Sunday, January 16, 2011

"The Green Hornet"

The Green Hornet - Directed by Michel Gondry, written by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, and Christoph Waltz - Rated PG-13

Balls Deep in Shit-Kickin' Dudes by Kato is definitely on the Evil Kurgan's bookshelf.

Superhero movies have become so prevalent in Hollywood that they are basically a genre to themselves at this point, which means they can be very tiresome unless an original approach is taken. The Green Hornet takes a slightly different approach than most super-serious hero tales and while it may not be the first film to take this approach, it is still an extremely fun film.

The Green Hornet takes a very comedic approach to the superhero genre. In fact, this movie has just as much (if not more) comedy as action. Serious movies like The Dark Knight are great and all, but it’s refreshing to see a superhero movie that doesn’t take itself very seriously. This is possible because the source material is not a comic book with a rabid fan base. The Green Hornet originated as a radio program in the ‘30s and was a short-lived TV show in the ‘60s in its most popular incarnations, so not a lot of mythology (or fans) to have to live up to.

The basic story of The Green Hornet involves Britt Reid (Seth Rogen), an heir to a newspaper, dealing with the death of his father, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). Britt is a hard partying, pampered rich jerk. But once his father dies his life changes, but not the way you would expect. Britt doesn’t want to take up his father’s quest to help the city. Instead, he gets drunk with his father’s mechanic/coffee maker Kato (Jay Chou) and talks about how much of a jerk his dad was. Britt and Kato decide to go on an adventure not to fight crime, but to vandalize a statue of Britt’s father. It’s only when they stumble across a couple being attacked that they decide to fight crime. And that sets up Britt’s plan to fight crime by posing as criminals.

The plot is more complicated than that, but this movie doesn’t have much payoff in the story department. There is no sense of a need for justice in the streets and you never get the idea that the characters are fighting crime out of a sense of duty or honor. In fact, both the heroes and villains are egomaniacs. That may sound a bit dark but the film is never meant to be taken very seriously. The characters may not be all that likable, but they are fun to watch.

Comedy is, of course, subjective, but for this film it will be easy to predict if you are going to find it funny; just ask yourself: do I find Seth Rogen funny? The film is, after all, written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, who have also written Superbad and Pineapple Express. The dialogue of The Green Hornet is very reminiscent of those films, though it is cleaned up to a PG-13 level.

Most of your enjoyment of the film will hinge on your opinion of Rogen, but if you’re on the fence about him, maybe Kato can sway your opinion. Rogen handles most of the funny dialogue, but Jay Chou gets all of the cool moments. He has “Kato Vision,” in which things slow down and he can pinpoint weapons and take out plenty of bad guys in seconds. He also has plenty of regular action moments, but the “Kato Vision” sequences are the coolest. Chou’s performance is not just physical, though. He gets his share of jokes. Kato’s disgust and disdain of Britt at times is quite amusing. Kato is not some servant to the Green Hornet. They are equals and, in many ways, Kato is superior, though Kato has ego issues that match Britt’s.

Christoph Waltz represents the Green Hornet and Kato’s opposition in this film, though the role is much more secondary than most villainous roles. Even though he is not a prominent villain, Waltz is given a very funny introduction. (If you want a certain cameo to be a surprise, skip to the next paragraph now.) Waltz is introduced by being verbally berated by James Franco. Franco hilariously cuts Waltz to pieces, critiquing his facial hair, his suit, etc. It makes sense; Waltz does appear to be a bit plain, but there is more to him. Waltz stands out because of his eccentricities (his gun of choice is a strange double barreled handgun) and insecurities (he is constantly, sincerely asking people how he can be more intimidating).

The characters all want to be like comic book heroes/villains. This isn’t a deduction made by the viewer; the characters flat out state this. That is the other aspect that makes this film a bit more interesting than the standard hero movies: the characters acknowledge that comic books and movies exist. It’s kind of like Kick-Ass, in that the film wants to be an entry in the genre while also poking fun at the ridiculousness of it. Much like that other film, though, The Green Hornet fails to make much of a message because it ends up becoming exactly what it was attempting to satirize. It’s easy to forgive that if you don’t take the film too seriously, though.

The story may be a bit disappointing to some, but fans of director Michel Gondry will be the most disappointed. The usually stylish director is a bit toned down in this mainstream effort. There are still visually interesting moments like the “Kato Vision” and a split screen segment, but for the most part this is an ably directed action comedy, no more, no less. There is nothing really wrong with that, it’s just if you’re expecting something along the lines of The Science of Sleep you are going to be sadly disappointed.

Gondry does a fine job of creating chaos, though. The last act of this film is pure action insanity. Leave your disbelief at the door or you’ll be shaking your head so hard during the last twenty minutes you’ll become dizzy. If you can accept the ridiculous action, then you’ll most likely enjoy it.

Concerning visuals for this film, this film was released in 3D, which seems more and more to be a controversial element in movies. This is one of those dreaded post-conversion jobs, but it actually looked decent. The 3D itself wasn’t all that necessary, though. The “Kato Vision” scenes certainly benefited from it, but there are not enough of those scenes to warrant an entire film to be converted to 3D. Overall, it was decent, but not worth the extra price in admission.

Disappointment of the film is based on individual expectations, but it’s hard to believe anyone could enjoy Cameron Diaz in this film. Her performance isn’t all that terrible, it’s just that she is so clearly tacked on for some much needed female presence in the film. There should have been a more fleshed out character added. The conflict the character created between Britt and Kato led to some amusing stuff, but the character itself was very weak.

All in all, The Green Hornet is a surprisingly funny action film in the normally dreary January deluge of dumped films. Rogen and Chou work together well and Waltz gets to be goofy and evil. It may not be what you expect, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. You don’t need to lower your expectations, just change them a bit and this film should entertain you.

Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

I know the gas gun bit was shown in the previews, but the payoff of the joke is still hilarious in the film. The fact that it knocks him out for eleven days cracked me up.

Balls Deep in Shit-Kickin’ Dudes by Kato may be the best title I’ve ever heard.

A minor issue I had was with the timeline of the film. The opening scene (which I found kind of pointless) claims to take place in 1990. The computer on Wilkinson’s desk was not a 1990 computer. I remember computers from that time period and they did not look like that. Once again, minor, but it bothered me.

I loved the fact that the film acknowledges the progression of time when a Britt is figuring out what has been going on. Normally time freezes while this happens in a film, leading the audience to believe that the character just had a moment of instant realization. In this film, Britt thinks it all through, and then a character mentions that he has been staring into space for five minutes.

Cool to see a couple Edwards in this. Edward James Olmos does a nice job playing the serious man to Britt’s man child in the news office. And Edward Furlong was a strange sight as a meth cook, haven’t seen that guy in anything high profile for awhile.

That was excellent use of Johnny Cash’s cover of “I Hung My Head” after Wilkinson died.

Even though there isn’t much of a fan base to please, it was still cool that they stuck with the original design of the car and masks and stuff. I also liked seeing the sketches of Bruce Lee. And the use of the theme song at the end was amusing.

Who’s to say that a car cut in half can’t drive around?

Great...okay, maybe not great, but what I consider to be an amusing line from Christoph Waltz: “I’m ungassable!”

1 comment:

  1. i had no idea rogen was part of the script, maybe that's the reason why the movie has such a different feeling to it. my boyfriend really liked it, though!