Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Movie Review: The Green Hornet

Honestly, I wasn't expecting the film adaptation of "The Green Hornet" to be any good. In fact, with such a history of diversity and experimentation the franchise has had over several mediums over the years, it's hard to keep track of what truly was the definite "background story" to follow based on the character's initial origins. As a kid, I grew up watching the 60's TV series starring Van Williams as The Green Hornet. It aired parallel to the Adam West and Burt Ward starring Batman Live Action series, and the show also featured a then unknown Bruce Lee displaying his martial arts prowess as the Hornet's sidekick, Kato. In Hong Kong, The Green Hornet was better known as "The Kato Show", and Lee's actions in the series added justification to why the show's name was changed in that territory, foreshadowing his inevitable rise to fame as an action movie star. After one season, the show faded into limbo, and what was once a straight superhero franchise slowly took off from the radar...

Movie: The Green Hornet
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz
Directed By: Michel Grondry

Flashforward some 40 years later, and here we finally have a movie version of The Green Hornet, directed by Michel Grondry and starring comedian actor Seth Rogen as the titular character, with Jay Chou following in Bruce Lee's footsteps as the new Chinese actor to don the mantle of Kato. As you'd expect from the actor chosen to play Britt Reid, this is a superhero comedy film that in no way follows the serious atmosphere the 60's TV series or the original radio show established decades ago. Unlike the metamorphosis Batman has gone through from his campy heroics to the Dark hero he is today in the Christopher Nolan films, the hornet is a bumbling, egocentric billionaire who dipped his finger into crimefighting simply because of a one night adventure in which he "foiled" a group of thugs from harming innocents. Actually, Kato had more of a hand in the saving, so this movie plays on the fact that the "sidekick" is doing all the legwork, while the main guy gets all the fame and attention as a result. This is where the movie's strength lies actually, and it works well to its advantage by playing on specific themes and norms that are totally deconstructed and taken apart thanks to the wacky deliveries Seth Rogen and Jay Chou deliver to their roles.

The Green Hornet Trailer

Like I said, there is no way in hell you can take Seth Rogen seriously, even if he worked out to get in shape for his role as Britt Reid/ The Green Hornet. His antics and deliberate idiotic behavior on screen changed the way I looked at the character forever, and it's somebody who has the ego to be the hero, but not the balls and brawn to go along with it. That however is completely opposite of Jay Chou's Kato, the ever reliable sidekick who is the jack-of-all-trades to their entire operation as well. My only complaint is the persistant use of slow motion and special effects to give Chou's character an "out of this world" martial arts background. Fine that technology has come a long way, but you don't have to exaggerate the whole movie's fight scenes with Terminator like target sequences. Other than that, he was okay for the role, but I still would have liked to see Stephen Chow's take on Kato more had he stayed on the project. Christoph Waltz on the other hand plays a serious threat in a not so serious superhero flick. That's what makes his character hilarious, and despite all his efforts to make himself intimidating, it always gets overshadowed by his lame name "Chudnofsky" and the Green Hornet's exploits. As for Cameron Diaz's role as Lenore Case, it's a decent role, but not much to expect other than the sexy face present to give the heroes enough of a distraction to fight amongst themselves. Other than that, there's plenty of other talents here that those who have viewed other popculture icon movies over the years will recognize, especially an uncredited cameo by a well known actor who has starred with Rogen in a previous flick before. I won't spoil who it is, so best to look out when you see the movie for yourselves.

Overall, I'd say that despite the mixed reviews and intial expectations many had over the film, The Green Hornet does deliver a solid "film-of-the-month" performance to make it wacky and memorable to talk about over the start of the year. Seth Rogen actually cowrote the screenplay together with frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg, and their efforts shine through for the better part of the film. It would have been nice to see Stephen Chow's vision of the film had he stayed on as director and Kato, but creative differences nixed that from ever happening. Still, what we got here is a movie enough to make a buzz for the next few weeks, so feel the sting and see this when it pops into theaters near you.

Rating - 4/5

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