Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Michel Gondry
Stars: Seth Rogen, James Franco, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson, Cameron Diaz, Jay Chou.
After the mighty Kick-Ass showed how a bit of imagination could drive a comic book adaptation, we get this dismal version of yet another comic superhero. This $90 million feature film adaptation of comic book super hero Green Hornet is a mediocre mess and a wasted opportunity, and as such is another failure along the lines of the awful Daredevil. This expensive and troubled film underwent a lot of script changes and behind the scenes changes in the lengthy gestation period.
The character was originally created by George W Trendle, and first developed for a radio serial in the 1930’s. A couple of movie serials followed in the early 1940’s before the character became a staple of comic books. Van Williams played the character in a short-lived ‘60’s tv series from Batman producer William Dozier.
This film largely tells the backstory of how Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), millionaire playboy and slacker heir to a media empire, became the masked vigilante and scourge of crime in Los Angeles. Following the death of his father, Britt bonds with the chauffeur and mechanic Kato, and the pair decide to fight crime by posing as a pair of criminals themselves. Thus the Green Hornet is born, but here the character is misguidedly played more for laughs and the plot is patently nonsense.
The Green Hornet does not adhere to the usual template for superhero movies or comic book adaptations. He does not fight crime out of a sense of justice, but rather to alleviate a sense of boredom. If only it had employed the same camp sensibility as the ‘60’s incarnation of Batman then The Green Hornet may have worked!
Rogen co-wrote the script with regular collaborator Evan Greenberg (Superbad, etc), so he shares most of the blames for this mess. Ultimately this is a superhero film mixed with cliched elements of a buddy comedy/bromance. There is a strong homoerotic tone to the relationship between Britt and Kato, who also seem to have lots of unresolved angst and complex issues they need to resolve before they can effectively fight the villains.
In the dual role of Reid and the Green Hornet a horribly miscast Rogen also gives a one-note, over the top performance that lacks any hint of subtlety or nuance. Rogen flexed his action hero muscles in the comic thriller Pineapple Express, but here he comes across as a bit of a bumbling buffoon, a second rate Jack Black wannabe. Rogen is easily outclassed by his co-star, Taiwanese pop star and martial arts actor Jay Chou, making his Hollywood debut here as Kato, his faithful sidekick, chauffeur and coffee maker. In the tv series Kato was played by Bruce Lee before he became famous, but he was given very little dialogue. Here Chou is given a more expanded character – he is depicted as being the brains of the outfit and the technical genius who designed all of his gadgets.
But the film wastes a solid supporting cast. Tom Wilkinson is given little to do in a couple of scenes as Reid senior. Cameron Diaz is similarly wasted in a thankless and underdeveloped role as Lenore Case, Reid’s secretary cum girl Friday cum sex object with an interest in criminology. And poor Christoph Waltz, who was so incredibly menacing as a Nazi in Inglorious Basterds is reduced to playing a cartoonish criminal as Chudnofsky, the super villain who is intent on controlling all crime in the city. James Franco contributes an uncredited cameo in an early and amusing scene as a gangster who disses Chudnofsky for his dress sense and lack of scary persona.
French director Michel Gondry normally has a distinctive and dark visual style and idiosyncratic vision for his films (The Science Of Sleep, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, etc) developed over the years of making music videos. But with this big budget mainstream Hollywood action film he seems unable to stamp his own individual personality on the formulaic material. Only a couple of sequences display his visual flair. There is a lot of CGI enhanced action sequences, but they directed in a frenzied fashion by Gondry that renders them all but incomprehensible. A lot of sets and scenery are destroyed in spectacular fashion merely for the visceral thrill of it all.
The Green Hornet is also another of those films that has been needlessly retro-fitted for 3D, although the process adds little to the film except for a couple of spectacular action sequences. Any hope the producers may have had of this Green Hornet kick-starting a new potential film franchise are still born.