As kids all of us read comic books but what we might not immediately remember is the exceptionally strict systemic caste hierarchy we applied to the comic books available at the corner soda shop. There was Superman and Bat-man or for the Marvel inclined Spider-Man and Iron-Man who occupied the top most tier while Archie and a witch name Sabrina on the level reserved for girls. Somewhere in the middle were the second level superheroes, fun to read but never quite as possible as those in the apex position. Now that comic books have become one of the most lucrative sources of theme material for the fiscally vital blockbuster movie even the second string heroes are getting called up to the majors for a turn at bat. One of the better of this alternate tier was ‘The Green Hornet’. Now, I have to state that personally I was a fan and even enjoyed the camp television series that feature one of the greatest martial arts experts ever, Bruce Lee. Because of this I felt a significant amount of anticipation when I heard the characters were to fuel a new high octane action movie. There was a lot of attention given to this movie including a featured episode on the hit TV series, ‘Mythbusters’.
Okay, they completely busted most of the most incredible special effects shots but let’s face it; it is now surprise that Hollywood special effects magic is inconsistent with the established laws of physics should come as no surprise. The Green Hornet was always one of the more interesting of the secondary comic book heroes and before I’m slammed by diehard fans I do feel that there is incredible potential to be found in this character. The previous incarnations, especially the short lived television series, suffered from over identification with the epitome of camp found in its cousin series the sixties ‘Bat-Man’. Unfortunately, the most recent movie suffered a similar fate. The current expectations for a comic book film has been set exceptionally high with such neo-classics as the Christopher Nolan Bat-Man franchise and the Marvel Universe’s Iron Man’ films. Each of these films is exceptional examples of cinema outside the context of being derived from a popular comic book. Fans of this genre now expect an excellent film with a serious storyline, award worthy character development and circumstances reminiscent of the mythological standard, the hero’s journey rather than the typical strongly demarcated good versus evil plot devices that drove the stories in traditional comic books. The audiences have matured a lot in their expectations for the genre and this ‘Green Hornet is far more sizzle than steak.
The writing responsibilities were shared by Evan Goldberg and the star of the flick, Seth Rogan. Goldberg has established himself as a purveyor of successful ‘stoner’ comedies like ‘Superbad’ and ‘Pineapple Express’. In a similar vein Rogan has been a major player in the field of pharmacologically enhanced comedy since he first came to the attention of audiences in the cult classic television series ‘Freaks and Greeks’. While this is an admirable pair of resumes the experience didn’t seem to translate well to the action genre even if extended to the sub set of action comedy. Considering the overly camp predecessors in the ‘Green Hornet’ franchise and the considerable pressure set by the afore mentioned best the comic book films has to offer a more dramatic approach would have worked out better and found a greater acceptance than the movie managed to garner. These factors weigh heavily on the flick and when joined by several others pull the flick down preventing any chance at success. One of the main difficulties is Seth Rogan in the role as Britt Reid/The Green Hornet. While Rogan a very talented actor with a broad comic palette at his command he is not exactly suited to play an action hero no matter how tongue in cheek the part is written. One small aspect in favor of the script and casting is Brett is supposed to be a regular kind of a guy albeit one adept at fighting skills. If they tried to push Rogan as a younger athletic man the audience would fall over laughing. It can pull of the near-do-well son of a rich influential publisher but when he dons the silly little mask to rages into combat it strains credibility. A similar factor is at play with Jay Chou in the role of Kato. He is not only a master of several forms of martial arts but he is an engineering genius the likes of which puts the MTI post doctorate program to shame. One on the impossible feats he accomplishes it turning a real wheel drive vintage car into front wheel drive and anticipating the vehicle would be sliced in half.
Cameron Diaz is her usually bubbly persona as the assistant and unwitting criminal mastermind as Brett’s Gal Friday, Lenore Case. A woman assistant but is slow on the uptake when it comes to picking up on her part in the Green hornet activities. The stunts are high energy and everything you could ask for in that regard. The use of 3D is imaginative and just beginning to make it as a standard filming technique instead of the gimmick that has to be inserted just to demonstrate how advanced the film is and how cleaver the filmmaker can be. I have yet to see a film in 3D that uses the technique in a natural fashion. The film failed to achieve its potential even when you take into consideration the usual pacing problems inherent in an origin story. The story could have been the start of a fresh franchise but now it would take a complete re-working to make a go of it. At least it is a step forward from the sixties TV incarnation and it is loud with plenty of action but now the bar has been set much higher.
This was one of the early comic books migrated to the screen in 3D. As such there are a number of examples of rather mundane gimmicky uses to constantly remind the audience that this is a 3D flick. Objects fly out threw the plan of the screen rather than trying to create a realistic ambiance to reinforce the visuals of the movie. There is also a subtle but definitely noticeable change in the color palate between the 3D and 3D versions. The straight Blu-ray gives dynamic color intensity that is dimmed in the 3D. In more recent 3D movies I’ve noticed that during the mastering process for 3D renditions the masterful technicians carefully push the brightness and contrast to accommodate the alterations imposed by the polarizing lens. In the recent 3D movies there is no discernable to the high definition resolution. It might be a result of the altered palette but in a back to back comparison of the two versions I had the impression that the 2D was clearer, precise in its rendition of the scenes. Where the 3D manages to hold together is during the action sequences. Although during the regular shots there is a lack of differentiating between distinct planes when the action starts you will notice the actors, cars and debris from the numerous explosions are moving in a clearly 3D space relative to each other.