The Green Hornet
The comic book vein has certainly proved a rich one for Hollywood to mine over the years, with many characters from the DC and Marvel stables being paraded around in various new incarnations. The Green Hornet is certainly marketed as riding the back of this trend, although it seems a somewhat strange choice, given the proliferation of characters still lurking in the universes of the Big Two that haven’t seen a cinematic airing. In a way, that’s The Green Hornet‘s greatest strength – it doesn’t come encumbered with expectation.
The Green Hornet originally made his debut to the public on the radio in 1936, with comic books and movie serials following in the 1940s. Various incarnations have appeared over the years, but the “classic” Green Hornet is the masked vigilante alter-ego of newspaper mogul Britt Reid, played here by actor/screenwriter, Seth Rogen. The Green Hornet is almost the ‘everyman’ version of newspaper reporter Clark Kent and billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne – rich, with access to the media, but not trained in martial arts. Indeed, his martial arts-trained sidekick Kato (who also happens to be a funky version of James Bond’s Q) ends up building him a gun that shoots knock-out gas to make up for his lack of training.
The origin story is dealt with swiftly at the start of the film – after the death of his father, stalwart editor and champion of truth James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), Britt decides he wants to make a difference too. After foiling an attempted mugging, Britt and Kato team up as crimefighters, using the souped-up car built by Kato (known as “the Black Beauty”) as both weapon and transport. Britt has the idea that they’ll be able to better fight crime by posing as criminals themselves, and they start dispatching LA gangs as they clean up the LA underworld. Naturally, this doesn’t sit well with local crime lord, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), who sets about trying to take out the Green Hornet.
It’s a simple plot, with a sub-plot about corruption of the press and the greed of the power-hungry, but to be honest, when your film revolves around some very well-done martial arts scenes, some car chases and various fights, then simple is probably best. Rogen checks the Bruce Wayne-esque navel-gazing at the door, and instead opts for the hyperactive “Oh my God isn’t this stuff AWESOME?” attitude that many of the audience will share when confronted with the most badass car since KITT. It is true that Rogen essentially plays himself, but who cares when so much of the film is carried by Jay Chou (Kato)?
I’ll be honest, it’s not exactly an Oscar contender, and the addition of 3D technology adds nothing to the viewing experience. It doesn’t hold the pretensions to high drama that have hampered other notable comic book movies, and it’s not even particularly witty as a comedy, but the action set pieces are done well, and it’s enjoyable in that “check your brain at the door” kind of way. I’m quite happy to watch films that aren’t “serious drama” or “so clever they need IQ ratings rather than age certifications”, so in my view, there are far worse films you could see.