I like Superhero films.
Sure, they very rarely have award winning plots, and film-snobs often look down on them as the light relief of the proletariat (unless of course the main Supporting Actor happens to die just before its release, in which case it becomes ‘A Triumph, Darling!’), but I like them nontheless. In fact, the only two films of the genre that I’ve seen that I can genuinely say I didn’t enjoy were the two Incredible Hulk films – and that was probably because the Incredible Hulk’s story is a bit dull.
Hell, I even liked Spiderman 3 (I can sense you all spitting on the floor in disgust).
Anyway, 2011 looks to be a good year for Superhero films. We’ve got Thor, an X-Men prequal, The Green Lantern and Captain America yet to come. But first up is The Green Hornet In 3D.
Once again, the spoiler rule is enforced as the film is still on the cinema. I have to explain the premise of the film a bit, but I probably spoil it less than the trailer would…
So to give you a basic rundown of the story, Britt Reid (played by Fozzy Bear-made-flesh, Seth Rogan) is the care-free playboy son of an extremely wealthy newspaper mogul. As a side note, the film is already off to a rather anachronistic start with that one. Are there any mega-rich newspaper moguls in 2011? I guess we can forgive that to keep the plot within the spirit of a story made in 1936…
Anyway, back on track, and Fozzy Bear’s life gets turned upside down when his father dies of a bee sting, leaving him in charge of the Reid Empire. He doesn’t really care about the newspaper at first, and decides to leave it in the hands of Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica (Edward James Olmos), who manages to make running a newspaper look like an even greater burden than leading the last remnants of the human race to safety from the Cylons.
But an ‘incident’ with a cup of coffee changes all that and he meets Kato (played by a Taiwanese bloke who appears to have just wondered accidentally onto the set, because he’s certainly not an actor), who was under his father’s employ and just so happens to be the most talented person to have ever lived. Not only is Kato hard as nails, but he’s also an amazing cook and an inventor that would put Trevor Baylis to shame.
Kato shows some of his inventions to Reid, including a car with a force field and Ben Hur-esque wheel-spokes and a coffee machine (which doesn’t seem all that exciting, but again, maybe it’s a carry-over from 1936). The two of them then bond over their shared dislike for Reid’s dad.
So off they go to cut the head off the statue made in his father’s honour. While doing that, they stumble upon a gang of hoodlums mugging a couple out for a walk. They beat them up and then escape. But what they find the next day is that the news is only running a story about how the statue was beheaded, and nothing about how they beat up the muggers.
I can’t really remember why, but they decide from this that the best way to clean up the town is to be superheroes pretending to be super villains. That didn’t make much sense in the film and probably makes less sense reading it now, but there you go.
Reid decides the best way to get the word out about their antics is to use the newspaper. So he takes over that, with Kato as his executive assistant and a criminology expert called Lenore Case (seemingly played by Cameron Diaz’s mum) as his secretary.
Unbeknownst to Case, by suggesting what she thinks The Green Hornet will do next, she is orchestrating the Hornet’s moves, because Reid and Kato are clueless.
Meanwhile, the real villain of the piece is a guy called Chudnofsky (played by a guy called Christoph Waltz, who I personally hadn’t heard according to IMDB he hasn’t appeared in many English films. I can’t say I’m surprised) who is the Crime Lord of Los Angeles. He struggles with people seemingly not taking him too seriously, so to remedy that he keeps killing people. One such example was at the start where he kills a nightclub owner played by James Franco. Now I only bring Franco up because he’s unaccredited in the film, yet delivers more lines in a 3 minute scene than in the whole 127 Hours. Do Not Go And See 127 Hours!!!!
Chudnofsky doesn’t appreciate the Green Hornet invading his turf, and as you can imagine, it all leads towards a showdown at the end.
So that’s the basic outline of the plot. I’ve missed bits out obviously because I don’t want to ruin the (admittedly shallow) twists and turns.
Well I’ll start by saying that it that it passed the ‘Is it over yet’ test. I sat through it without checking the time once and therefore was mostly entertained throughout.
But that’s not to say it’s not without its faults, because there are loads of them!
Firstly, the concept of 3D…
I didn’t see Avatar, so I’m yet to see a movie that was actually filmed in 3D, but from looking at the trailers of stuff like Thor and Sanctum, they look very impressive. The 3D in this was a gimmick. It didn’t help the film in any way other than to do a couple of 3D party tricks that didn’t enhance the plot in any way. So save yourself the extra expense and see this in 2d if you can.
