17 January 2011


There are a number of things that may seem alien to one another when mentioned in the same sentence, and the marriage of two such elements can often provoke dread and preconceptions. Now that Jack Black's Gulliver's Travels has been and gone, we find a matrimony between Seth Rogen, Michel Gondry and The Green Hornet rolling into cinemas.

The story hasn't much changed- it's an easy one to update, hence coming to fruition after a lengthy development period as something entirely different to the original idea of a Green Hornet movie. The bare bones are the same though- Britt Reid is the heir to a journalism empire who's given a new sense of responsibility after his father dies. He then bonds with the elder Reid's mechanic, Kato, who's also an expert martial artist and a damn fine coffee-maker. The two of them launch a hare-brained scheme to be superheroes who pose as supervillains to get close to the criminals of Los Angeles, and thus the Green Hornet is born.

The post-modern superhero movie has been given a good innings in recent years. Iron Man arguably began the recent trend by giving us a protagonist who is a former arms manufacturer on the path to redemption rather than some altruistic bloke who wants to do good. In a more high profile way, Kick-Ass burst onto the scene last year, telling the tale of an average schlub dressing up in a green outfit to beat people up. It might not surprise anyone to hear that The Green Hornet owes something to each of those films, or that it's not on the same level as either.

Those alien things I mentioned at the beginning? Here, they're particularly noticeable because they all seem to be working independently of each other. For Seth Rogen, who co-wrote the script, this is very broadly a comedy, with some action stuff chucked in for good measure. And his part in the production, as with his acting in the actual film, is the loudest. It's so loud as to drown out any sense of directorial flair that might come from a visionary director like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind director Michel Gondry.

As many have said before me, there's nothing to mark this out as a Michel Gondry film. It smacks of studio interference, not least because it's largely being presented in 3D, and its release date was pushed back in order to accommodate its post-conversion. By post-conversion standards, it's technically accomplished, but it's also worthless. 3D can at least have a point and purpose in films that experiment with the technology, like Avatar or Jackass 3D. I can even forgive the constant 3D releases of every CG-animated movie going, even if it usually is to squeeze more pennies out of filmgoing families.

What's more appalling to me is a film like this- a mid-range 3D film. What is the point of a Seth Rogen comedy film being in 3D? Yes, there's action too, but none of that was shot for 3D, because the decision to add stereoscopy was taken after the film had been shot. Not to go on about it, but so much of what is wrong with the film can be exemplified by the fact that it's in 3D. It exhibits a lack of artistic conviction, and goes some way to explaining why it's a film in which every decision seems to have been taken because that's the way they do it in this kind of film.

Not to be overwhelmingly negative, I have to admit there are a few positives. Jay Chou makes a great deadpan Kato, and he's a character you can actually get behind despite how the gulf between his talents and those of his bozo employer are over-exaggerated just by how much time they spend talking about it. Likewise, Inglourious Basterds' Christoph Waltz could have done a great deal more with his villain Chudnofsky if there was much scope for it. The guy just won an Oscar, and although the film has a clear sense of its antagonists, it doesn't have enough sense of anything else to give him some time to shine.

When Waltz is around, you get brilliant moments like Chudnofsky's first scene in the film, complemented by a brilliant cameo from James Franco, which also marks out how surprisingly brutal this really is for a 12A rated film. Later on, someone is impaled through the eyes with broken chair legs. And that said, all of the action looks pretty good. Gondry's one distinguishable touch is the Kato Vision POV that we get whenever Kato is in the middle of a fight, but I'm talking more about the choreography of those fights. A lot of them are calculated to give Chou room to be awesome, a courtesy he doesn't get many other times in the film.

Rogen, in his leading role, is pretty much miscast. It's especially disappointing because I like the guy's work, and having co-wrote the script, his blatant unsuitability to play Britt Reid suggests something of an ego run rampant. To his detractors, I've said that he never shouts in his other films as much as he does in this one, and it's in this one that he arguably needs the most restraint, especially as the origins of this character are so obviously based on Robert Downey Jr's turn as Tony Stark in Iron Man.

The last film Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg gave us was Pineapple Express, a highly enjoyable fusion of action and comedy that measured each of those quantities equally. By contrast, The Green Hornet isn't really measured in any quantity. There are nice moments throughout, and the action is decent, but the potential of Jay Chou and Christoph Waltz is wasted, and overshadowed by the least likable performance Rogen has ever given. Bearing in mind that most cinemas are playing it in the rubbish 3D version, either seek out a 2D screening or wait for the DVD.

The Green Hornet is now showing in 3D at cinemas nationwide, and at selected cinemas in 2D.
If you've seen The Green Hornet, why not share your comments below? Why didn't I mention Cameron Diaz? Honestly, because I'd completely forgotten she was in it until the time I wrote this bit of the blog post. Huh.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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