do something — anything — about it.

It's a worthy takeaway, but any viewer in 2016 who isn't already aware of most of the issues Before the Flood raises is either uninterested in the subject, or willfully in denial. And if they're in the latter camp, it's unlikely Before the Flood will change their mind.

Fossil fuels? Bad. Consuming less? Good!

The film is also hampered by a lack of rigor. As an investigation, DiCaprio’s grim — but action-packed! — world tour feels toothless. In a discussion that followed the film’s premiere screening, the actor was lauded for "actually calling out climate deniers by name. I so want to honor you for that," the moderator gushed. But the individuals DiCaprio calls out — namely the Koch brothers, Fox News anchors, and slew of right-wing congress members, are not bashful about where they stand. In fact, DiCaprio blows the one chance he has for a meaningful confrontation: on a helicopter tour over an oil sand field with an oil executive, DiCaprio fails to ask a single pertinent question. Instead he quips, "It looks like Mordor" to no one in particular. End of scene.

Am I asking too much of Before the Flood? Maybe. Ultimately, DiCaprio’s cause is admirable, and some of the shots were legitimately stunning. DiCaprio comes off as dilettantish, but well-intentioned. That said, there are better documentaries out there that cover much of the same material, in more rigorous, and interesting ways. You’ll just have to forego the adventures with Leo.

Before the Flood debuts October 31 on the National Geographic Channel.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 8:35 PM UTC Not just you

E
Twitter
Emma Roth8:35 PM UTC
Rihanna’s headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Apple Music’s set to sponsor the Halftime Show next February, and it’s starting out strong with a performance from Rihanna. I honestly can’t remember which company sponsored the Halftime Show before Pepsi, so it’ll be nice to see how Apple handles the show for Super Bowl LVII.


E
Twitter
Emma Roth8:01 PM UTC
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. Musk has big plans for the service, which he hopes to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses.

Musk recently said he’ll sidestep sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests. He followed through on his promise to bring Starlink to Ukraine at the start of Russia’s invasion, so we’ll have to wait and see if he manages to bring the service to Iran as well.


E
External Link
Emma Roth5:52 PM UTC
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.


E
External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.


Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
A
Youtube
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.


A
The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.


T
Twitter
Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.