The Green Hornet
Studio: Columbia Pictures
US Rating: Rated PG-13 – For Sequences of Violent Action, Language, Sensuality and Drug Content
Film Length: 119 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Video: MPEG-4 AVC1080P High Definition
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, French DTS 5.1
Release Date: May 3, 2011
Review Date: May 7, 2011
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?
The Green Hornet is a near-miss. A quasi-familiar superhero legacy reborn under the considerably talented directorial eye of Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), and founded on the humorous styling of Seth Rogen who serves as both writer and lead star, has most of the pieces for a breakout action film, but the mixture is off. The demands of a big-budgeted action film with franchise potential, the comedic inclinations of Rogen, and the independent and oft quirky visual flair of Gondry compete at times – and when all is said and done, there just isn’t enough or there’s just a little too much of one of the other element producing something that just isn’t quite what it needed to be.
The Film: 3.5 out of 5
Britt Reid is a child in the body of a grown up. The son of the wealthy media magnate (Tom Wilkinson) who runs the Los Angeles’ major newspaper, Britt never grew up and lives a life of endless partying supported by his father’s considerable wealth and luxurious fineries, he is as directionless and uncouth as his father is driven and refined. Needless to say, he is a disappointment. When his father dies unexpectedly – from an apparent bee sting to which he was allergic – Britt is thrust to the head of his father’s media empire. He teams up with his father’s mechanic/espresso maker, Kato - a genius of engineering, design, and innovation - and together they live-out Britt’s childhood dream of being a superhero. Under the guise of ‘bad guys’, Britt and Kato, in their sleek, retro advanced automotive steed, The Black Beauty, take on the pervasive crime underworld of L.A. while becoming public enemy number one.
Seth Rogen is perhaps the unlikeliest of choices for the role of Britt Reid/Green Hornet. Playing the role and serving as co-writer on the film provided Rogen with creative control and influence over how the character was presented – from the playboy childishness to the klutzy hero-wannabe grappling with his misdirected desire to become a crime fighter against all logic and reason. Rogen’s resume is replete with adolescent humor; roles as a juvenile (and accidental) father-to-be in Knocked Up, the pubescent mall cop in Observe and Report, and the borderline immature pot-loving loser in Pineapple Express. If The Green Hornet were a comedy designed to be in the same vein as his general body of work, the material would have suited the surroundings. However, as an action film tilted toward the comedy angle – and in particular Rogen’s identifiably brand of humor – the resulting hybrid frequently stands out with pronounced odd bedfellows.
Rogen faced some unfavorable pre-judgment when his casting was announced, and as a fan of some of his work (Pineapple Express in particular), I withheld judgment and tempered expectations. At times, his careless Britt Reid is positively vibrating with a child-like giddiness. The persistence of this side to his character eventually becomes weathering – and the growth of his character so slight - that the film seems stuck at one tone and, when a moment comes during the climactic battle as the Green Hornet finds himself anticipating his enemies moves just as Kato had demonstrated since the beginning – the moment does not feel earned by the character. Rogen handles himself reasonably well, slimming down for the role and diving into the action, but something remains amiss.
Portraying Kato is Asian pop superstar Jay Chou (Curse of the Golden Flower). A nimble physical prowess and straight-faced glee in playing ‘partner’ to The Green Hornet provided by Chou are welcome attributes. I have seen reviews cold to the banter between Rogen and Chou, but I rather feel that the dynamic between them is a positive in the film. Rogen’s ludicrous behavior and Chou’s struggle to stay above the immaturity provide plenty of moments to at which to smile. As the true ‘bad-guy’ in the film (though his part in the plot seems almost an afterthought to the plot or begrudged necessity) is Christoph Waltz channeling echoes of his Col. Hans Lander character from Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant Inglorious Basterds; with unpredictable brutality, peculiar insecurities, and anger issues, his ‘bad guy’ is a delight to watch though his scenes are somewhat an add-on to the main thread of the film rather than integral. Cameron Diaz appears as Lenore Case, administrative assistant hired by Britt Ried who becomes the unexpected architect of The Green Hornet’s rise in the eye of the public. Diaz adds almost nothing to the film (though this is more the result of the writing than the performance). Edward James Olmos also appears as Mike Axford – running the newspaper – but as with Diaz’s character, he is given precious little to do and is wasted as a result.
Michael Gondry handles the big-budget proceedings very well. His visual touch (angles, sped-up film, time-lapse in interesting places) are welcome and provide the most appealing moments, but aside from some visual effects psychedelics during fight sequences, the action set-pieces are largely rote. James Newton Howard provides some help by delivering in the score department, with a full orchestra delivering his melodic themes, urgent action, and swelling underscore elevating the material.
