When Stone is using experts to make his points, Pandora's Promise is a compelling feature-length episode of Frontline. The more cinematic aspects, reminiscent of the Michael Moore school of documentaries, devalue the scholarly efforts that have come before while still being mostly entertaining. In what seems to be a frivolous excuse to globe-hop, Stone goes from location to location, popping up on camera to show the reading on a Geiger counter. In baldly-unscientific but amusing comparisons, he shows that a pristine Brazilian beach that's believed to have healing powers is bathing in a little less radiation than the exclusion zone around Chernobyl. It's around the famous Ukrainian disaster site that Stone is the most frustratingly flip. He briefly interviews a family who flaunted the rules and moved back in shortly after the incident. They say everything's fine, so everything must be fine. He acknowledges the deaths that occurred as an immediate result, but shrugs when talking about the increased cancer incidence amongst those who were living nearby. Why Stone felt the need to transition to anecdote where he had been using data is a disappointing turn.
What doesn't come up in Pandora's Promise is the nigh-insurmountable cost of building nuclear plants, even as the long-held NIMBY-ism surrounding them has gently abated. Georgia, where I now live, is currently experiencing this problem with the planned expansion of an existing nuclear plant mired in overruns and bankruptcy. That this significant roadblock to increased US generation doesn't come up in a serious oversight. Generally skeptical of overheated environmental activism, I wanted Pandora's Promise to be better than it is. Stone's film is hardly the final word on nuclear energy, but the beginning of a more muddled investigation that makes things less hopeful than he would present them. C+