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The UnPopular Opinion: The Green Hornet

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have amassed quite the fanbase over the years. As writers (PINEAPPLE EXPRESS, SUPERBAD, THE WATCH) and directors (THIS IS THE END, THE INTERVIEW, AMC's Preacher), the duo have trademarked a particular brand of comedy that balances on the edge of gross and funny. But, each of those projects carries with it the theme of maturity and becoming an adult, something that Goldberg and Rogen have done themselves since making it in Hollywood. Like any wunderkinds, these two were given the chance to make a big budget studio movie in THE GREEN HORNET that bombed with fans and critics. The 2011 Michel Gondry film grossed $227 million worldwide on a $120 million budget but drew ire in written reviews. The blending of Rogen's stoner comedy with Gondry's gonzo visual style should have made for a blockbuster but instead ended up in a forgettable vehicle that deserves to be rewatched. THE GREEN HORNET may be one of the most fun superhero movies of the last twenty years.

Based on the pulp fiction character from radio and film serials, The Green Hornet was licensed to DC Comics who partnered the powerless crime fighter Britt Reid and his manservant/martial arts expert sidekick with the 1966 Batman television series. Starring Bruce Lee, the original Green Hornet was a campy and fun series. In the following four decades, everyone tried to make a new version of the character for the big screen and Sony landed on the bright idea to put Rogen and Goldberg on it. Rogen has since lambasted the studio experience as a nightmare due to the involvement from executives over the $100 million budget, but it ultimately works better than anyone has given it credit for. THE GREEN HORNET follows the bromance format that Rogen and Goldberg are best known for while injecting some psychotropic visuals into the mix thanks to Gondry's flair for the surreal. The result is a wholly unique experience that is unlike many comic book films out there but has since been emulated by ANT-MAN and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

The UnPopular Opinion, The Green Hornet, Drama, Comic Book, Action, Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz

What allows THE GREEN HORNET to work is the fact that it is funny. Why you would expect a Seth Rogen film to be serious should be a question for anyone looking for a dramatic superhero movie. In fact, it is very difficult to pull of a balance of comedy and action while also holding true to comic book archetypes, something those aforementioned Marvel films managed to do. THE GREEN HORNET puts the focus squarely on Britt Reid learning to become a hero after the death of his father, the always great Tom Wilkinson. Seeing this buffoonish and entitled party boy waste his life drinking and smoking only to discover his true calling after a personal tragedy gives the film a somewhat cliche origin but allows for there to be fun in trying to be a hero. Add to that the always great Christoph Waltz as the villain, Benjamin Chudnofsky, and Cameron Diaz as the love interest Lenore Case. Both Waltz and Diaz up the talent in the cast, but this film truly balances on the chemistry between Rogen and Jay Chou as Kato.

But, THE GREEN HORNET is never quite a Rogen/Goldberg movie or a Michel Gondry film. Gondry's stamp comes through throughout the film but he only comes close to his full potential in the final act. Even restrained, Gondry is a unique filmmaker whose stamp sets THE GREEN HORNET apart from any other comic book film. In fact, I would venture to say that this version of the story could not have been made by any other director. The benefit of a surrealist like Gondry is that sees the comedy within dramatic happenings which evokes the funny in what Rogen and Goldberg had conceived. Gondry uses slow-motion to great effect along with a cool stretching of the scene during some of the fight sequences that is so cool you just have to see it. All together, THE GREEN HORNET works because it takes a lighter approach to a story reminiscent of both BATMAN and IRON MAN. The everyman aspect of what these characters do puts this film on par with ANT-MAN and for good reason.

The UnPopular Opinion, The Green Hornet, Drama, Comic Book, Action, Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz

If there are shortcomings to this movie, they stink of studio interference. The plot seems to be a bit all over the place but when Rogen and Chou are allowed to cut loose and banter or kick some villain ass, you can see the strength in the screenplay and direction by Gondry. The pacing may be a bit off and some of the plot development does seem wedged in, but these are forgivable oversights in the grand scheme of things. What THE GREEN HORNET does not need is a film analysis. This is not a movie with subtext or allergorical references to cultural or political events. Yes, the story involving the illicit drug trade is timely and relevant, but this is not a movie designed to be representative of our culture but instead one that revels in being a big budget action movie. THE GREEN HORNET is an experiment for everyone involved behind the scenes and it is one that works.

The fault may be in trying to categorize this movie as a remake or a comic book movie. While THE GREEN HORNET does have it's roots in a pre-existing property, the character was never going to be a member of any Cinematic Universe or cross paths with Batman or Superman. This is a standalone franchise that doesn't need to be more than it is. This is a case study in making a popcorn movie. Rogen could have gone crazy with the material and cast his band of buddies in every role including James Franco as the villain, Jay Baruchel as Lenore Case, and any number of idiotic other choices. But Rogen's restraint here shows respect for the source material while still wanting to make the kind of movie he and his buddies would laugh at and enjoy, which is exactly what they have accomplished here.

The UnPopular Opinion, The Green Hornet, Drama, Comic Book, Action, Seth Rogen, Cameron Diaz

If you get tired of the typical Marvel and DC fare and want something with a bit more heroics than your typical comedy, give THE GREEN HORNET another shot. In a lot of ways, this movie shares more in common with Sam Raimi's SPIDER-MAN and Tim Burton's BATMAN. The camp factor is low, but there is a sense of fun and joviality throughout the film. Everyone involved looks like they enjoyed making this story come to life while managing to take the proceedings just seriously enough so that the viewer doesn't roll their eyes at the events unfolding on screen. While I wouldn't quite call this a family friendly film, it does fully earn the PG-13 rating while still managing to be a decent entry level film for teenagers exploring the fringes of comic book movies. Overall, THE GREEN HORNET is a really fun flick that doesn't slow down from beginning to end. The frenetic and off the wall antics should be welcome for any Seth Rogen fan looking for one of his lesser known movies.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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