“Think about this, Kato. We've been completely wasting our potential. This city needs our help. We could be heroes! We will pose as villains to get close to the bad guys. That way, no one will suspect we're really the good guys. Will you come with me on this adventure?”
Let me start with a quick bit of history. Going in to this I had very little knowledge of what The Green Hornet was. I had heard the name and I like others I had confused it with The Green Lantern from time to time. I now know about the radio play and the TV series but that didn’t happen until after I had seen the film.
This would generally be classified as a superhero film but there are not really any special powers here. It is a case of a lot of money put together with exceptional skills. It is similar to Batman in that way but that is where the comparison ends.
After the death of his father, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) inherits The Daily Sentinel, a newspaper based in Los Angeles. Until that point Reid has been living a typical playboy lifestyle but now that is all about to change. One night Reid along with his driver Kato (Jay Chou) stop a robbery and from there they evolve in to a crime fighting team.
As setups go it is not the most complex but it serves to get the story started. Reid is briefly shown at the beginning as a child getting in trouble for trying to confront a group of bullies. This brief scene seems to be the only motivation for Reid’s transformation in to crime fighter, that he’s always had the desire but lacked the means, as it is actually Kato who has the kung fu skills. It is a little flimsy as a reason for the major change from playboy to superhero. It is only later in his journey that it evolves to include avenging his father’s death.
People talk about Seth Rogen fatigue as he has been in quite a lot of films recently. However I have not actually seen very many of his films so it is not something that I am feeling personally. Here he seems to fit in to the role of reformed playboy quite well. What helps it that he is not having to carry the entire film himself. It is the relationship between Reid and Kato that is the core.
With that in mind the next person I must talk about is Jay Chou. He is still new to western cinema although IMDb tells me that he is one of the most popular pop singers in Taiwan. He has big shoes to fill here in a role I have discovered was played by Bruce Lee in the sixties TV version. Of course I have not seen that version so I can’t actually compare, but I imagine that legacy could be quite daunting for a young actor. Chou pulls it off and works well foil to Rogen.
The weak link here is Cameron Diaz. Her character did not gel with me at all. In all her scenes I was left wondering what the point was. There seemed to be two reasons. The first was simply expositional, she was used to forward the plot sometimes when Reid and Kato were unsure how to move forward with their crime fighting mission. The other purpose was to be a love interest for Reid and Kato to fight over. In both cases the writing and the acting completely failed and I never believed that Reid or Kato could care for her at all, never mind fighting over her. It almost seems as if the point was simply to underline that fact that Reid and Kato’s relationship was not a homosexual one. It was completely pointless and why would that even matter anyway?
The highlight, in terms of the actors as least, had to be Christoph Waltz as the villain Chudnofsky. I had never heard of Waltz before seeing Inglourious Basterds, it seems the majority of his work has been on German made-for-TV films. He seems to revel in playing the over-the-top bad guy and does it extremely well. I look forward to seeing more of him again in the future. I guess The Three Musketeers will be next.
The story is far from perfect but it does have its moments. I think many of the bad reviews are probably coming from people who are comparing to previous versions, which I can’t do at present. The action is all well executed and director Michel Gondry has done a good job with the look and feel of the film. There is not one major thing wrong, but instead there are lots of little problems which add up.
To finish I will quickly mention the 3D. I know there are many differing opinions about this. Personally I really enjoy it when it is done right. Unfortunately this film was not one of those. It is a post-conversion so the 3D elements of end up being quite limited and are only really obvious in major visual effects shots. The effort made to convert serves no purpose except to inflate the box office scores with the added cost of glasses. I’d advise sticking to the 2D version.
In conclusion the film is not as bad as some people have made out but there are definitely much better things you could spend your time on.