Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Sting of the Green Hornet....

So, yeah, just got back from the movie.

I didn't bother with the 3-D version this time. For the type of movie this was supposed to be I felt like it wasn't necessary.

Anyway, as something of a Green Hornet fangirl (was listing to the radio shows back when I was about 17 and I own one of the old serial movies which were produced) I was..... surprisingly okay with this film.

The Green Hornet was created for radio -- station WXYZ in Detroit to be specific -- and so didn't really have much of an origin story to begin with. No tragic background, no real, defining moment -- just a young man who decided to do something about crime and corruption.

In the original stories Britt Reid was the son of Daniel Reid, newspaper publisher. Daniel, getting up there in years, decided to semi-retire and put his son Britt in charge of the paper. When Britt chose to become the Green Hornet he intended to be a hero but due to some people mistaking the Hornet's motivations and thinking that because he wore a mask he was a criminal he got branded as such. Initially, he tried to disabuse people of this notion but he soon quit and decided to embrace it. And he later learned he was following a family tradition of sorts because Britt himself was the great-grandnephew of the Lone Ranger.

So this new movie really did have a chance to start with a clean slate. And it does -- taking twists and turns that the original radio writers probably would have been scandalized by. And you know what? I don't mind. The movie is it's own thing.

Maybe because the Green Hornet is a character that has lain fallow for so long that's why it feels more open to reinterpretation. Unlike characters like Batman or Iron Man which have been published at least in monthly comic books for years if not actively appearing in cartoons or live action on a regular basis the Green Hornet doesn't have any recent mythology that people would be familiar with and therefore be offended by.

For me, personally, I just see it as a kind of reboot of the character. Seth Rogan and director Michael Gondry have taken elements of the original -- Britt's father as a respected newspaper publisher and editorialist/journalist, the newspaper's name of the Daily Sentinel, Kato, the sleeping gas gun, and the costumes, the desire to do go and save the city from it's own corruption, and being considered villains instead of heroes -- and mixing it together with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor and some good-natured ribs at superhero comic books and movies.

Make no mistake about it -- there is cheese here -- enough cheese for a fondue party that serves 100. There is also a lot of humor -- little is taken seriously. But at the same time there is a lot of humanness. Rogan's Britt Reid doesn't become a badass fighter overnight (or with the help of a ten minute training montage either) nor once he and Kato decide to do all this do they immediately and automatically know what to do or where to go. There is some real humanity in this as you have two characters who are fumbling their way toward destiny.

It also helps that Rogan and co-star Jay Chou (Kato) have good onscreen chemistry and the movie wisely spends quite a bit of time setting up their friendship, their brotherhood, and the ups and downs it faces. Despite the presence of Cameron Diaz in this film she's not the girlfriend or the love interest here. The relationship at the heart of this film isn't a romantic one -- it's a friendship based one. And THAT is honest-to-God refreshing for a change!

There is also a nicely conflicted relationship with Britt Reid's father. James Reid is a jerk and we dislike him from the start but later revelations begin to change at least some of those beliefs. This is reflected by Britt as well. There are things his father did that he can understand and other things that are going to take a little longer to sort out but he reaches a kind of peace with the man -- a complex, not simple peace. And that's refreshing as well since most superhero parents tend to be portrayed as near-saints when they are tragically killed and which then enshrines their saintliness. Not so much here.

In all fairness, there are some jokes that fall a little flat and the villain, crime boss Chudnofsky, doesn't really work for me... not in the way he's intended to. In point of fact, I actually find him rather boring in almost every scene he's in. Also, there is a "plot twist" that if you honestly don't see coming you're not paying attention. There are also scenes which are so over-the-top they break your suspension of disbelief.

I also have to say that, on a personal level, I have a little problem with the body count. The Green Hornet and Kato seem a bit loo casual about killing. Avoiding killing people was a hallmark of the original character and I know, you're going to say that it was a different time period and a different audience and that is true; but it also played into the character -- the Green Hornet liked to out-think and out-swindle his enemies rather than engage in big shoot-outs with them.

All-in-all, an entertaining film with some real room for growth if it earns enough money to warrant a sequel. There is a lot of humor, some really great action sequences courtesy of Jay Chou, and a heavy dose of humanity. I can't see that springing the extra dough for 3-D is worth it and if you're on the fence about this one see it in matinee or rush hour showing for cheaper.

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