Five years ago, filmmaker Chris Paine directed the documentary Who Killed the Electric Car?, a movie I described as "a must-see documentary" and "one of the most frustrating yet captivating films of 2006". At the time, the advent of electric cars had been crushed - literally and figuratively - by the major automobile manufacturers.
Times have changed. An economic recession and environmental resurgence later, electric cars are making a comeback, with most of the major car companies producing hybrids and all-electric automobiles. And Paine is back with Revenge of the Electric Car.
The documentary goes behind the scenes of several car companies, including General Motors, the villain in the first movie, Tesla Motors and Nissan.
The first movie showcased an injustice Paine felt had been committed by the automobile industry, that they had explicitly attempted to, and succeeded, suppress the future of electric vehicles. Paine was clearly passionate about the subject and it exuded his enthusiasm exuded through every aspect of the movie. The story was also interesting and compelling.
Unlike the first movie, Revenge of the Electric Car doesn't really have a story to tell. Electric cars have made a comeback, but it's too early to tell how successful they'll be. They are still a niche product; they've yet to prove that they belong in the mainstream. "Revenge" has yet to come. Revenge of the Electric Car is many years too early.
The documentary plays out like a state-of-the-industry report. It provides some interesting facts, highlights some interesting people and products, but it isn't revelatory or groundbreaking. The movie teaches us nothing new, other than that the automobile industry finally sees business opportunity in electric cars. Oh, and that they deem it's in their best interest to let Paine behind the curtain.
Whereas Who Killed the Electric Car? was aggressive and inspiring, Revenge of the Electric Car lacks the same energy or focus. There's no longer a bad guy, nor even a story to rally around. We know that electric cars are gaining traction, but they have yet to revolutionize society. The movie is a premature celebration.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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