Chris Paine’s 2006 activist doc Who Killed the Electric Car concluded with the destruction of some 5,000 gas-free vehicles. Spooky horror title aside, the sequel couldn’t be more optimistic. As Revenge of the Electric Car begins, circa 2007, the villains of the first film have had an uncharacteristic change of heart. Suddenly Bob Lutz—good-humored then-GM vice chairman, electric car-skeptic and global warming denier—is throwing down with alternate energy sources, albeit motivated less by science than the changing of playing fields. Seems his competition, in the form of Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and Telsa Motors’ Elon Musk, have gotten back into the assumed-to-be-squashed electric car game. That the future of environment-friendly travel may be won thanks to egomania and one-upmanship is one of many questionable developments Paine’s film takes in stride. He’s unwilling to delve deeper into the frightening truth about the annoying hesitancy of true progress, because why complain when things are working in your favor?
That leaves little but propaganda for a still-burgeoning technology, and that’s all Revenge of the Electric Car would have been had it not been for a little economic catastrofuck. With the electric car revolution in full force, the fall of 2008 had to swing around and send production into a tailspin. Most of Revenge isn’t about electric cars so much as it is watching the very assholes in charge with nearly destroying the global economy deal with the fall out and grasping madly for a solution. In that sense, Paine’s effort has less in common with his previous film than with the recent Margin Call, which could be its documentary counterpart. This is a film on a first-name basis with the dangerously powerful, who just so happen to be doing the right thing for a change. Slick, bouncy and entertaining, fitted with montages set to Beck and peppered with celebrity testimonials by Danny DeVito, Anthony Kiedis and Adrien Grenier, Revenge slightly overplays its near-happy ending, which really only succeeds if everyone sees the film and wants a Chevrolet Volt the way one want an iPad 2.