Planet of the Humans has pissed off a lot of people. It's a documentary, made by environmentalists, that takes the movement to task for what is seen as its failures. In "Planet of the Censoring Humans", Matt Taibbi writes, "In Planet of the Humans, [Michael] Moore and Gibbs make a complex argument. In essence, they charge that people have become dependent upon the high-consumption lifestyles made possible by fossil fuels, and that it’s our addiction to that way of life, as much as to fossil fuels themselves, that is driving humanity off a 'cliff.'"
Taibbi's focus is on censorship more than the environment, and it is true that Planet of the Humans has gotten a lot of what amounts to free publicity because of attempts to shut it down. It's not entirely fair to accuse the film makers of milking the controversy ... the film is available for free, it is not as of now a profit-making enterprise ... but Michael Moore's gift for self-promotion is well-known, and it's hard to be sure what he's up to. I imagine he would argue that it's irrelevant, that the only thing that matters is the subject of the film.
Josh Fox is a leader in the attacks on the film. His essay in The Nation, "Meet the New Flack for Oil and Gas: Michael Moore", details many of his complaints.
The discussion surrounding the film is almost entirely about its content ... the form is apparently irrelevant. And I'm succumbing to that problem myself, I admit. The form matters, though, as it always does with films Moore is involved with. Moore creates propaganda, and the criticisms always come from the people he is attacking. What makes Planet of the Humans different is that the people under attack have supported Moore in the past (because they agreed with his propaganda). I, like others, may be making too much of Moore's involvement. I was surprised at how little presence Moore has in the actual film. It's really a Jeff Gibbs movie; he wrote, directed, produced, and is the main character, the way that Moore usually is in his movies. Moore seems to be the public face of the film, because of his notoriety, I suppose, and because of that gift for promotion. The film shares some of Moore's muckraking use of editing to make its points, even when that editing is unfair. Ultimately, it's not a lot different from a typical Michael Moore movie. I like his movies, I'm glad they exist, but I don't trust them, even when I agree with them.
One place where I think the critics are missing the point comes when they accuse the film of pandering to the notion of population control as essential, the criticism being that population control is often related to dark notions of "culling the populace". But the central point of the film isn't that there are too many of us (although that is presented as a problem), it's that we aren't doing enough to change our way of living. The problem isn't too many people, it's too many consumers. The enemy in Planet of the Humans, as in most things Moore is associated with, is capitalism. It's hard to miss this point, but apparently lots of people aren't seeing it. So Gibbs and Moore are seen as "flacks for oil and gas", when the film isn't pro-fossil fuels, it's just a critique of the current environmental movement, which, according to the film, has gotten too cozy with capitalism. It's ironic that the film argues against the movement's capitalist-friendly approach while being accused of promoting fossil fuel usage.
In the end, the criticisms of Planet of the Humans are well-taken. As is usual in his films, Moore (and Gibbs, it's really hard to separate the two) plays cutesy with facts. He is always easy to criticize. As I say, the only difference here is that it's the left doing the criticizing.
Meanwhile, there's an elephant in the room ... well, that's not the right way to say it, it's an elephant that isn't allowed into the room. Nowhere in the film (and nowhere in the critiques) is the question of nuclear power addressed. It's possible that Gibbs/Moore would include nuclear power alongside all of the other hoped-for scientific advances like solar and wind power as misguided attempts to maintain a lifestyle that no longer works. But I have to try and guess that, because nuclear is never brought up. Those of us who think a serious re-examination of nuclear power is long overdue can not be encouraged by this film, or the controversy surrounding it.
Here is an interview with the film makers where they try to address the criticisms:
And here is the movie itself, back on YouTube, at least for now. Watch it yourself, examine it for yourself.