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I appreciate the sentiment behind Werner Boote’s new documentary Plastic Planet. I think it’s great that people want to tell the world about the dangers we all face, and the proliferation of plastic is certainly one of those dangers. The thing is, I’ve seen it all before. I have seen dozens of environmental documentaries, and several on plastic in particular. I know that nobody has to tell me how they make their plastic. I know that there is a massive amount of plastic to be found in the oceans and everywhere else in the world. And I know that plastic is slowly making everyone sick.
So what do I do? It’s impossible to avoid plastic altogether. I drink out of glass, but the juice comes from a plastic bottle. I buy groceries in cloth bags, but the cucumber comes wrapped in plastic. IS there another way? I don’t know. I didn’t get any answers from Plastic Planet, not even a suggestion of a way out. Boote takes on one of the biggest plastic manufacturers in Europe, showing that they don’t care about the studies done showing that plastics are bad for our health. But so what? I already knew that, but what I don’t know is how to fix it.
Boote’s ambush toward the end of the film of the CEO of this plastic company actually annoyed me. He had already interviewed the same man earlier in the movie, ostensibly before going on his fact-finding mission about plastics. Then, armed with hundreds of pages of reports detailing the adverse health effects of the stuff, he tries to ambush him at some conference. It’s the type of tactic that has worked well for Michael Moore over the years, but Moore does it well. Boote doesn’t come off as earnest or heartfelt here, he just looks like a guy who didn’t do his research when he should have done his research.
There are some interesting moments when Boote shows people all over the world taking every piece of plastic out of their houses and stacking it in their front yard. It’s eye-opening – this is how much plastic we have in our houses, whether we know it or not! But then…nothing more comes of it. We see the picture, we see the pile of plastic…and we move on to the ocean. Or a factory in China that makes a particularly dangerous inflatable globe. Or to India where people rummage through the garbage for plastic.
The biggest problem with Plastic Planet is that it’s all over the place, and doesn’t really sink its teeth into any one issue or locale. It shows some devastating effects created the world over by plastic, then moves on. It shows some terrible and corrupt business practices from major corporations and Chinese factories, then cuts it short and moves on. A lot of Plastic Planet is important and interesting, but I feel like I’m watching a highlight reel rather than a full game.