The guy who kicked the hornet’s nest
Seth Rogen makes for an offbeat crimefighter in Michel Gondry’s offbeat popcorn thriller, writes
WHAT THE heck is this?
Centenarians will recall that The Green Hornet (the character is a blood relation of the Lone Ranger, apparently) first emerged as a radio series during the inter-war era. Appearing three years before Bob Kane created Batman, the show followed a wealthy newspaper magnate who, under cover of darkness, fought crime while wearing a tiny green mask.
The franchise has popped up in other forms over the past 80 years. There have been comics, books and cheap films. But the last time it registered with the nerdisphere was in the 1960s, when a TV series, starring a young Bruce Lee as Kato, the hero’s sidekick, became a modest hit in the US. There is, thus, hardly a natural constituency for this belated retread.
Further confusion is stirred by the intelligence that Michel Gondry has got hold of the megaphone. A wilfully weird (and prodigiously gifted) art-house director, Gondry is the oddest choice to direct a superhero adaptation since Ang Lee took on Hulk. Then there’s the news that Seth Rogen is writing and starring. What now? The scruffy star of Judd Apatow’s misogynistic lad flicks? Wasn’t Kevin James available? What the heck is this?
Well, the first thing to say is that the most conspicuous hand upon the tiller is that of Mr Rogen. Look hard and you will discover the odd moment of post-modern pastiche – the Kick-Ass tendency, if you will – but, for the most part, The Green Hornet plays like a good-hearted, consistently absurd romp. Britt Reid, the Hornet’s alter-ego, begins the film as an idiot and fails to gain wisdom at any point.
The second point is that the film is diverting throughout. Less overblown than recent Marvel adaptations, less up itself than Watchmen and Kick-Ass, The Green Hornet is closer to old-fashioned foolishness such as the Batman TV series or Hong Kong Phooey. Lord knows whether anyone will go and see it (“What the heck is it?” they’ll say), but we might have expected worse from the year’s first mainstream Event Picture.
Largely an origin story, the movie begins with the hero falling out with his dad, a prominent LA publisher. While the grumpy older man (charismatic Tom Wilkinson) frets about the city’s descent into anarchy, young Britt swills back imported beer and flings TV sets through hotel windows.
The traditional arc would have the hero greeting dad’s death – apparently poisoned by a bee – with a lunge towards responsibility and maturity, but, as we mentioned earlier, this is, more than anything else, a Seth Rogen movie. Britt’s decision to fight crime, conceived with Kato (Chinese pop star Jay Chou), his father’s discreet dogsbody, develops as a sort of larksome prank to avoid the tedium that comes from wallowing in too much disposable income.
There’s nothing new here. The alter egos of Batman and Iron Man were similar types. The difference is that the hero never progresses from pampered posh boy to tortured avenger. Whether flirting with Cameron Diaz’s (ahem!) brainy factotum or jousting with