Thoughts on The Green Hornet after an early screening...
Note: The version of the film screened was not the final cut and a formal review will be posted closer to the film's official release date.
THE GREEN HORNET opens with a superhero flying in slow motion through the sky. The sun glows orange behind him while his cape flaps in the breeze and a triumphant score swells. It could be a moment right out of any number of superhero movies but it's not: it's just a kid playing with his toy. It's chubby, preteen Britt Reid holding a Superman-esque figure out the window of limousine as he returns home from school. Young Britt is brought to his father, James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), in his office at "The Sentinel," a newspaper he owns. Britt was sent home from school (again) for getting into a fight and his father is furious. Scolding him for being a failure, the elder Reid rips the Superman doll out of his hand, yanks off the head and throws it in the garbage while little Britt chokes back the tears on his couch.
The audience laughs. And here we have the first of many problems with THE GREEN HORNET.
It's a scene that's played fairly straight and is setting up motivations for our hero but the audience isn't sure how to react. Writer/star Seth Rogen and his partner Evan Goldberg (who also produced the film) have crafted a script that is never quite sure when to be funny or when to be serious and fails at both.
To be sure, THE GREEN HORNET is much better than the buzz surrounding the film, which indicated it could be a JONAH HEX style catastrophe. It's not that bad but it's not nearly as good as it could've been either. One only needs to look back a few years to Rogen and Goldberg's PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, a film that so seamlessly blends comedy and action, it was one of the best examples of each genre at theaters that year.
Rogen and his HORNET sidekick, Taiwanese celebrity Jay Chou, don't have nearly the chemistry the former shared with James Franco in PINEAPPLE and as a result a large chunk of the comedy falls flat. Chou is more than capable at handling the action scenes he's presented with as Reid's swift-kicking Kato but he's less adept at line readings and comedic timing. Without a capable straight man, Rogen is left to his own comedic devices to mixed results. There are a few chuckles throughout but too often we're expected to laugh at Rogen making creative use of curse words instead of, you know, actual jokes.
Perhaps the lack of comedy could've been excused if GREEN HORNET worked as an action film but the sequences never click. Gondry is known for his visual wizadry but framing action is not his strong suit. He tried to bring some panache to those sequences and you've seen the way the so-called Kato-vision is used in the trailers. Literally. If you're looking to see more Kato-vision in the film, prepare to be sorely disappointed. It's one of the only flourishes Michel Gondry brings to the film and it's completely underused. (The only other real Gondryism is a dizzyingly beautiful continuous take/split-screen sequence.)
The film was not presented in 3D but beyond the aforementioned brief Kato-vision sequences, I have no idea what producers thought would benefit from the added dimension (besides box-office receipts). The end credits were animated with 3D in mind but if the end of the movie is the highlight of your 3D, you're in trouble.
Rogen and Goldberg had the opportunity to reinvent the genre with a comedic take on the superhero tropes but instead fell victim to some of those same cliches and sadly feels like a couple of kids just playing with their toys.