Chris Paine's 2006 documentary Who Killed the Electric Car? was full of rage - and angry celebrity consumers (Ed Begley Jr., Peter Horton, Mel Gibson among them). General Motors had designed, built and test-marketed a viable automobile that ran on batteries, not fossil fuels. The EV-1's owners were giddy zealots, and then GM literally pulled the plug. Worse yet, it reclaimed the entire fleet and smashed the cars to bits.
Paine's new doc, The Revenge of the Electric Car, is a sequel that should gladden the hearts of the eco-minded and those in favor of green transport. But as filmmaking goes, Paine's follow-up is a dud. The corporate villain of the first film, GM exec Bob Lutz, is now one of the good guys - the man responsible for jump-starting the Chevy Volt, an electric/gas hybrid. Lutz doesn't eat crow exactly - he smokes a fat cigar and speaks with regret about his decision to destroy the EV-1 project. But he has clearly seen the writing on the wall.
So, too, has Carlos Ghosn, the chairman of Nissan/Renault, who allows Paine and crew access to a strategy session about Nissan's all-electric vehicle. And Elon Musk, the Tony Stark-like (Iron Man) entrepreneur/engineer, is filmed as he and his team sweat the enormous technical and tactical problems behind their pricy Tesla sports car.
Nicely shot, with some lively talking-head action from Wall Street Journal reporter Dan Neil, The Revenge of the Electric Car nonetheless feels more like a postscript than a probing, provocative doc.