Review: The Green Hornet is Just the Right Amount of Excitement
by Jeremy Kirk
January 15, 2011
Seth Rogen's Britt Reid in The Green Hornet is not a likable character. He's entitled. He's spoiled. He goes through life without the slightest care for his actions or any long-term sensibilities of where he might be going. In essence, he's Bruce Wayne whose parents were not killed when he was a boy. This isn't the first inclination we see for this character in the new film. In the opening shot, Britt is a small boy riding in the back of a chauffeured car, his favorite toy, a 12-inch superhero complete with cape and mask, hanging out the window as if to make the figure fly through the air. He's a boy who dreams, who may have it in his mind that he wishes to do something with his life, something good.
But then the movie jumps ahead 20 years, and we are introduced to someone older, someone coddled who hasn't taken it upon himself to become even the slightest glimpse of that superhero he had dangling out the window. Rogen's character doesn't take anything seriously, so, when his father, a notable newspaper publisher with penchant for making enemies, is found dead, it seems somewhat aberrant for Britt to want to become a superhero. He sort of falls into, anyway.
With his father's everyman, Kato, played by Jay Chou, Britt, through inadvertent actions that start as an act of destruction, becomes The Green Hornet. He's a masked hero who fights crime but comes off as a villain in order to get closer to the higher rungs of the criminal underworld ladder. All along the way, you never get a sense Britt is taking any of this seriously. Not even bullets or people being crushed under large objects can seem to snap him into any sense of reality.
And that is probably where Michel Gondry's film, written by Rogen and Evan Goldberg, both shines and falters at the same time. On one hand, we have a comic book action movie, one that is incredibly entertaining from start to finish. When Kato fights, Gondry turns on all the style and hyper kinetic reality he can muster to make the battling as slick and entertaining as possible. It doesn't matter that it comes off as wholly unrealistic. It's fun, and comic book movies, especially of the superhero variety, are supposed to first and foremost be that very thing.
Much of what is found in The Green Hornet feels a bit like by-the-numbers superhero storytelling. A hero and possibly a sidekick fight crime. We have montages showing them busting skulls and racing the Black Beauty, their 1964 Chrysler Imperial decked out with machine guns and missiles, away from criminals and police alike. These montages are littered with newspaper headlines about this mysterious new character in town, something so cliche it's been parodied ad nauseum. Even the main villain of the piece, Chudnofsky, played with all the immoral sophistication Christoph Waltz can bring out, seems a bit familiar. For much of the film Chudnofsky sits in a room contemplating and becoming agitated at the Green Hornet's deeds. We even see him kill of a few of his own henchmen, something I thought went the way of the Dodo when the Joker shot Bob in the 1989 Batman.
Commonplace storytelling aside, though, Gondry's look and the sheer fun that's being splashed across the screen is anything but leaden. Each of the characters in the film seems to have a nice sense of their surroundings. Chudnofsky is always concerned whether he looks "scary" enough. His third-act morphing into what he feels is a typical, comic book supervillain brings out some of the biggest laughs of the film. Self-referentialism abounds in what is probably the film's best examples of its comedy. The idea of Kato filling out his resume and including all of his action-heavy skills might not seem that imaginative on paper, but, when executed, it can't help but bring up a few laughs from the crowd.
Then we have Rogen, probably the biggest drawback to the whole thing, truth be told. Constantly throwing out comedic jabs just to see what sticks might work in out-and-out comedies like Superbad or Knocked Up. Here it just seems to get in the way of what actually works with The Green Hornet. Once Cameron Diaz steps in to build some kind of odd love triangle with Britt and Kato, Rogen's comedic timing and verbal sparring becomes an all-around distraction. The idea of the love triangle is enough to make you check out anyway. It's completely unnecessary. Her character isn't. She serves some sort of necessity to the overall narrative, but just because you have a female in a film doesn't mean the males of the film have to vie for her affection.
Gondry's direction is spot-on for the most part even if it never attains the level of quirk or eccentricity you might expect from the man who directed Eternal Sunshine or The Science of Sleep. One particular scene that utilizes multiple split screens is ingenious and probably should have been used more than just the one time. The execution on it may have been too time-consuming, though, so we'll let it pass for this one time. Gondry's action never misses anything. He holds his camera back allowing Chou or whoever is at the center of the violence to be seen. The car chases, and there are many, are handled equally effectively boosting the excitement level but never having to resort to shaky cam or extreme closeups to get the point across.
The Green Hornet is a superhero movie; it is also a comic book movie, and it does what so many comic book movies try to do. It comes off as exciting and as entertaining as it can possibly be. Granted, there is probably a better film, maybe even a darker film, that could've been made. And a PG-13 rating means characters walk away from standing in front of a machine gun unharmed and fast edits on the more gruesome deaths, which are very distracting. Nonetheless, the film, though not as perfect as it might have been, is as fun, fresh, and as thrilling as the Billy May Green Hornet theme. If you can just hear it over Rogen's banal discourse.
Jeremy's Rating: 7 out of 10
Reader Feedback - 17 Comments
the thing no one noticed that Van Williams 'original Green Hornet' said in an interview he tried comedy the entire series but it just wasn't funny...because no one would notice it..so i give Seth that part
Jericho on Jan 16, 2011
Jeremy you are amazing, this is exactly what this movie gives off and I am so happy to read a review that isn't heavily biased by your own opinion. This is a perfect way to see this movie and a great representation for anyone considering a viewing. I was wondering if you had any comments about the 3D applications of the movie and whether it was worth it.
