Blu-ray Review: THE GREEN HORNET - Far From The Sum of its Promising Parts

Even in a particularly prolific period for comic book adaptation movies, I never thought I'd see the day that The Green Hornet made it out of development hell and onto the silver screen. If I'm perfectly honest, I never saw it as a property that immediately inspired thoughts of a remake - perhaps because the original TV series was so iconic thanks to the break-out performance of Bruce Lee as Kato. But there it is, bold as brass and released now on Blu-ray. Follow the leap to see what I thought. I was talking the other day to a similarly comic-book movie obsessed friend about how Thor and The Green Hornet represent the two extremes of how modern film-makers are approaching those movies. In the first corner Kenneth Branagh's lovey-inspired Asgardian epic is reminiscent of an older mode of comic book film-making in which the exceptional is celebrated, and presented as delightfully exotic (see Superman 1 and Flash Gordon, which are both evident reference points for Thor), and in the other sits The Green Hornet, a far more modern and different creature entirely. Rather than celebrate the superheroics of the Green Hornet character, Michel Gondry's film follows the ultra-modern trend of making him an ordinary person in exceptional circumstances. Modern film-makers en masse seem fixated by the idea that the best way to bring superheroes to screen is to involve them in pseudo-pubescent story arcs (hence the preoccupation with rebooting, and more importantly rebirthing them on screen). Rather than celebrate the extraordinary feats that originally made comic books so popular, films like Wolverine, and the upcoming new Spiderman and Superman projects seek to push the human element of their characters. Rather than superheroes, we are presented with conflicted superhumans, who face personal ordeals designed to facilitate some self-realisation, and the enduring metaphor is one of a teenager going through puberty. Green Hornet is of course an entirely different prospect to Thor, since he is a human who, like Batman, chooses the life of a crime-fighting vigilante, and not a near-immortal Viking like alien warrior. But he is no less a superhero, and I can't help but feel that this 2011 film devalues the property by sticking its tongue too firmly in its cheek and poking fun at the character a little. In the Extras, writers Evan Goldberg and Seth Rogen do discuss making what amounts to an anti-superhero movie, which is a reasonable enough endeavour, but why do it with an established superhero property that was so obviously of the first era of superheroes (the 1930s), that period of radio serials and grandiose movie serials? It just doesn't feel right. Something is definitely wrong about Seth Rogen playing a superhero. He is a nerd, good and proper, and nerds patently shouldn't be allowed anywhere near their heroes - look closely enough and you'll see the fear in the eyes of the star attractions at Comic Con. And there is good reason why superheroes aren't usually played by conventionally "nerdy" actors: it's like casting a big fat brash sports fan as their sporting idol - a square peg in a round hole. Screen superheroes are supposed to be the pinnacle of heroism, an unattainable near-perfection that humans are supposed to look up to, and who nerds in particular idolise like dieties. So casting Rogen goes against the very fabric of the known universe, and will probably end up causing some sort of temporal rift, hewing our reality to pieces and replacing it with a world in which nerds are the top of the social ladder. Aside from that, Rogen also feels too fratty to carry the gravitas of the role, and he ends up making Green Hornet a sort of uninspiring, wide-eyed Kick-Ass like creation, constantly riding his luck in almost comic fashion. I can understand that this is Rogen's project, since he co-scripted (and his creative persona has all but wiped Gondry's off the face of the final product), and his comedic influence would inevitably find its way in, but there is a reductive process going on here, like that joke where Tonto does all the leg-work, and The Lone Ranger takes the credit, which robs the original mythos of Green Hornet of its impact. Having said that some of the comedy works surprisingly well, with most of its success relying on the lynch-pin of the entire movie - the relationship between Rogen's Britt Reid/Green Hornet and Jay Chou's Kato. But there is a major flaw in the script, which is perhaps indicative of Rogen's overall excitement to be involved in the project, since it is he who gets the majority of lines and focus, while other characters, like the far more interesting Kato, and the completely redundant Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) are more often than not cast aside in favour of his quip or mugging reaction from Rogen. The rest of the notable cast is made up by a James Franco cameo, who seems to me to be gathering way too many plaudits for someone whose emotional range stretches from "man who has just eaten lots of lemon", to "man who has just eaten a little lemon". Grimacing, apparently, is the modern mark of acting ability. Anyway, alongside him, and introduced in a supposedly tense scene opposite Franco's "new-money" gangster-pretender (which ends up being the polar opposite to his startling first appearance in Inglourious Basterds) is Christoph Waltz, the best screen villain of the best few years, who is as underused as everyone else and reduced to an under-written pantomime villain. Waltz doesn't deserve this fate, and hopefully we can count his association with the project as a minimal lapse. As I say, at the end of the day, Green Hornet does have its funny parts, and they do work surprisingly well (if you ignore the legacy of the original Hornet), but I have to be concerned over the film's legacy. Remember how well comedy worked for Batman in hindsight? Exactly. As a dyed-in-the-wool superhero movie, it is far from an original film, and in fact is positively littered with cliches and very familiar stylistic and structural features, and Michel Gondry has rather unfortunately chosen to deploy each of them with a careless pedestrianism that is a world away from his usual work. There are the odd original flourishes (like Kato's Arkham Asylum style "Detective Vision"), but they only serve to suggest that the director could have created something visually quite striking, which you might be forgiven for having expected of him. It's sloppy, and Gondry feels absent for most of the time, but the breezy, engaging tone and sporadic comic moments conspire to make it a pretty harmless, but still minimally entertaining popcorn flick. Just don't expect anything else of it. It's rather over-long, a little plodding in places and almost entirely devoid of characters thanks to Rogen and his three fellow writers' script.


A thoroughly underwhelming film is thankfully picked up a notch by another excellent transfer from Sony, with detail near-perfect throughout and the image appearing almost crystal clear for the most part. There are the occasional instances of softness, but for a film that is so dark, those limited occasions are far more fatal. The pallette is somewhat limited - again thanks to the amount of dark scenes - but when it does arrive it is as well presented as the deep, inky and perfectly discernible black levels that outweigh them on the balance. The audio track is a similar story, sounding perfectly clear and crisp throughout, bombastic and immersive in action sequences, and with the right precedence for dialogue and musical accompaniment everywhere else. Sony can certainly be proud of there recent output in terms of quality, but as with Burlesque last week the quality of the transfer can not really make up for the falling points of the film.


A good deal of material, topped with an entertaining and engaging commentary by Rogen, Gondry and Evan Goldberg, who are surprisingly honest when it comes to the problems of certain sections. All well and good, and the experience is entertaining, but it begs the question of why they didn't fix the film if they could recognise its shortcomings? The Green Hornet Cutting Room Audio Commentary: Actor/Producer Seth Rogen, Producer Neal Moritz, Director Michel Gondry, and Writer Evan Goldberg. Deleted Scenes (27mins): See Yourself Out, The Big Fence, Filer Up, Dickweed, Britt's Pokerface, Taking a Punch!, Burning Down the House, Influencing Scanlon, and Let's Roll Kato. "Awesoom" Gag Reel (7mins). "Trust Me" -- Director Michael Gondry (10mins) Writing The Green Hornet (1080p, 11mins) The Black Beauty: Rebirth of Cool (7mins) The Stunt Family Armstrong (8mins) Finding Kato (6mins) The Art of Destruction (14,mins) Previews BD-Live. The Green Hornet PS3 Theme. The Green Hornet is available to buy now on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray.

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