Review: Monumental

David Brower did more to save Mother Nature from Big Government than anyone before him.

Monumental
Photo: First Run Features

The charismatic force behind countless conservationist campaigns over the course of his life, David Brower did more to save Mother Nature from Big Government than anyone before him: After putting the Sierra Club on the map, he helped to push the 1964 Wilderness Act through Congress, saved the Grand Canyon from damming, and helped to create Redwoods National Park. Combining archival footage from the ’50s and ’60s (most of which was shot by Brower himself) with recent interviews, director Kelly Duane means to position Monumental: David Brower’s Fight for Wild America as a totem to the conservationist juggernaut, but the film is really nothing more than a bone-dry visual timeline of the Sierra Club’s transformation into a national political force from its origins as a meager hiking organization. Many of the shots of American landscapes untouched by industrial development are ravishing to behold, but besides one cutaway between an untouched Glen Canyon to a shot of white Americans enjoying fishing and skiing outside the canyon’s manmade dam, Duane’s aesthetic fails to approximate the radical fervor of Brower’s lifelong obsession with saving the environment from industrial expansion. Not only is there very little sense of who the great Brower was beside some vague crusader for our sensitive ecosystem, with all the title cards Duane forces her audience to read throughout, Monumental comes to resemble a taxing and impersonal homework assignment.

Score: 
 Director: Kelly Duane  Distributor: First Run Features  Running Time: 80 min  Rating: NR  Year: 2004  Buy: Video

Ed Gonzalez

Ed Gonzalez is the co-founder of Slant Magazine. His writing has also appeared in The Village Voice and The Los Angeles Times. He’s a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, the Critics Choice Association, and the Latino Entertainment Journalists Association.

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