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“The Green Hornet”: Explosions! Chases! Jokes!

Lilian Min |
January 20, 2011 | 7:58 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

The Green Hornet (Sony Pictures)
The Green Hornet (Sony Pictures)
Do you like your superhero films dark, brooding and suspenseful like “The Dark Knight”? What about something with less weight but still masterfully made like “Iron Man”? Yes to both? Yes to just one?

Either way, do not watch “The Green Hornet.”

The comic book superhero movie genre has been around for a while, but mostly focused on a few key franchises: Batman, Superman, Spiderman, X-Men, to name. But these past couple of years, even lesser known franchises are getting the big screen treatment: “Captain America,” “Thor,” and “The Green Lantern” are all on deck. But it is with “The Green Hornet” that this new wave of comic films begins.

And if “The Green Hornet” is a precursor of things to come, then the new superhero adaptations of this year and beyond will not be worth the considerable hype.

Of course, comic die-hards will always find some fault with film adaptations. But “The Green Hornet” is so questionable in its quality that it actually turns people away from the original source material.

Part of this has to do with the casting. Plenty of superhero alter egos are jackasses by nature, but whereas Robert Downey Jr. pulled off Tony Stark’s swagger and bombast with aplomb, Seth Rogen’s Britt Reid comes off as a man-child, infused with a dull anger towards his father and a self-righteousness that never fails to flare up.

This isn’t all Rogen’s fault. With a film repertoire like “Knocked Up” and “Pineapple Express,” he has a reputation for playing that exact type of whiny, irresponsible persona: the man who stays stuck in adolescence until he's forced to grow up. But Britt Reid’s back-story warrants a more pained, emotive performance when he does “grow up." Rogen’s attempts at that performance fall flat.  

And even when Britt “grows up” towards the end of the movie, his character is still useless at actually doing superhero things. In theory, we should all love those superheroes without superpowers, because they’re just regular people (albeit with ridiculous amounts of money and technologically proficient sidekicks). Yet Britt’s only real ability is to not be capable of doing anything, something that the film actually uses for gags.

The movie’s saving grace? Refreshing backup performances from Cameron Diaz as the responsible and capable Lenore Case, Asian pop star Jay Chou (in his first major US screen role, a role once occupied by Bruce Lee) as humble genius wonder Kato, the smarmy, always entertaining Christoph Waltz as the indignantly evil Chudnofsky, and a surprise appearance by an actor you might recognize.

But a film without a relatable, or at least fully developed, protagonist is still not much of a film. While “The Green Hornet” does have a fun quality about it, it’s a campy kind of fun that runs on slapstick, obvious humor and lots of explosive action: Haha, he shot himself with his knockout gas gun! Ooo, they just drove their car into an elevator!

So if you’re looking for a humorous, action-packed superhero movie, just watch “Iron Man” again. “The Green Hornet” attempts to have heart and heat where it counts, and falls short in both. 


Reach reporter Lilian Min here



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