Jan 24, 2011

[Movies] The Green Hornet (2011)

The Green Hornet (2011)Amidst the whole remake / reboot culture that is largely a cancer upon Hollywood, you have to admit that there are still franchises that we want to see back on the big screen. Whether it's because of lifelong fandom geekery or idle nostalgia reasons, there are just those stories that we want to have continue and live on somehow.

But even this is a tricky desire to balance against the greed of the studios. I guess the best example of this is how much I've wanted to have a life-action Transformers movie. And then Michael Bay came along and fulfilled the desire to see giant transforming robots at the cost of the integrity of the story, the characters and all sense of reason. Now we're heading for the third movie in the franchise and I'm still wondering if wanting a live-action Transformers movie was ever a good thing.

But sometimes people just surprise you with what they come up with. There are some really good movie adaptations out there (e.g. Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World).

And while I wasn't exactly clamoring for this particular TV show to be adapted for the big screen, I'm really happy with how things turned out and I'm glad that this movie happened. Geek culture for the win!

The Green Hornet is a 2011 action comedy movie based on the older character of the same name that has appeared in a radio show, a TV show, a few movies and even comic books. The movie was directed by the highly creative Michel Gondry. The screenplay was co-written by Seth Rogen (who is also the lead) and Evan Goldberg.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 10:  (L-R) Actors Edwa...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeBritt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the slacker son of media mogul James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), owner of The Daily Sentinel. Britt has been spending most of his time having wild parties and basically living a life of irresponsible happiness. Everything changes when his father dies due to a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting. Thus he inherits his father's media empire and only has the assistance of managing editor Mike Axford (Edward James Olmos).

In a weird sequence of events, Britt eventually befriends his father's mechanic, Kato (Jay Chou). Beyond his interest in cars, he is also a bit of an inventor as demonstrated with his creation of what appears to be the perfect espresso machine. As the two become friends, a prank leads to the pair saving a couple from a group of muggers and revealing Kato's amazing martial arts abilities. The two then come up with the idea of becoming heroes that pose as criminals and Kato goes on to develop the equipment necessary to aid them in their crime-fighting challenges. This has them pitting their unconventional methods against Russian mobster Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) with Britt's new secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) unknowingly helping them.

Now I wasn't expecting much from this movie since (1) I was never particularly a fan of the original TV series, (2) I'm not a big Seth Rogen fan either and (3) remakes of this nature naturally have me on edge. However the initial buzz was curiously mixed given how critics were panning it but geek friends were praising it. Plus my partner kind of has a thing for Seth Rogen, and so we were fated to watch the movie.

And I definitely don't regret having seen it now.

Most of us were exposed to the Green Hornet's TV series that originally aired back in 60's and was replayed in reruns over and over again on both local and cable TV. While the show was done in a straight and serious manner, it has its own variety of campiness to it when viewed with modern eyes. With the Green Hornet (Van Williams) not being overly physical and his partner Kato (Bruce Lee) being a real life skilled martial artist, the show certainly had its quirks.

This movie worked a lot for me since it didn't try to become a direct translation of the original show, since that wouldn't have worked very well. Some of the original concepts of the core series just don't carry as well over the years and thus some re-writes to the back story were essential for it to jive with modern expectations. More than just the accuracy side to things, the movie was both a homage to the core story and yet a celebration of its campiness and ridiculousness as well.

I was pretty doubtful about Seth Rogen's ability to carry the original character concept and I still stand by that assessment. However the character of Brett / Green Hornet were extensively altered to fit Seth's brand of comedy a lot more and that did end up doing decently in the long run. He tends to be similar to Jack Black but thankfully not as over the top or annoying. The real gem here was Kato as played by Jay Chou since he was an amazing companion to Seth, a miracle plot device tool given his combination of mechanical and martial arts skills in terms of the character and a beautiful nod to Bruce Lee, who originally fulfilled the role.

The movie is FUNNY (and it deserves the capital letters). My partner and I were laughing all throughout, and this was a combination of laughing at and laughing with the characters. The situations that they established were hilarious and most of them benefited those who watched the original TV series. The writing was pretty top notch and most characters had their own fair share of comedic zingers and one-liners. Waltz got a lot of good comedy moments despite his character - segments that were clearly written with his past performance in Inglourious Basterds in mind.

The use of 3D was inconsistent, which is typical of these post-production 3D movies. Sure the first fight scene with Brett and Kato was pretty stunning but the effect was not consistently utilized throughout the movie. Still beyond the fun gimmick of 3D, Gondry's vision was clearly presented throughout the movie and it worked with the pseudo 1960's vibe that permeated the movie despite it being set in the modern day. Both my partner and I enjoyed this side to things a lot - it really added to the fun of the movie and had us still thinking of the original TV series at times, which was probably the goal of the creative team.

The Green Hornet may not be quite for everyone, but it's amazingly hilarious for your average geek and even more so for a Green Hornet fan. It's a celebration of what made the TV show great and what also made it silly all wrapped up in one comedic package. It gets 5 crazy ways of including guns on a car out of a possible 5. The Green Hornet is showing in all local theaters in both 2D and 3D but you probably don't need to spend for the 3D if you just want a good laugh.

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