The Green Hornet

Seth Rogen stars as Seth Rogen in another misbegotten comic-book flick.

A superhero movie can be smart, funny, and action-packed, too—Kick-Ass demonstrated that. Smartass, jokey, and loud, however, aren’t the same thing. Which is what The Green Hornet demonstrates.

Although Sony denies it, one can imagine the studio’s dismay upon first seeing this mess. The picture was originally scheduled for release last summer; then, in order to (what else?) convert it into 3D, it was rescheduled for December 23. Now, here it finally is, in the depths of January. Where it belongs.

The movie’s setup—wealthy newspaper publisher turns masked crime-fighter in tandem with his Asian chauffeur-sidekick—remains unchanged from the story’s origin in 1930s radio and its subsequent iterations in various comic books, movie serials, and a one-season ’60s TV show (which featured Bruce Lee as the sidekick). A feature-film version has been in the works for years, with George Clooney, Nicolas Cage, Kevin Smith, and Hong Kong action-comedy director Stephen Chow each attached at various points. What we have here, at long last, is a movie directed by the whimsical Michel Gondry (fondly known for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, not so fondly for the fey Science of Sleep); scripted by Seth Rogen and his writing partner, Evan Goldberg (they also wrote the superior Rogen vehicles Superbad and Pineapple Express); and starring Rogen as the crime-fighting publisher, Britt Reid, and Taiwanese pop star/actor Jay Chou as Kato, the sidekick. Chou, despite sometimes indistinct line readings, brings charm and energy to the proceedings; Rogen brings Rogen, and not a lot else, which is one of the picture’s several problems.

The movie opens with some quick backstory. Browbeaten as a kid by his rich father (Tom Wilkinson), Britt grows up into a bratty wastrel, devoting his life to drunken carousing and conspicuous consumption. When his dad suddenly dies (of a mysterious bee sting), Britt decides to shape up. He begins to take an interest in the family newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, as a vehicle for exposing crime and corruption. Then, after an encounter with some street thugs, he decides on a more direct approach. Teaming with Kato, his family retainer, car mechanic, and gadget-meister, he dons a disguise—a black mask and vintage fedora, which disguise nothing—and becomes the Green Hornet, bringing vigilante justice to bear on the local crime lord, Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz, quietly setting aside the Oscar he won for Inglourious Basterds).

Back at The Daily Sentinel offices, Britt soon acquires a new secretary, Lenore Case, who’s played by Cameron Diaz. Lenore is the movie’s unlikeliest character, a one-time journalism student who now works as a temp. Which is fine. But she is also not the hot young babe Britt was hoping to hire. When she reveals her age, her new employer erupts in derisive guffaws: “Thirty-six?” Britt says. “We’ll have to build a ramp.” This ungracious emphasis on the 10-year age difference between Rogen and Diaz (who’s unflatteringly photographed to look weathered throughout), short-circuits whatever romantic interest might have leavened the boy-centric plot, and leaves the story to sink beneath Gondry’s rampant visual chaos—endless lashings of slo-mo kung fu and Britt-Kato bickering, and more gunfights, explosions, and woefully generic car chases than even a much better movie might bear. The tedium builds as the narrative dwindles.

Britt’s throwback hat and mask suggest a more useful direction the movie might have taken. Would it not have been better as a cool retro yarn set in the period of the Hornet’s origin, with snappier dialogue and a more noir-ish atmosphere? A comic-book movie is nothing without a style, and setting this one in the familiar environs of present-day L.A. buries it in blandness. Similarly, the Hornet character, lacking any tragic flaw of the Bruce Wayne variety, or super powers along the lines of Peter Parker’s, needs some sort of compensating brio. Rogen is never less than likable, but his trademark brand of funny, with its casual, throwaway delivery, is of little use in creating a strongly-defined character. He ends up with no alternative but to play himself.

Special note must be made of the picture’s pitiful 3D conversion, which rivals that of Clash of the Titans for pure ineffectuality. You don the requisite 3D glasses and then spend the rest of the movie wondering why you bothered. When the end credits—which were actually created in 3D—finally roll, they really pop out at you, and you wonder why the whole movie didn’t look like this. Then you wonder why the jokers responsible for this techno-flummery would think you should pay an extra five dollars for such a lackluster visual experience. Talk about crime lords.  

