Talent borrows, genius steals, sloth apes.
“The Green Hornet,” starring Seth Rogen, is the most recent (and among the more egregious) cases of Hollywood co-opting a franchise just for the sake of the name value, without leveraging what originally made the brand so great.
The Green Hornet of the ‘50s and ‘60s was a badass vigilante who teamed up with his trusty sidekick to fight crime. This new version uses only the broadest plot points and a really bitching car, while making a mockery of the hero.
What’s puzzling about this approach is that it’s guaranteed to anger the true fans who’ve maintained the brand’s value, the same people who are the baked-in audience you should be counting on to propel the film’s box-office fortunes.
Director Michel Gondry recently dismissed the Green Hornet’s fans as “fascists” (an even worse strategy) for not liking what he’s done with their hero. But, hey, the days of making goofy, campy movies about old-school heroes are over.
If Rogen, writing partner Evan Goldberg and Gondry wanted to have fun with the genre, and make sport of tired super hero tropes, it could’ve been more effectively done by crafting a whole new hero. Both “Kick-Ass” and “Megamind’ were able to tweak the nose of the genre without disappointing a target audience, by offering a whole new hero.
Rogen is both the film’s star and weak link. His Britt Reid/Green Hornet feels as though it’s mostly improvised. He’s a doofus whose transition from party boy to crime fighter isn’t entirely convincing. It’s too bad, because the rest of the cast is mostly pitch-perfect.
Jay Chou is cool as ice filling the shoes of Bruce Lee, rocking the black suit, skinny tie, martial arts magic and all manner of gadgetry. Christoph Waltz is fantastic as the petulant and insecure crime lord Chudfnofsky, a man genuinely hurt by the suggestion that his suit isn’t scary enough. Cameron Diaz is more than just a blonde sex object, though that’s all the Hornet sees.
James Franco is hilarious in a cameo as an up-and-coming gangster who understands the importance of criminals being well dressed. Even Edward Furlong (he’s alive!) gives a great turn as a meth cooker, who tastes the Green Hornet’s wrath.
Some of the action sequences are very cool, with the Black Beauty doing a lot of the work, but the 3D is largely wasted. It’s telling that the closing credits are among the film’s most eye-popping moments. Gondry is a man of vision and talent, but he has a habit of letting himself go too far, the man desperately needs a check on his flights of fancy. At his worst he rehashes parts of the plot he wasn’t able to convey organically by using a mix of paper cutouts, animated flowers and voice over. Huh…?
There are a some fun performances, a couple of interesting ideas poorly pursued, action sequences of varying degrees of quality and an ending that drags on forever. All in all, “The Green Hornet” is a bit of a mess, and, ironically, your best hope for enjoying "The Green Hornet" is not to be a fan of "The Green Hornet."