Who Killed the Electric Car
He’s powering the funeral with the electricity of his mind.

Golden Mug

WINNER: Documentary

Theatrical Release Date: 06/28/2006
Director: Chris Paine
Featuring: Martin Sheen (narration), Tom Hanks, Mel Gibson, Peter Horton, Alexandra Paul, Ed Begley Jr.

Ian Forbes’ Rating:

Barrett Calhoon’s Rating: (Jump To His Review)

Ian Forbes’ Review

Zipping its way through theaters lately has been another environmentally conscious documentary, “Who Killed the Electric Car?”.

Hot on the heels of “An Inconvenient Truth”, this film takes a look at the birth and apparent death of the electric car. And it does it well.

I’m not going to explain everything that goes on and all the participants. Needless to say, the film tries to find out why electric cars sped their way into the California marketplace, only to be recalled before they could become more widely available to the public.

To represent the side of electric car advocates, the filmmakers enlisted Martin Sheen to narrate the film. They interviewed and used footage of well-known celebrity supporters like Tom Hanks and Mel Gibson, lesser-known actors such as Peter Horton and Alexandra Paul, auto industry personnel and electric car drivers.

There are also interviews with a small amount of people who disagree that there was some grand conspiracy on the part of big oil or the automotive industry.

One side note, with all the brouhaha surrounding Mad Max, it was interesting to hear and feel the negativity rise from the audience as he was on-screen. It should also be noted I was watching the film in the so-called epicenter of the Jewish community in San Diego. But what could that have done to exacerbate it?

Anywho, I’m not going to get into the issues surrounding the demise of the electric car in California. It’s basic common sense that America needs to become less dependant on oil and emit fewer harmful emissions into an already polluted atmosphere.

For anyone who’s been to Southern California, seeing the cloud of smog that hangs over the region should be enough to convince anyone not being paid by certain key industries that zero emission vehicles are needed.

Now, as for the quality of the presentation, I give high marks to director Chris Paine. He edited and crafted the different sides to the issue into a very easy to follow and well-planned film.

Unlike “An Inconvenient Truth”, which was like watching Pinocchio give a slide show of his family vacation, “Electric Car” had a narrative and built upon itself to present its case.

Sure, it was a little hokey to present each side (big oil, automakers, consumers, etc.) as suspects and to deliver a verdict on each one but it’s an effective tool to present the issue. It helped keep the film from feeling too stagnant.

I do have some faults with it though, as it is a documentary. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a documentary that didn’t have some bias in it. Try as they might, filmmakers are trying to present the story as they see it … and that’s not wrong, it’s just human nature.

It’s clear the filmmakers have a certain perspective and solution. This comes up most notably when talking about the possibility of Hydrogen fueled vehicles.

I don’t know anything about them but this film essentially marginalizes their future and writes them off as a pipe dream. Maybe, maybe not. But I haven’t seen any hard evidence and none was really presented on screen.

So certain elements of the film could have been better handled if there was more scientific data behind the premises. In essence, the film is more like a collection of testimonials and appeals to our own fundamental intelligence than a collection of hard data.

And that’s okay. If too many numbers had been thrown at the audience, the film could have gotten bogged down in math and science, which as test scores indicate, America ain’t none too good at these days. (Me write good though).

However, that aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the documentary and it inspired more motivation within myself to be better to the environment that Al Gore’s slideshow (which I still recommend as well).

I’m giving “Who Killed the Electric Car?” a 4 out of 5. It’s the best documentary I’ve seen so far this year and I highly recommend everyone go out and see it.

Maybe it will inspire you to convince your buddy who just got a corner office not to buy the 19-passenger Canyonero and instead opt for a more sensible and fuel efficient alternative.

Barrett Calhoon’s Review

I must say that I really liked this movie. Of course, I’m biased in the respect that I love cars, and I’m a bit of a greenie.

This is the type of documentary that I like the most. Not only does it take on a passionate and political topic, but it builds a case with facts, interviews, and video.

The case it builds is that there was a specific effort by the large automakers to overturn a California law requiring them to sell a specific percentage of electric vehicles in order to maintain the privilege of selling cars within the state.

Most large companies are already suspect in my eyes because of the nature of a corporation, but what respect I did have for large automakers is now gone. I may appreciate their products as an automotive enthusiast, but their practices over the past hundred years has severely limited progression in many ways.

I would really love to have an electric car. Comparatively very cheap fuel… Maintenance is almost non-existent with hundreds of fewer moving parts than a normal car… I’m looking forward to the future where I can get an electric car with the current selection.

There is some hope for the future in this topic as the documentary mentions towards the end. But there are the large roadblocks, in that the big automakers have the most powerful asset of political contributions on their side thanks to over a century of making more money than god.

The only downside to this film is that it takes on such a small, niche product that it’s hard to relate without the inclusion of both a better understanding of the automotive process and environmental landscape. But despite a limited scope, it does tackle it well and the topic is of great importance to me. This is a solid 4 star effort that I hope more and more people see.

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