The Green Hornet has finally made its way onto the big screen after two decades of development hell and I have to admit, it was worth the wait. Starring Seth Rogen as Britt Reid / The Green Hornet, the film works as a parody of superhero films. If you have ever wondered what the Batman films would look like if Christian Bale had the ability to smile, look no further.
The film opens by introducing us to the life of Britt, the son of wealthy newspaper publisher James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). Upon his father’s death, Britt meets Kato (Jay Chou), his father’s mechanic, and the two bond over how much they didn’t like the old guy. After getting drunk one night, they decide to go out disguised and cut the head off of the statue the city has just put up of Britt’s father. While out they save a couple from being hurt by a gang of thugs. Loving the adrenaline rush, they decide to become superheroes. It isn’t long before they get the attention of Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), the head of all criminal activity in Los Angeles.
With the constant flip-flopping of cast and crew, I couldn’t help but compare the film I was watching to the one that might have been. The original actor cast for Chudnofsky was Nicolas Cage, and while Cage will make even the worst films interesting, Waltz brings a melancholy to the character that is unique to this type of film. His Chudnofsky is a middle-aged criminal mastermind in a city full of young up and comers that believe all you need is a tailored suit and a gun to take his position, and now he watches a masked guy come out of nowhere to put a crimp in his money flow. Waltz’s reaction shots to those around him while all of this is going on are some of the highlights of the movie, and I congratulate the filmmakers on a fine casting choice.
Rogen and Chou also bring a dynamic to the screen that isn’t often seen in these types of films. Rogen’s script (co wrote with partner Evan Goldberg) takes risks with the superhero formula that I have never seen onscreen before. For every ten minutes of action, there are thirty minutes of comedy, which it’s easy to say would not have been there if anyone else were starring in this. To justify Britt’s arrested development, they show James Reid to be a monster to his young son while the public considers him a paradigm of virtue. There is also little to no character growth for Rogen’s character; he begins the film a spoiled rich kid, he ends the film a spoiled rich kid. If the film manages to make enough of a profit to justify a sequel, it will be interesting to see if the studio forces any changes on Rogen to make the Hornet more noble.
There are a couple of wasted opportunites with the film, however. Michel Gondry directs this, which could be considered his first mainstream studio film. He does a perfectly capable job, but other than some very cool “Kato effects”, where time slows down and weapons are highlighted on screen during fights, Gondry doesn’t bring any of his usual flair to the project. Cameron Diaz is also miscast as Lenore Case, Britt’s secretary at the newspaper. Not only is Diaz too big a star for a role this size, it really should have gone to an actress ten years younger to really work. There is absolutely no chemistry between her character and Rogen, and you don’t buy for a second that he would fall for her after spending hours in a pool everyday with coeds.
Bottom line, The Green Hornet is not the disaster that everyone was afraid it would be, and surprisingly, it is actually one of the better comic book movies I have seen in years. For fans of the first Iron Man that were disappointed by Iron Man 2, give this a shot, you won’t be sorry.