By Brian Lafferty
January 18, 2011 (San Diego) – The Green Hornet is beset with many problems. The first glaring issue involves the casting. I could not buy Seth Rogen as either Britt Reid or his alter ego the Green Hornet. I can understand why he was cast; Rogen co-wrote the screenplay with his longtime writing partner Evan Goldberg. Having been an established actor and a bankable writer (he also co-wrote Superbad and Pineapple Express) I don’t doubt he had his heart set on playing such an enduring and somewhat iconic character.
But Rogen has miscalculated this time around. He should have let someone else play the hero this time. Someone who would have brought a smooth, sly personality to both characters.
But no. Instead, we’re left with Rogen playing his role as a slacker who inherits his father’s newspaper, The Daily Sentinel. After taking down a few muggers, Reid and his assistant, Kato, decide to become outlaws. They terrorize the city’s numerous criminal networks. This eventually catches the eye of Chudnofski (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz), who rules the criminal underworld.
Other than being nearly impenetrable, this plot is fatally flawed. The Green Hornet contains some of the most contrived, unconvincing and awkwardly created conflict I have ever seen in a movie. Conflict is usually generated by negative forces, whether it be a foe or the main character’s own flawed personality. It would be one thing (and more logical) if Reid went after Chudnofski for killing someone dear to him.
But in this movie, all of the conflict is created by the willful crime spree of the Green Hornet and Kato. This not only reeks of illogic but it creates the ironic effect of feeling sympathy for the criminals, who unintentionally come off as victims.
Another aspect of this movie that really troubled me was its attempt to be funny. The main draw of the 1960s TV series was it took itself seriously. Aired at the same time as Batman (which was also produced by 20th Century Fox) it contained a similar type of 60s action series atmosphere. But unlike Batman, it was never campy and the humor, if any, was very subtle.
I chuckled a few times. However, most of the time I found myself sitting in stunned silence because of the film’s uneven tone. It’s difficult to laugh when the movie cuts to exceedingly violent, horrible material. People are maimed, crushed by cement truck mixers, killed by bombs, and shot to death. In perhaps the film’s most appalling sequence, a number of innocent men are murdered because they wear green on a night when Chudnofski places a bounty on the Green Hornet.
I’ve admired Michel Gondry for his visual artistry and his whimsy. His music videos and short movies (available on DVD) exhibit his knack for surrealistic, expressionistic craftsmanship and unique storytelling that would carry into his feature films. This is sorely lacking in The Green Hornet, which is very talky and contains stale, unexciting action sequences.
This month is the time of year when Hollywood dumps what they feel are their worst pictures into theaters. Both Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry are too talented to have their names headline a movie in January. Especially one with such bad buzz as The Green Hornet.
The Green Hornet is playing at local theaters.
You can contact Brian Lafferty at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianLaff.