Tuesday, January 25, 2011

REVIEW: The Green Hornet

A lot of people are not going to like Michel Gondry and (mostly) Seth Rogen's new version of 'The Green Hornet,' and that may be the best thing about it, that it pulls off paying tribute to the style of the original by showing why exactly 'The Green Hornet' isn't so popular today. I mean, does anyone really still talk about the television show from the '60's that had Bruce Lee playing Kato? More than likely not, and that's saying a lot considering that people still watch reruns of 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' 'Bewitched,' 'The Andy Griffith Show,' and 'Gilligan's Island' amongst many others. While this version isn't what everyone was hoping when they heard about yet another superhero movie amongst all of the super-dark-and-serious superhero movies of recent, it's still pretty awesome if you can get past the first fifteen or so minutes, by which time you will more than likely get caught up in the sorta-intentional-cheesy world Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg decided to "reboot". 

I am a fan of Seth Rogen's, but I honestly don't consider him one of my favorite actors. He just hasn't been in many bad movies and I've gotten used to him so much that it's hard to ever hate him at all. That may be why I was able to get past the first bit of the movie, because I quickly caught on to what Rogen was going for here rather than blowing it off and trying to sound smart by complaining about how bad the script is. The dialogue is indeed horrid at some points, but for some reason I'm pretty sure it was intentional, and I'm not just saying that to vie for Rogen's sake with whatever excuse I can think of. After seeing his films plenty of times with my rambunctious friends, I understand his style pretty well. A lot people think they do, but that's because they don't realize that Steve Carrell, Paul Rudd, Jason Segel, James Franco and Jonah Hill (amongst many other actors) play a part in the general conception of Rogen's style. 

There were a lot of issues with getting this movie made, but somehow they still pull it off fairly well. Gondry's direction plus some pretty great acting from Rogen, Jay Chou, and Christoph Waltz (amongst many other actors) go together wonderfully in creating this modern take of an old legend. Despite the cast, most people won't understand that the film is being made like it would be made in the '60's, only set in modern day. This version of 'The Green Hornet' is structured just as the older version would be, in terms of direction (with modern definition) and screenwriting. Essentially, the hand and the pen behind the paper are retro, but the paper is modern. The characters all act like people would today, very casual, forming a critique of the modern idea of "thuglife," vigilantism (which is as big today as it was in the '60's), and most importantly, power. 

At first, I thought Christoph Waltz was going to be a one-trick pony, simply because he was turning into another Javier Bardem, but then I realized that turning into Javier Bardem is not such a bad thing and that Waltz's performance as the villain in this film is top notch, although it is (excusably) not better than his portrayal of the Jew Hunter in 'Inglourious Basterds.' I also thought at first that Seth Rogen was a bad choice (despite my favoritism of his movies) for the role of the Green Hornet, let alone the screenwriting privileges, and that Gondry was only good for sci-fi comedies, and then I realized that I kinda wanted to see what Seth Rogen could come up with (with his Superbad/Pineapple Express partner Evan Goldberg), and that 'The Green Hornet' pretty much, when set in a modern world, is a sci-fi comedy (mixed with action), considering that hi-tech weaponry (Batman's superpowers) is considered science-fiction and that the acting of the '60's is considered humorous today, which is why no one still watches the older versions in the first place. 

The one thing I loved the most about this movie was the action. If I were grading this movie on the effects used to elevate the action, especially during scenes that exploited Kato's advanced fighting skills in a very retro style, I would give it an A+. It's easy to see how the action plays a part in the movie when aesthetically considering Gondry's treatment of it, which is just like he treats the romance in 'Eternal Sunshine,' as an outside factor that becomes the driving force in the world of the sci-fi comedy. 

Rogen's character, Britt Reid, is a spoiled rich kid who thinks the only way to impress his father is by doing the right thing, which he lets get to his head when he is punished for fighting bullies at a young age (enter action as the driving force). Since Reid's initial attempt failed and he is naturally a slacker, he doesn't have a care in the world for anything besides partying, until his dad dies and he no longer has anyone to impress. He quickly learns that he had been looking at things the wrong way when his coffee suddenly sucks (a result of him firing his father's "butlers"), and he finds out that Kato, one of the fired butlers who made the coffee, is actually the answer to all of his problems; the resolution being the use of his newly acquired newspaper company (from his father) and Kato to fight crime, an aspiration that was literally and figuratively (you'll see what I mean) taken from him as a child. The films works in the same way Rogen's mind works, the wrong way. That is the art of it, although it is also the reason a majority of people will not like it. 

So don't be mad if you don't like it. It's only for the same reason you aren't bat-nuts over anything else 'Hornet'-related, and I'm not saying that if you liked the old version you'll like this one as well. It's really up for grabs, like I said earlier. I'm not guaranteeing you'll like it, but if you understand Seth Rogen, Michel Gondry and the idea of an artistic adaptation, you may enjoy this as much as I did. I'm not saying I'll be repeatedly re-watching this after I get my hands on the Blu-ray, but I enjoyed it thoroughly for the exploitation of Gondry's style of action, the use of the star-filled cast, and the humor that's completely taste-based. When you mix a Jewish stoner (Rogen) with a French visioneer (Gondry), you're going to get weird results. I only take a little credit away from it for all the trouble I had to go through explaining it.