The Formula E Film “And We Go Green” aired last night for the first time in the UK on Channel 4 but to me it fell a bit flat.
I love Formula E. I think it’s a brilliant series with superb competition and excellent characters.
So when Hollywood descended in Season 4, there were hopes of another magnificent racing documentary, such as Senna or the more recent Drive to Survive series.
You’d think there would be a basis in Formula E for a brilliant piece of filmmaking. It’s an opportunity to showcase the new age of motorsport and the insane series that Formula E is.
But AWGG never really sets off. It just kind of happens.
It wants to be a lot of things, a season review, an advert for Formula E, a bitter fight between the top drivers and their history with a twinge of climate change thrown in because they remember they need to go green every now and again.
And it is all of those things. But it never wholly finds a grounding.
The conflicted nature of the documentary just never – Oh look there’s Orlando Bloom. He’s famous you know – lets it flow.
The documentary began as a climate change piece looking into the way Formula E helps to develop electric cars and, in its own way, promote the movement.
But the climate change gets sidelined by the racing which is then sidelined in return by the science. The documentary kept developing as it was being filmed clearly and that’s good but it struggled to keep all the narratives it wanted to involve coherently.
It gave the impression that the filmmakers had a brief to focus on climate change which they got bored with and set about making it about racing, only checking in on the initial brief when they remember.
This is especially clear when Jean-Eric Vergne is sat in a cable car in Santiago and he points out the haze across the city as a result of pollution.
A worthy statement from JEV, and one that would fit into the discussion well.
The follow up question, however, is about Andre Lotterer’s first season seemingly to provide a link into the next scene because filmmaking. It clumsily sidelines the entire original point of the documentary.
The climate storyline, which focuses on the ever developing battery technology in Formula E, is consistently forgotten about and sidelined to the point where it is clumsily tacked on to the film.
It follows a placid arc of “this is what we have” (car changes because of the battery size) “this is what we want” (no car changes) and “oh look it happened” (the first Gen 2 test). The end.
It implies that the climate change technology is easy to develop and that it is the same with the batteries. There is so much more to the story about it that I was dying to be told more about but, it was now there. I was disappointed.
To its credit, the documentary team do try hard to focus on some of the tough characters in the paddock.
They portray Sam Bird and Alejandro Agag well. Bird as an underdog with a lot of talent who has struggled to make it all his career. And Agag as the debonair entrepreneur who saw an opportunity and built the whole thing.
They are cynical about Lucas Di Grassi who embodies the pantomime villain. Is he the innocent victim of the system who has still managed to achieve so much despite coming up in racing with the likes of Bruno Senna and Nelson Piquet Jr getting all the sponsorship money as he would have you believe? Or is he an arrogant know it all who is the best in his own eyes? They fall down on the latter argument.
They also try to understand the character of JEV. They touch on his mental battering by the Red Bull Driver Programme in F1 and the harsh loss of his good friend Jules Bianchi and how those have shaped him. They come to the conclusion that he still has a lot to prove but he does let the pressure get to him.
The structure of the film follows the Season 4 championship essentially race by race, teaching the audience about some of the drivers and about Formula E at various points.
Hong Kong opens the film with Sam Bird winning, setting up a large battle between him and JEV that isn’t referred to until much later on in the documentary, because they are setting up the other storylines and characters.
The other storylines however are then forgotten about to focus on the championship making the exercise feel very pointless.
Bird is not properly introduced as a protagonist until it is necessary later on in the film because they need to focus on the racing now.
The title fight is brought back to the fore in the third act of the film with a focus on the resurgent Sam Bird who has such a drive to win against the leader JEV who is beginning the crumble with the pressure.
In the end JEV wins and that is it. There is no denouement really and the documentary seemingly just ends after that.
There is some shots of the first Gen 2 test in Spain to completely finish it and to attempt to bring it full circle to the original intentions of the documentary, the climate change and the battery technology and then it just ends.
I was left feeling quite flat afterwards. I wanted so much more because I know as a fan that Formula E has already given me so much more.
They had a tough brief for the film and they tried but it snaked around weirdly and never got a footing.
But hey look there’s Leonardo Di Caprio so it must be good?