Kurt Loder is a writer, among other things, embedded in New York.

Find this and hundreds of other interesting books at the Reason Shop, powered by Amazon.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Almanian||

    Crap - I was hoping this would be good. I remember the original TV show...

    Ah well - thanks for saving me the movie fee, Kurt. I'll watch it (maybe) when it comes to cable.

  • ||

    It was obvious from the casting and then the very first commercial for it that it would be awful. The commercials are so insipid I'm amazed they're even showing them.

  • ||

    I felt the suckiness flowing through me. Like a million viewers crying out in pain.

  • ||

    The ads were dreadful, too. The billboards all featured the machine-gun car. I can see that shit on YouTube.

  • ||

    It was particularly obvious from Rogan's appearance on Mythbusters. You could tell from his expression that he was spending the entire episode drawing up a mental list of all the things he'd rather have been doing instead of plugging this turd.

  • oncogenesis||

    Crap - I was hoping this would be good.

    The first clue should have been its release date. All movies released in January are suckfests.

  • ||

    Let's see, what's been in the commercials:

    1. The Natalie Portman Ashton Kutcher abortion; looks dreadful.

    2. Green Hornet; the commercial looks awful, and the fact that it is a semi-comedy and stars Seth Rogan and Harold just screams "stay away".

    3. The Vince Vaughn Kevin James thing they've been pushing real hard for the last few weeks; cringe-inducing.

    Yeah, it's pretty grim out there. And guess what I was gifted with in the previews before True Grit? A Transformers 3 preview. Good thing I had some rum and my gun was in my coat under the seat and not easily accessible.

  • Mensan||

    "... and Harold..."

    So, all asians look alike to you?

  • A girl||

    I admit it. I will eventually watch this on Netflix solely because Jay Chou is teh hotness.

  • NutFliks||

    I'll put it in the queue, the kids will talk it up big time and I'll never get "around" to watching it. Too many 2 and 3 star B pictures on Netflix to watch without wasting time on this boring mess.

  • ||

    Yeah seriously... fucking racist. It's not like their a couple of slaves.

  • Kidding, right?||

    You go to movies armed and with booze?

  • ||

    That's how people in Seattle roll, man. All that cloud cover and caffeine makes for a dangerous environment. Like the Wild West.

  • -||

    I wouldn't have gone to see it in a million years. Now it's two million.

  • Mr Big Diction||

    "Fey"? "Wastrel"?
    I love new words.

  • ||

    Brio! I've gone my whole like without hearing that word. Thanks Loder!

  • Mythbusters||

    Saw the stunt 'myths' for this movie on Mythbusters. Not only did it not give a good impression of the movie, but it was one of the worst episodes of Mythbusters I've seen.

    Movie myths are only interesting if you've, you know, actually seen the movie. And even then only if they are iconic (for good or ill).

  • ||

    I didn't like the tie-in to a movie about to be released. It's different when they do one of their "Hollywood" shows on an old franchise, like James Bond or Star Trek. After all, they're old special effects guys in the first place.

    But this? Too product-placementy.

  • Mythbusters||

    I will say it was better than the two-hour clip show they've passed off the last two weeks.

  • ||

    Better or worse than the gratuitous Obama appearance?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    Did they bust the birther myth?

  • ||

    No, but they lamely went back to a cool myth, the one about Archimedes setting ships on fire with mirrors. They'd already revisited that once, so it was really weak.

    And, of course, Obama was on the wrong side of the myth. Loser.

  • Hate Potion Number Nine||

    "Too product-placementy"

    Why do you hate capitalism?

    Why, PL do you hate America?

  • ||

    I love my people!

    I've done some product placement deals. That's not going to solve TV's cash flow problem, once commercials make their final disappearance.

  • ||

    Totally agree. That episode and the Obama episode were the worst Mythbusters in can recall ever seeing. The extended Green Hornet commercial was very annoying especially since both "myths" were so obviously just "Hollywood Magic" and unreal without a lot of special effects. As for the Obama appearance, it seemed more like a "How can I appear hip again to the undecided young'uns? I know I'll ruin an episode of a popular TV show by prodding them into revisiting a myth that's been twice busted."

    As for movie/history Myths, the recent Operation Valkyrie episode was great. And they were smart enough not to ruin it by having a Tom Cruise guest appearance.

