What’s not to like about The Green Hornet? Yes: a rhetorical question.
Well, it’s big, it’s loud, it’s daft, it’s funny and it’s utterly preposterous. Will you, if you’re a normally adjusted adult, be entertained? Yes, you will.
Seth Rogen, as you’d expect a seasoned stand-up to, aces every line for comic effect in his performance as Britt Reid, millionaire newspaper heir and crime-fighting party animal. He has a barista black-belt, martial arts-toting sidekick called Kato with a garage full of bad-ass souped up Camaros (pedants: they’re Chrysler Imperials, but they *sound* like Camaros, and I want one – with or without rocket launchers). Indeed, Kato is so competent that he presents a plot dilemma: Why does he even need the Green Hornet in the first place? He can do Bruce Lee’s one inch punch. He can design sports cars. He even knows how to make those funny fern leaves in the froth on a cappuccino. And he shows us: bonus.
The film also boasts Cameron Diaz, with all that implies including, as her standard terms and conditions of engagement apparently demand, an entry in which she winsomely sashays in and wallops the camera with a shameless “it’s me! Cutesie Cameron Diaz!” gurn. The producers failed to accompany this, as their contractual obligations surely require, with Dream Weaver, which no doubt led to some anxious exchanges with her agents and lawyers when they saw the rushes. Still, comedy was extracted (bravely, from Diaz’ perspective) from the fact that her character, at the tender age of 36, is knocking on a bit. (Diaz is 38!). But not to the point where more couldn’t be extracted from Rogen’s covetous glances at her backside.
Yet at the same time The Green Hornet has a body count, some cheerily gruesome deaths and a wanton demolition quotient that reaches back in time past Bruce Willis’ Die Hard franchise and yearns for mid-eighties Arnie Schwarzenegger prime carnage. So: it will definitely go over well with the boy racers and even the rest of the cinema-going constituency would have to be a bit churlish not to be swept along. Which isn’t to say some of them won’t be.
There is, of course, stuff not to like, but much of that falls squarely in the sour puss cinema snob category. But here it is, for the record:
Firstly, the film has evidently had a difficult midwifery. It has been optioned on and off since 1990 and has had more directors, producers, screenwriters and actors “associated with the project”, many walking out as a result of “creative differences”, than most films not directed by Alan Smithee, and even the release of this final version seems to have been plagued by delays (who orchestrates the global release of a film a week after schools have gone back in January? Were they that scared of TRON: Legacy?)
Furthermore – and yes, this is a pet, well, bee in my bonnet but I’m going to say it anyway – this film is in 3D and it absolutely shouldn’t be, save for the closing credits and one classy Brian De Palma-style split screen sequence when, oddly, each “screenlet” was actually in 2D, just arrayed differently in 3D space. Otherwise, there really wasn’t much call for, or use of, 3D, and it didn’t look much good, to the point where I wondered whether it was added in post production, a la the train wreck that was The Last Airbender. A subsequent browsing of the blogosphere would suggest this is indeed the case.
There’s also the possibility that venerable superhero lore is being permanently trashed here. The original Green Hornet radio series is ancient: it predates Superman by a couple of years and, from what I can tell, it was rather earnest fare with less enduring legacy than Superman, and this big budget farce, which upends it in every conceivable way, may consign it forever to oblivion. A more reverend take may have been more interesting: Even the 1960s TV series, in which Kato was played by a young Bruce Lee, might have been a better setting (opening up the possibilities of some Mad Men styling) than the rather dull, present day. Indeed, modern technology presents some plot difficulties with which the screenwriters failed to adequately deal: armed with the critical MacGuffin, a USB drive full of incriminating evidence, our heroes race across town, batman style, to their newspaper offices to post it to the internet. Er, come again? You have a custom built rocket propelled car, but you don’t have wifi?)
In any case, it sounds as though every possible approach has been tried and rejected, and at the end of the day what we’re left with is a pretty entertaining night at the movies. And that, I dare say, is what the Studio was aiming for. Rogen was candid enough about that on the red carpet in Los Angeles this evening: Asked if there would be a sequel he said, “I would definitely be open to it, but until the movie makes a lot of money we haven’t really thought about that”.
Remains to be seen. But well worth a look in the mean time, if you need cheering up on a cold January day.
Director: Michel Gondry
Cast: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz
Runtime: 108 min