The Green Hornet began in 1936 as a radio show (created by George Trendle and Fran Striker) – and was seen in film and comics in the 1940s, and in the much remembered television series, starring the legendary Bruce Lee as Kato, in the 1960s. The masked vigilante has long been a tertiary player in the superhero universe, but faithful fans through the decades have kept the adventuresome duo alive, enough to encourage Sony to believe that a big-budget update of the masked hero was a ripe idea for mining. Sinking $120MM into this tale was a gamble for a potential franchise without universal name recognition; however, with Paramount Pictures’ success with Iron Man (a second-tier hero, behind the tier ones of Batman, Spider-Man, and Superman), the potential was there. The domestic gross of just under $100MM would indicate the gamble did not pay off. Even with the $127MM international gross added (bringing the total to roughly $228MM) the chances of a follow-up would seem to be slim.
Releasing the film as a 3D upconversion in theaters perhaps did more harm than good for box office receipts, but the ill-fitting marriage of third tier superhero, middling action, and sophomoric humor were far more effective in keeping The Green Hornet from stinging at the box office.
The Video 4.5 out of 5
The Green Hornet looks terrific on Blu. Crisp clean presentation, extraordinary deep blacks, natural flesh tones, delicious hues (green, red when the scene requires), and faithful of its film origins (glorious Panavision), I was impressed. This is a superb image presentation, representative of the 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the films non-IMAX theatrical presentations, and wonderfully balanced throughout. There are no issues to speak of; no compression artifacts, no unwanted signs of over processing, just a very well done 1080p high definition presentation of the film.
The Sound 4.5 out of 5
The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is impressive. Dialogue is perfectly presented and balanced – mostly in the front center channel, with thumping songs sending shockwaves through all the channels, and gunshots, crashes, smashes, punches, and the sonic-representation of Kato’s premonitory fight moves, perfectly composed and adjusted for maximum effect and purpose.
Plenty of deep rumble, sonically powerful, active surrounds with well-crafted directional effects; overall a superb audio presentation.
The Extras 4 out of 5
The Green Hornet Cutting Room (exclusive to the Blu-ray): Requires external storage inserted into player to access but will allow viewers to edit their own car chase sequence.
Deleted Scenes (26:33): 9 deleted scenes ranging from interactions between Edward James Olmos and Tom Wilkinson, to trimmings from scenes that remained in the final cut.
“Awesoom” -Gag Reel (7:18): Funny gag reel featuring the requisite amount of line-flubs and onset antics (mostly antics).
Filmmakers’ Commentary: Director Gondry, actor and co-writer Rogen, co-writer Evan Goldberg, and producer Neal Mortitz provide a pretty good audio commentary – clearly enjoying the recollection of the filmmaking experience – and provide plenty of anecdotes and revealing of the creative process. Some may have trouble with Gondry’s delightful French accent, but I am sure most will be able to quickly attune and it will be worth it. I am always entertained by actors and filmmakers enjoying their film again – and fondly talking of the experience – and this commentary fits that bill. The participants freely discuss at times the pain the studio became (because of the larger budget, as they concede), but seem to be thankful for their support overall. Early in the film the commentators discuss Nicholas Cage’s exit from the role of Chudnofsky – the role eventually filled by Christoph Waltz.
“Trust Me” –Director Michel Gondry featurette (9:33): A look at the choice of Michel Gondry for this big-budget commercial film and how the director petitioned to be given the opportunity – but most interestingly is the deconstruction of Kato’s faster than the eye fighting style and how the effect was created.
Writing The Green Hornet featurette (10:35): Writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg discuss the process of writing the action film, the desire to flip the traditional superhero mold, and twist the notion of who the bad guy is.
The Black Beauty: Rebirth of Cool featurette (7:17): Keeping the original car (a 1965 Imperial) was always part of the plan. This feature looks at the creation of the car (and the spares) for the purposes of the story and filming.
The Stunt Family Armstrong featurette (7:39): The Armstrong family is legendary in the stunt world (Vic is a God) and this great look at the unique stunt family is well worth the few minutes as they discuss their chosen field.
Finding Kato featurette (6:00): Choosing the perfect Kato for the film was not an easy task, but Jay Chou and his extravagant pop persona settled in very comfortably to the role of the Green Hornet’s partner and indispensable support.
The Art of Destruction featurette (14:04): An entertaining behind the scenes look at several explosive and carnage filled scenes from the film.
Jay Chou Audition (Easter Egg)
Double Barrel (Easter Egg)
Competently filmed, mildly entertaining, and not the complete disappointment some have claimed it to be, I both like and am disappointed in The Green Hornet. I cannot help but feel the end product belies the pieces that make it up. The $120MM budget does not appear on screen – money apparently not well spent – and coming away from the film with little by way of a stand out sequence to talk about is disappointing (the bulldozer sequence comes close but that could simply be from its dissection and testing by the Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters).
Fans of the film will delight in the terrific audio and video presentation as well as a healthy dose of special features. Others will want to dip their toes in the water with a rental first.
Overall 3.5 out of 5