"Promised Land" is the Center of the Storm in Fracking Debate

At only 49% positive, reviews
suggest that Promised Land is "rotten"
Promised Land, a new film starring and co-written by Matt Damon and John Krasinski, has been anticipated for some time by pro and anti-fracking crowds alike.  Now that the movie is here, the oil and gas industry is ramping up its efforts to counteract any anti-fracking buzz the film creates.  Click here to read our rundown of how things have unfolded since the movie really gained some attention earlier in the year.

Now the reviews are coming in, and they continue to be disappointing - especially for a movie that was getting some Oscar buzz.  It is currently sitting at a 49% positive rating with critics on Rotten Tomatoes, and an even more disastrous 39% from audiences.  For the sake of comparison, Oscars frontrunners like Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, Ang Lee's Life of Pi, and Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master sit at 91%, 88%, 89% and 85% positive with critics, respectively.  It wouldn't appear that Promised Land is going to be winning too many trophies.

Here is what some of the reviews have to say about Promised Land.

Environmental site Mother Jones:
Nothing but good résumés and intriguing publicity behind this movie. And yet it putters out into both embarrassment and creative lethargy, fueled (if that's the term I want) by an acute lack of focus and commitment. Promised Land struggles to compel just as much as it fails to inform. By the film's end, Matt Damon will have taught you precisely two things about fracking: That it's bad for cows, and even worse for heartfelt dramatic monologues delivered by Matt Damon.
Time Magazine:
Left-wingers in the mainstream media — by which I mean me — are supposed to lap up a movie that plays to our farm-loving, tree-hugging prejudices. But even we know that well-meaning does not automatically equal good movie.
"Promised Land" leaves us with a twist so hackneyed it should have been laughed out of the first table read. Instead, it arrives to make sure we don't forget the messages the film has been screaming at us from the opening sequence. Fracking bad. Big business very bad. And movies based on pure ideology, not sturdy storytelling, are even worse.
San Francisco Chronicle:
"Promised Land" is a fine place to start appreciating Matt Damon, who always makes it seem as if everybody else is acting and he's just going through the movie being natural. Damon is the actor who leaves no fingerprints, who never calls attention to himself and never, ever screws up, not once in 20 years. Whether playing Jason Bourne or Mr. Ripley, Damon creates an illusion of the familiar, and that familiarity is put to good use in "Promised Land," in which he plays a salesman for a fracking company, trying to talk rural people into leasing their land for natural-gas drilling.
Promised Land is not a movie about “fracking.” If you go to the theatre expecting to see lurid visuals of sinister-looking waste water ponds, plumes of diesel soot and road dust, or bucolic landscapes scarred by roads and pipes you will be sorely disappointed. You will see none of that.
Promised Land is a movie about what happens before the drilling rigs and man camps rumble into town. It is the story of a rural community, proud but poor, struggling to reconcile itself with an enormous economic opportunity that comes at an enormous cost.
No matter where you stand on the fracking issue - pro, con, on the fence - you'd like to be treated with more intelligence and less preachifying. Or at least be treated to characters with more than simply transparent motives. Nothing resembling the complexity, depth, and detail that made George Clooney's downsizing consultant in Up in the Air so human, so compelling, can be found in Damon's character.
New York Times:
Unfortunately, any prospects of a compelling denouement evaporate in the film’s final act, when the plot veers cartoonishly, doing for the gas industry what John Grisham has long done for big law firms.
Nuance leaves the theater.
In the end, because of such missteps, the tussle around the film in recent months between environmentalists and their allies and industry and its supporters ends up (sadly) more interesting than what appears on the screen.
Shale Gas Review:
I was eager to see how Hollywood’s rendition of the gas rush stands up against real life. I also wanted to understand how the movie might influence the discussion in a nation learning about shale gas and the risks and rewards of the controversial process that makes unconventional resource recovery possible – high volume hydraulic fracturing. After viewing the trailer myself, I expected to see a movie with sensational and vivid depictions of both fracking and its consequences. Upon seeing the movie, I was happy to see that "Promised Land" offers neither of these but something more complex. Yes, the movie portrays Global Energy, the company that is trying to lease land from McKinley residents, as an uncaring, exploitive and divisive force. But the story is more interested in exploring the dynamics of life in a small town within the context of these outside economic forces. The movie is not, despite what some hope and others fear, a case against shale gas development in general or fracking in particular. 
Meanwhile, Matt Damon and John Krasinski are trying to avoid directly stating that they are anti-fracking, and that Promised Land is an anti-fracking movie - no doubt in an attempt to avoid turning off moviegoers who aren't interested in their politics.  But the more they talk, the clearer their true feelings are.

For example, they had this to say in an interview with the New York Daily News:
Both Damon and Krasinski resist questions about their own feelings about fracking, though Damon says, “I wouldn’t be okay with them drilling on my property — I doubt most people would.” 
But they are quick to add that the movie isn’t taking sides on the subject, either. Rather, the film is about who gets the final word on the question of where and whether fracking should be allowed. 
“The truth is it’s an incredibly complicated issue,” Krasinski says. “For us to come down on one side or the other is not right. There’s so much information to be had — and a responsibility to find out what it is. 
“You can’t deny that natural gas is a wonderful source of energy. But at what cost? The movie isn’t about what side of the issue we’re on. It’s about the common responsibility we all have to make informed decisions — or other people will make those decisions for you.” 
“As Americans, we want control over the decisions we make,” Damon says. “That’s something the energy industry doesn’t agree with.”
 And in an interview with Playboy (excerpt from Politico):
Damon said he isn’t so naive to think that any politician would ever move to make serious action against fracking. 
“We’re at a point where politicians don’t really get any benefit from engaging with long-term issues. Instead, it’s all about the next election cycle. Those guys in the House don’t do anything now but run for office. So unless they can find some little thing that zips them up a couple of points in the polls, they’re not interested. There’s a consensus among scientists, though, that we face serious long-term issues. They’re saying that unless we engage with those issues, we’re genuinely f*cked. The way it looks, we’re going to wait until one of those big issues smacks us.”
And in the last bit of Promised Land news for the week, the industry has responded to the film by creating a website under the title of "The Real Promised Land."  The site is designed to give the stories of actual landowners who have experienced the shale boom firsthand, and counter the fictional account in the Hollywood movie.

Quick to respond was the blog "No Fracking Way," with a post entitled "The NOT Real Promised Land," which goes to lengths to establish something that was completely obvious to begin with: that the new "Real Promised Land" website was a PR tool of the oil and gas industry.

It's been a relatively slow news week for shale development, and I apologize for the lack of updates on the site.  The fact that the majority of the conversation right now seems to center around Promised Land ought to give a pretty good indication that there wasn't much to report.

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