Ravek019 on Jan 16, 2011
Sorry I meant *biased by your opinion like others do on other reviews.* I wanted to correct because I sounded offensive to myself.
Ravek019 on Jan 16, 2011
Personally, I thought the 3D was definately worth it. There was nothing overtly, "Ohmygodit'scomingrightatme!" It was simply used as another tool to immerse people into the movie...Definately the best 3D movie that wasn't actually shot in 3D and better than most that were shot that way. I also agree with the review for the most part...It's nothing that MUST be seen on the big screen, just a fun, lighthearted superhero tale, but if you're going to check it out, definately go 3D.
Full_Conspiracy on Jan 16, 2011
Well, I'm pretty biased when it comes to 3-D. I'm never engaged in 3-D. At its very best, I find 3-D to NOT be distracting. It wasn't distracting in The Green Hornet, so I guess that translates to it being good, especially for post-conversion. Still, I would rather see it and would recommend you see it in 2-D unless you were watching it in full IMAX.
Jeremy Kirk on Jan 16, 2011
Agreed agreed agreed. Spot on review. I went in expecting not the worst..... but I thought gon dry was going to work extra hard to save this film. As it turned out... he didn't. He deftly directed the heck out of this. I'm really glad Kevin Smith didn't do this.... but I'm curious to know what Stephen Chow would've done with it. That being said.... loved Jay Chou. Loved Christoph Waltz (who almost surnamed away with this flick) loved the Franco cameo. Also agree that Seth was the weakest part of the film. But he did his .... thing.
Njoilyfe on Jan 16, 2011
A very fun movie, I saw it in 2D, because 3d is too distracting.
Chris Cavins on Jan 16, 2011
i enjoyed this film
Spencer Fayer on Jan 16, 2011
Mr. Kirk....this review is a joke right???
RandallM on Jan 16, 2011
I really wanted to like this movie, and I went into the movie with the exact mindset that this review describes....but no less than a third of the way into the movie Seth Rogan had destroyed any hope I had of salvaging something of worth from this movie. Simply put the action in this movie is sustainable enough to be entertaining. Jay Chou, acting skills aside, was pretty awesome as Kato. And the car was just balls to the wall cool. But other than that even even Christoper Waltz struggles in this movie as Chudnovsky, with humor that just falls flat and feels like a gag more than part of the plot. In fact all of the humor in this movie seems contrived and forced, and thats probably because as fun as he "can" be, most of Seth Rogan's humor is forced. I understand that this isn't supposed to be a comedy, but when the humor takes away form the overall experience of a movie I don't care what kind of movie it is supposed to be. For me Rogan killed his own movie. They should have cast someone else in the role of Britt. Rogan's schtick is for one, getting old and played out, and second it doesn't mesh well with this film. He just babbles on and on in every scene slogging the film down to his level turning his BSing skill as a character into a BSing film as a whole. He detracted from the action scenes, and I found myself wishing he would shut up in scenes centering more on Kato's character. All in all I rank this pretty low in the comic book genre down near Daredevil, Punisher, and the Ang Lee Hulk film. Totally disappointing film. I like the reviewers optimism, but I struggle to find that glimmer of appreciation for anything in this film.
ImaginaryVisionary on Jan 16, 2011
This movie is terrible. Save your money. Wasn't funny. In no way was this film entertaining.
Dexter on Jan 16, 2011
I thought the green hornet was a fun cool movie with solid action and comedy, jay chou as kato i thought really made this movie and all the things they did with the car the black beauty was really awesome
Trevorscherer55 on Jan 17, 2011
Well it opened really big and more power to Seth for doing big funny things!!
Gh on Jan 17, 2011
I thought I was going to hate this but it was actually really funny. What made this movie work was the "we don't know what we're doing" aspect to it. I actually laughed out loud a few times which isn't a normal occurrence. If you want some fun action/comedy, i'd recommend this movie.
Eric on Jan 18, 2011
You just described every Seth Rogan movie ever. i thought I was crazy.
BBQ BOB on Jan 18, 2011
This film was more fun than I thought it would be. The original show on television was not played for laughs so this was an enjoyable switch and the comedy was pretty funny. Not all of the setups worked but enough of them did to keep it entertaining for the ride. The movie was a departure from the writing of the Marvel comic book in that the heroes pretended to be villains in order to get the attention of the real villains before they could take them down. That provided plenty of comedic setups for the stars of the film Seth Rogen and Jay Chou to have fun with. The super bad guy from Inglorious Bastards, Christoph Waltz, is the sadistically evil super villain of the film. He even takes out James Franco at the start of the film! Of course the special effects were state of the art. There were not as many special effects as I expected to see, but they were spectacular. I love the 3-D super slow mo, speed up stutter that they do. Don't know if that's the official terminology for the effect, but that's what it looks like.
clambake on Feb 1, 2011
I was shocked to learn that Michel Gondry directed this film - then I watched it with my boys and it was immediately obvious to me that the material was in the hands of not just another fast-edit action hack. Rogen was an inspired choice, Franco's one scene was hysterical, and Christoph Waltz looked like he was having a blast. Cool flick.
Lars Beckerman on Feb 12, 2011
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