Reviews: The Green Hornet

A deconstruction? Perhaps. A comedy? Definitely. A parody? Not in the slightest.

I'll be honest, The Green Hornet was one of my favorite things in spite of itself. The premise was an enticing one, the car was awesome, and the plots were...well, they were compelling, sure, but there was little emotional depth to them. Britt Reid never really evolved beyond the typical square-jawed all-American persona that most early supers defaulted to.

In that respect, the movie seriously picks up the slack, mostly by unpacking the tropes that make characters like Britt work. Rather than being an all-around swell guy and upstanding citizen, Britt's dad was a well-intentioned man with compromised morals who raised a layabout son out of cowardice, and so Britt spends much of the film fighting the selfishness and dismotivation his dad accidentally saddled him with. Not having the will to do anything himself, Britt's become practiced at getting those around him to do the work—which is where Kato comes in.

If Britt is a solid nothing of a character, Kato's even moreso, being as he is a generic ethnic grunt who is only present in the cultural memory due to the fluke of being played by Bruce Lee. Here, the character's been endowed with brains as well as brawn, and clearly has a life outside of simply helping Britt, but is still treated as little else but a sidekick. With the dynamic now grounded in characterization rather than tradition, both are forced to grow—Kato begins to demand respect, and Britt, by virtue of having finally having a friend, gets to see what being a layabout has done to him and those around him. It's that, rather than the tragic death of his father, that finally motivates him to be a good person rather than just playing at it.

People see the film's comedic tone as mocking or disrespectful to what came before, but it's littered with classic references—from an in-story costume evolution mirroring the historical one to shout-outs to The Lone Ranger and Bruce Lee, all of which pass without a hint of derision or scorn. The film fixes problems with the franchise and takes an overall comedic bent, but there's never the sense that it's taking the piss let alone trying for parody. All it's doing is pulling the franchise away from being a clever concept and a cool car and into something that's capable of resonating on a deeper level.

A complete and utter wasted opportunity

When it was announced that Seth Rogen of all people would be playing The Green Hornet, like most people I was very dubious. As a fan of the character since I was a child, I wanted to see the property treated with respect, and not turned into a big joke. Some reminded me that there were similar concerns about Michael Keaton when he was announced to play Batman, and that in the end he took the role seriously, and proved all his naysayers wrong. That was a fair point, and I decided to reserve judgement on Seth. In the end, however, he proved all his naysayers right.

Imagine instead of manning up and playing the role faithfully, Michael Keaton instead re-wrote Batman to be exactly like Beetlejuice. That will give you some idea of what a poor job Seth did playing the character, and what litle respect he shows the property. Before this film the character were always played straight and treated with respect. Britt Ried and Kato were friends and equal partners in their fight against evil, with Britt being the brains and Kato being the muscle. This is not to say there was no overlap, but that was clearly their strong suits. They never fought over credit, they never cared about credit. Afterall, the public thought they were criminals, and hated them. What sort of idiots would fight over that kind of credit? oh yeah, the idiots in the movie.

Instead of manning up, and showing the world what he was capable of, Seth played it safe, and just re-wrote the character to be the same idiot he always plays. You can imagine how well that would have gone over with Batman fans if Keaton had done the same thing, all those years ago. It's a shame, Seth had a real opportunity to prove everyone wrong if he had actually tried to do something different, and he blew it. I think one day he will look back and regret that.

In the end playing it safe didn't pay off for him, as the movie was a critical and commercial failure. Hilariously, the movies executive producer Neil Mortiz insisted in an interview that the movie wasn't a financial failure, it just didn't make enough at the B.O. to justify what was spent on it. That is the rough definition of a movie thats a financial failure, isnt it? The general public doesnt seem to even remember this movie. There's no real point of even talking about it anymore. So long everybody :)

Fun, cheerful and realistic

I will say something that will annoy a great many people, but this film is much more realistic then The Dark Knight Saga.

Seth Rogen has analysed the character and come to the logical conclusion that one cannot make something realistic while leaving the subject intact so he made the wonderful decision of splitting him between three characters. If stuck to the original it would have been boring, generic and racist, but this way he lovingly avoids the stagnated love story formula and the unbelievable abilities that comicbook characters all seem to possess. Kato is a genius but lacks any sort of ambition, while not exactly happy to serve the former master of the house he still seems fine with being little more than an overworked mechanic; Case has to face sexual harassment from her boss and while having nothing against him as a person tries to politely ignore most of his remarks, she too is squandering her brilliance why, we don't know and if she feels that we shouldn't then damn it we have no right to pry; last but not least is Reid, who has the energy and the will to actually do what he does, yes he ends up taking the credit but he is called out on it, he messes up quite a lot and is cocky (maybe a parody of a less lucky Spiderman?) but he occasionally has good ideas and when he does then they are noted and they do work out.

Overall the cast was pretty good, Christoph Waltz was delightful and Franco made for a short but memorable appearance, Diaz (whom I actually dislike as an actress) in no way felt out of place. The soundtrack was easily recognisable but enjoyable.

I have to say though that I was slightly saddened that Gondry used the cheeky cartoonish effects only on the endcredits and during the scene in the restaurant. I can see why maybe some people didn't like it, it is camp in a certain way and may offend die-hard fans of the radio-show.

Overall it is cheerful, self-conscious and rather intelligent.