Review: ‘Pandora’s Promise’ devotes too much energy to its own dogma

It’s one thing to hear a legislator or industrialist extol “clean nuclear energy”; it’s something else when the person singing those praises is an environmentalist. In “Pandora’s Promise,” Robert Stone has gathered the testimony of five people whose change of heart on the matter reflects his own (a quarter-century ago his “Radio Bikini” was a protest against atomic weapons). Writers and environmentalists, they speak with conviction, if not always convincingly, of nuclear power’s necessity as a viable alternative to fossil fuel.

In its one-sidedness, the film is not alone among environment-themed documentaries. But its unfashionable stance as a work of pro-nuclear-power advocacy sets it apart from the pack. At its worst, Stone’s flawed and provocative film takes cheap shots at the no-nukes movement; at its best, it poses compelling questions on the drawbacks of renewable energy and the very urgent matter of climate change.

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The interviewees’ confidence that nuclear power is our best hope for addressing global warming, and the surest way to transform impoverished lives via electricity, is informed by concern for the long-term planetary prognosis. On the other hand, they don’t allay fears with their statistics-waving — and Geiger-counter-flashing — dismissal of health concerns. They argue that such concerns are largely ungrounded, and that Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima Daiichi occupy a more ominous place in the collective imagination than they deserve.

A challenge to eco-orthodoxy, “Pandora’s Promise” subscribes to its own dogma. The lack of opposing voices diminishes the film, even as Stone raises issues that shouldn’t be discounted out of hand.



“Pandora’s Promise.”

No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. Playing at Landmark’s Nuart Theatre, West Los Angeles.