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.