Movie Review: The Green Hornet (2011)

January 21, 2011 in Movie Reviews by pacejmiller

The Green Hornet is the worst superhero movie I’ve seen in a long time.  Actually, let me rephrase that.  It’s a pretty decent movie about the worst superhero I’ve seen in a long time.  In fact, it’s almost an anti-superhero movie.

Before you read further, let me make it clear that I have never seen the original TV series (or read the comics or heard the radio show or watched the film serials ) that made Bruce Lee famous (other than brief snippets in Bruce Lee documentaries/films), so I have no idea whether this film was faithful to the source material.  I highly doubt that it is, but honestly, I don’t really care.  Regardless of whether the original superhero is anything like the new version, this particular Green Hornet is egotistical, moronic, basically useless — and as a result, very funny.  Some say that Rogen was ‘miscast’ as the superhero.  That’s not correct.  Seth Rogen co-wrote the script (with Evan Goldberg — Superbad, Pineapple Express), and he has essentially reshaped the Green Hornet into his own image as opposed to the other way around.  How can he be miscast if he wrote the character as himself?

So for those wondering how someone as goofy as Rogen could have ever pulled off a superhero, wonder no further — because Britt Reid (the Green Hornet’s alter ego), the wealthy slacker son of a newspaper magnate, is exactly like all of Rogen’s other characters — lazy, incompetent, but with a good heart.  For some that might be a reason not to watch this film, but for me, in an age when superheroes were taking themselves very seriously, it was refreshing to see a superhero that’s not always moody, doesn’t have any special powers or abilities, doesn’t even design or make his own gadgets, and has absolutely no desire to save the world.  Reid wants to be a superhero for the same reason we all did when we were kids — because it’s cool!

This is why The Green Hornet is unlike any superhero movie I’ve seen.  There are guns, fights and car chases (with a very cool car) but it’s predominantly a comedy (as opposed to an action film) — and it’s not a spoof or satire.  The guy who does all the work is not the hero, but his sidekick (in this case Kato, played by Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou — who is beyond huge in Asia).  The ‘love interest’, played sparingly by Cameron Diaz, has little interest in the hero.  And even the bad guy, played by acting god and Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (from Inglourious Basterds), is a deadpanning hoot.  There’s also a very sweet cameo from one of Rogen’s ex–co stars.  It’s completely farcical and intentionally so.  I think a lot of people are looking at this film straight up and have failed to see what Rogen, Goldberg and director Michel Gondry (the guy directed Be Kind Rewind for goodness sake!) were going for.  This is essentially Pineapple Express for superheroes.  Yes, that means the film is pretty weak, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be lots of fun.

Having said all that, The Geen Hornet is not without plenty of problems.  The biggest one is that the tone and pacing are quite uneven, making the film sporadically entertaining — but it also means it occasionally suffers from sequences that don’t work.  Chou, who only started learning English recently, struggled with some of his lines, though I think he did okay — certainly no worse than say Chow Yun Fat, Jet Li or Rain when they first tried to crack Hollywood.  And of course, Rogen’s stupidity does get a little tedious towards the end, and the film loses steam in that tricky area between the second and third acts, as many films do.  And even though I watched this film in 2D, I’ve heard that the 3D effects absolutely suck.  Don’t waste your money again.

On the whole, however, I still enjoyed The Green Hornet much more than I thought I would, probably because I know nothing of the original character and don’t care.  I suppose it’s the type of film that you need to be in the right mood for, and it certainly helps if you weren’t expecting a ‘proper’ superhero film.

3.5 stars out of 5!

[Note: It's interesting to see how this film developed.  Initially the Green Hornet was supposed to be George Clooney, then Greg Kinnear, with Jason Scott Lee [who played Bruce Lee once] as Kato.  Then the role was offered to Mark Wahlberg before it went into hiatus.  Next, Jet Li was offered Kato, and then Kevin Smith was offered to write and direct, with Jake Gyllenhaal intended for the lead role.  Then in the most interesting development, Hong Kong comedy star Stephen Chow came onboard to direct and star as Kato, before dropping out of both commitments.  Nicholas Cage was offered the role of the villain that Christoph Waltz eventually took.  Each of these configurations would have created a completely different film, but this is what we ended up with!]