  • ||

    Mythbusters is still a popular TV show?

  • BlogDog||

    +10 on that.
    And "Pineapple Express" superior? You must be smokin' what I'm not. There wasn't a single laugh in that mess.

  • Red Rocks Rockin||

    "Superbad" wasn't even that good either. You've got Jonah Hill replaying his Angry Jew sterotype, Michael Cera in his typical Chinless Wonder role that somehow manages to keep getting rewritten in new movies tha don't make any money, and Mintz-Plasse playing a spergy goon without an ounce of charisma. Lamar Latrell had a more realistic chance of scoring pussy than those clods.

  • Mindy Cohn||

    Jonah Hill stole my act!

  • ||

    How do you know Jonah Hill's character in Superbad was Jewish? Just because he's Jewish in real life? Does that mean Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) was Jewish, since a Jew played him?

  • anon||

    Here's an interesting sentence for y'all:

    Gondry and Cage had frequent arguments about the direction of the character because "for reasons known only to [Cage], he insisted on using a Jamaican accent."

  • Nick Cage||

    Goddamnit, that shit always works for Johnny Depp!

  • ||

    Seth Rogan: Your fifteen minutes are now up. Please collect your personal items and security will show you to the door.

  • ||

    Your post (#2087282) has been marked as spam by a third-party spam filter. If this is a mistake, please email webmaster@reason.com

    What the hell is this shit?

  • JD||

    The spam filter, she is a fickle beast.

  • Achieve Bigger Girth||

    THAT's how you bust thru the H&R filter.

  • Longer, Harder, in thirty days||

    Or this.

  • juris imprudent||

    So apparently we now know that Micheal Gondry is the French answer to Michael Bay.

  • Cytotoxic||

    Harsh.

  • Johnny Longtorso||

  • Ragnar||

    Is Seth Rogan supposed to be funny? Like Dane Cook, I just don't see why.

  • Tesseract||

    A soon as I saw it was going to 'star' Seth Rogen, I knew it was going to be a "sidekick is the hero, and the hero is the loser." type movie.

  • JD the elder||

    I would have given Rogen the benefit of the doubt, but not once I saw the trailers. It looks like a superhero movie the way Rogen would look like a hot chick if he put on a bikini and pranced around singing, "I'm a sexy laaay-DEE!" Still, I may see it just for the visuals, and bring my Ipod with me or something.

  • guy in the back row||

    I jsut saw a few of the original show on Syfy. While underniably groovy, it's not as good as your memeories suggest it was.

    Bruce Lee was great, though.

  • guy in the back row||

    undeniably, dammit!

  • ||

    I just don't get Seth Rogan, and the commercials for Green Hornet and the Vince Vaughan movie make them look absolutely awful. They can only work so much Hollywood "magic" with total crap.

  • ||

    "Would it not have been better as a cool retro yarn set in the period of the Hornet’s origin, with snappier dialogue and a more noir-ish atmosphere?"

    YES! And a better director and a more appropriate star could've made a great film with this classic character.

  • If it were only a better movie||

    it would be better.

  • Man of the new normal||

    A simple rule of super hero/comic book remake films: Don't pay to see them unless directed by Raimi or Nolan.

  • nike running shoes||

    is good

  • Scarpe Nike Italia||

    is good

  • tory burch||

    I like watching movies, I admit that QingFengXia is a good movie.

  • Matthew Kirez||

    I would say, that this movie was awesome, I liked it.

  • Games||

    A simple rule of super hero/comic book remake films: Don't pay to see them unless directed by Raimi or Nolan.

  • ||

    Although its obviously geared towards starting a film franchise, this Green Hornet offers little that's worth remembering to even the "cult flick" (i.e. Halloween) section of your brain.

  • ||

    It's a fun movie, nothing less and nothing more. Seth Rogen may have not been the perfect fit but he can bring the laughs.
    Toronto homes

  • europe travel guide||

    This movie was not that great and it shows in the box office totals.

  • gps coordinates||

    well, i thought the movie was ok. overkill on the comic book movies though for sure.

  • Weight Loss Tank||

    To be honest, I would say that this movie was kinda cool.

  • orange county eats||

    i wanted to watch this movie but i saw about 5 minutes of it at a friends house and decide against it

  • feng||

    like

  • alipay||

    ThAnK

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement