Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Year of Film- Part 3: The Green Hornet

Viewed 1/18/11

What would you call the worst superhero movie ever made? "Daredevil"? "Electra"? The Ang Lee "HULK"? What would you say if a comedian took all the worst aspects of those movies and made them into a separate movie?

"Hey, awesome! This will be hilarious!"

Well, what if they wanted to play it straight? Ladies and gentlemen, I give you "The Green Hornet."
"Green Hornet" is a movie full of "what-if"s. What if Seth Rogen wrote his character to be an affable schlub instead of an unlikeable one? What if the Sidekick-as-real-hero was actually addressed further? What if any character besides the two leads had gotten any characterization at all?
But let's back up.

"The Green Hornet" is based on an old radio show. It was optioned to be a movie years ago and was supposed to be written and directed by Kevin Smith. He did a draft, but then decided to pass on it because he realized he can't write an action movie. I wish Seth Rogen had realized this. I only saw the movie three hours ago, but, save the penultimate car chase, I can't remember any of the action scenes. I remember Rogen's Britt Reid and Jay Chou's Kato bickering, but not much else. That's a shame, because "The Green Hornet" had a lot of great ideas that they never bothered with. I mentioned the superior sidekick thing above, but we also have Christophe Waltz as the "villain" who sees the crime world around him going crazy and has to adopt a supervillain persona to keep up, we have posing as a bad guy idea, which is pretty brilliant. Unfortunately it is only brought up once before the Green Hornet and Kato go out and bust drug dealers in order to send a message to their boss. This is exactly the same thing that anyone posing as a hero would do. What makes them so different?

A much better version of this movie would be something of an affectionate parody along the lines of "Kick Ass." Seth Rogen could be his same old schlub self who wants to make a difference. He's a comic nerd and decides to be a superhero. Being genre savvy doesn't help him much though, as he has no battle training, can't use mechanics well, and is generally a dim bulb. He enlists Kato, who thinks it's a stupid idea, but humors him. Britt realizes that he's not special like Spider-Man and not a genius like Batman, so he goes for a guerrilla approach and decides to infiltrate the criminal underground. A lot of the movie could be him trying to toe the line between keeping Chudnofsky happy by doing what he has to, but also gathering info on a big plan the bad guy has going in order to stop it. Meanwhile, Britt uses his Green Hornet persona to stop the same crimes he's helping set up. The city gets into it, Green Hornet mania sets in and the villains start adopting crazy personas to fight the Green Hornet. They all have terrible names and the movie becomes a parody of superhero films with Chudnofsky as the straight guy, wondering what the hell is going on with the criminals in this city.

Instead we have a film that really doesn't know what it wants to be and generally leaves the audience stupefied. We have Kato, who, for some reason sees in bullet-time with Robocop vision, Cameron Diaz, whose character is completely useless in her I-am-totally-not-Pepper-Potts role, and the unnecessary subplots like the corrupt DA and Britt's father's murder. On top of that, Christophe Waltz is used in 30-second increments throughout the movie, so we never get a notion of what he's doing or why he's really evil. The movie just tries to take on too much at once and never lets us know if it wants to be taken seriously or not.

I think we're supposed to like these characters when they're being funny and worry for them when they're in danger, but the film never lets us see enough of either lifestyle to care. "Iron Man" was successful because Tony Stark is more interesting then Iron Man and the story was about Tony. "The Green Hornet" is like the bizarro-Tony Stark. He's a rich boy charisma vacuum and we just don't care what happens to him.

In fact, this movie is "Tommy Boy" if it was a superhero movie and Chris Farley's character was played by his talentless brother, Kevin Farley.

There really is a Kevin Farley, by the way.

Oscar-winning actors wasted: 1
Useful female characters: 0
Nut shots: 5
Characters who get their alter-ego's name using the same method Robin Williams's character used in "Mrs. Doubtfire": 1

P.S. When the back half of the Black Beauty is chopped off in the elevator, why do they explain that the car can still drive because it has front-wheel drive, but not how it can move without a gas tank?

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