Secondly, the comedy…
The Green Hornet is played mostly as a comedy, and sadly, a lot of the comedy misfires badly. Earlier I likened Seth Rogan to Fozzy Bear, and really, that comparison goes beyond how he looks. You could really see him finish off his crap jokes (like “If there’s two things I like women to have, its balls” – AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!111111 one one) by saying “Wacka Wacka”.
They also flog the same jokes to beyond the point of death. There are at least 4 scenes with an extended joke about how people can’t pronounce Chudnofsky’s name correctly. Then there are 4 more where Chudnofsky wants people to start calling him ‘Bloodnofsky’ because he wants a gimmick like the Green Hornet.
Thirdly, the acting.
When Cameron Diaz is the best of the lead actors, you have a problem.
Rogan isn’t that good (He just repeats the terms ‘Shit’, ‘Wow’ and ‘Cool’ ad nauseum) but I think you know what you’re getting if you hire him. Although, since he wrote it, I suspect he casted himself.
Christoph Waltz might be a star in his native country, but he was about as menacing as gang of Morris Dancers, and plays the part with no conviction whatsoever. I actually thought he was an American actor badly trying to be Eastern European, because every so often he slipped into an American drawl, but seeing that he’s actually from that part of the world, maybe it was the other way around. Put it this way, he was no Joker from The Dark Knight. In fact, I think the film would have been far far better if the part of Chudnofsky was played by Stephen Lewis (Blakey from ‘On the Buses’).
As for Kato (Jay Chou)…Jesus Christ. If any Dundee United fans are reading this, you might remember Jennison Myrie-Williams being sent off because he was black (for those who don’t know, the referee sent a black United player off because he thought he was a different black United player. To be blunt, the ref clearly subscribed to the belief that ‘They all look the same’).
Well on that note, I think the casting directors thought they were hiring John Cho (I actually typed that as a joke before looking at the similarity of the names, and now I genuinely think that may have happened), because he just cannot act. He is the Walter Rojas of the acting world.
Now I might be doing him a disservice, because English clearly isn’t his first language, but I don’t think I am. He only looks comfortable when doing fight scenes, but since they are few and far between, and the character of Kato has a hell of a lot of dialogue, then that’s a problem.
In truth, the Casting Directors probably said ‘Get me an oriental martial arts expert. It doesn’t matter if he can’t act’ when casting him, so it’s not really his fault. But casting directors can be like that – lest we forget the famous story where a casting director declaired “Get Me One of the McGann Brothers, I Don’t Care Which One”
Fourthly, there are issues with realism.
Issues with realism in a Superhero film you say? That’s to be expected. Well yes, I know that, but hear me out. We all know Kato is a talented and handy guy. You can accept him beating people up with great skill and you put his abilities down to being exceptional. But disbelief gets stretched when – with no explanation – he seems to be able to pause life, like in Fallout 3 or Mass Effect 2, isolate weaknesses in enemies, highlighting his plan of attack for maximum effectiveness before going through with it. And then, later in the film, the bumbling Reid does the same.
Also, when a policeman crashes his car into a parked car and then flips his car through a shop window, you think ‘Well that’s him dead’. You don’t expect to hear say ‘Damn It’ upon landing because he was angry the guy he was chasing got away.
My final issue – and to be fair it’s not really an issue, but an observation – is that Cameron Diaz is too old to be parading around in her underwear these days. It just seemed a bit sad. I read an article in the paper today where she said that she’s happy to be growing older and realises that that means changes to her life. Maybe watching this film back made her realise that. I’m sure the prospect of Cameron Diaz in her underwear will appeal to blokes in their 30s and 40s who went to see The Mask or There’s Something About Mary, but equally I’m sure there are blokes in their 60s and 70s who would get excited at the prospect of seeing Rula Lenska in her underwear. Need I say more…
Should You Go and See The Green Hornet
Despite all these criticisms, I still enjoyed it. Some of the comedy was actually quite funny. There’s a scene involving knock-out gas that raised genuine laughter from most of the people in attendance.
The special effects (not the 3d) were impressive, the general plot was entertaining, despite the anachronisms and the interactions between Reid, Kato and Case had their moments (in spite of Choi).
I think as long as you don’t take films like this seriously and know what you’re going in to see, you’ll enjoy it. If it wasn’t a superhero film and was actually classified as a comedy, I wouldn’t recommend it because there are not enough laughs in it for that.
But for a light hearted superhero action film, I would say it’s worth seeing.
Then again though, I did like Spiderman 3…