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Floats like a Butterfly, Stings Like a... Butterfly
The Green Hornet (DVD)
Member Name: SWSt
The Green Hornet (DVD)
Advantages: Some very funny moments; two very impressive 3D sequences
Disadvantages: Plotting and pacing a little confused and slow, Waltz and Diaz utterly wasted
Have you heard the buzz? There's a new superhero in town. Will it have crowds swarming to the cinema? And, having handed over £10+ to watch it, will it leave them feeling stung? It's time to bee-hive, stop with the rubbish stinging insect jokes and review Seth Rogen's Green Hornet.
The film follows the adventures of Britt Reid, playboy and heir to a newspaper fortune and his sidekick Kato. Despite being a bit, well, rubbish, young Britt decides to make a difference, fighting crime and taking on local kingpin Chudnofsky.
Despite trying to introduce something a bit different, Green Hornet treads a well worn path for a comic book conversion, covering the character's origins and key moments (the creation of the all-important suit). At the same time, it injects a dose of tongue-in-cheek humour, never resorting to parody or satire, but never taking itself too seriously, either.
Whilst this more humorous approach does bring benefits, it also means that tonally, The Green Hornet is very uneven. It seems unable to decide whether it wants to be a straight superhero film, full of action and fights or an ironic, postmodernist look at the whole hero genre. At times it is one, at times, the other; and at times, it tries to be both things simultaneously.
It also suffers in that it has been pipped to the post in what it is trying to do. We've already had one ironic, post-modernist superhero film featuring an inept "hero" being constantly rescued by a "sidekick" (Kick-Ass) and, whilst not perfect itself, Kick-Ass was easily the better film.
When Green Hornet decides what it wants to be, it works quite well. The action sequences (usually car chases and fist fights) are well handled. Like so much else in the film, they don't bring anything new to the party, but they do add some interest and excitement. The fights involving Kato are particularly satisfying.
Similarly, when it concentrates purely on the humour, it makes for an enjoyable watch. Some of the interplay between Reid and Kato is laugh out loud funny, their inept antics and constant bickering will raise a smile; whilst there are a few more subtle digs at the whole superhero genre which will please many.
The real issue comes when it tries to mix both within the same scene. It's almost as though Seth Rogen (as writer) and Michel Gondry (as Director) couldn't quite decide whether to make it an action-comedy or a comedy-action and it's here that the film becomes a little lost and confused. Unfortunately, there are all too many of these. For every good action sequence or laugh out loud moment, there are moments of dull plot development which slow the pace considerably and render large parts of it rather dull to watch.
The key cast do their best to keep the energy up, although the pedestrian script defeats them at times. There's not doubt, though, that without the central pairing of Seth Rogen (Britt Reid/Green Hornet) and Jay Chou (Kato), the film would fare far worse. The script does have a slightly lazy tendency to result on them constantly falling out to gain easy laughs, but their constant bickering, sniping and general unsuitability for heroing remains fun for the most part. True, Rogen is initially very annoying (his surfer dude tendency to say "whoa!" to everything grates). Yet, as the film progresses, so Rogen (and Reid) settle down and become much more fun. Rogen even looks in surprisingly good shape for the role if you only know him from his "flabby loser" look.
Jay Chou as the put-upon Kato is simply endearing. Even when you see how lethal he can be in a fight, he manages to exude an air of vulnerability which makes him likeable character. Certainly, Kato is easily the character the audience will identify with most readily and (like the Bruce Lee-starring TV series) is the real star of the show.
Rogen and Chou work surprisingly well as a double act. After some initial stumbles, there is a genuine sense of chemistry between them that provides much of the film's heart and almost all of its laughs. There are some priceless scenes, as they bicker and argue and blame each other for everything, whilst still managing to thwart crime. Their humour is often underplayed and a little too hit-and-miss but when it works, it is very, very funny (arguably, the film's high point is the scenes when Green Hornet wakes up after accidentally gassing himself).
It's a shame that the rest of the cast is wasted. Cameron Diaz is clearly there just to add a bit of star wattage, disappearing for large chunks of the running time and not left with a great deal to do when she does appear (although it is positive to note that she is not lazily cast in the usual "damsel in distress" role.)
The same is true of the fabulous Christoph Waltz as bad guy Chudnofsky. Waltz is criminally underused - pun definitely intended. His softly spoken, slightly sad little man makes for a great villain - both amusing and deadly. In some ways it's similar to his Hans Landa in Inglourius Basterds, yet at the same time, very different. Yet, like Diaz, Waltz only appears in relatively few scenes and never really gets the chance to develop his bad guy. Indeed, the lack of any "proper" nemesis is a further drain on Green Hornet's.
As usual, the 3D element is simply Hollywood's latest gimmick and adds little (other than extra cost) to the film. There are two exceptions: a stunningly realised sequence when we step into the Hornet's mind as he pieces the mystery together. Brave and very unusual for an action movie, it works very well and almost justifies the use of 3D. The other sequence that benefits from the presence of 3D is the end credits - a series of brilliant, comic book style panels that really capture the spirit of graphic novels. Having witnesses these, you can't help but feel that if the rest of the film had displayed even a tenth as much imagination, then Green Hornet would have been very, very good indeed.
So, the buzz is that Green Hornet is... OK. It's a shame that if had had the courage of its convictions and dared to be different, it could have been brilliant. Hornet works best when it takes the superhero genre and gives it a little twist. Sadly, it does this all too rarely and the end result is something that ends up being a little tame. Mildly fun to watch once, but it's unlikely it will ever get more than one spin in your DVD player.
Rent, don't buy - or else you're likely to feel you've been stung.
The Green Hornet
Director: Michel Gondry
Running time: approx. 119 minutes
© Copyright SWSt 2011
Summary: Shows promise, but never fully delivers on it