If you’re tired of superpowers, pointless clichés and anything that hasn’t got Seth Rogen in it, prepare to have your prayers answered – The Green Hornet is in town.
Almost five years ago, indie film director Kevin Smith was asked at a question-and-answer session whether he’d ever direct a comic book movie. “I’d f*cking love to direct a comic book movie!” he replied, and went on to explain that the team behind The Green Hornet had initially approached him to direct. He stated he’d have used one camera, the car would be the backdrop, and all the action would happen off-screen. Funnily enough, it never came to pass.
Now, I don’t know about you, but to me that sounded positively inspired after the waves of nauseatingly predictable Marvel and DC waffle we’ve had to put up with for the last two decades of cinema. We’ve seen a never-ending tide of A-listers who’ve never touched a comic book and writers who just aren’t capable of making characters realistic enough.
Enter director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind), and writers Seth Rogen (yeah, really), Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express, Superbad) and George W. Trendle, the creator of the original radio series way back in the 1930s. He’s not been with us a while, but his work on the main character and, of course, his sidekick Kato, was crucial to the development of the film.
The story is your standard hero fare – rich son of a millionaire loses his rather gruff, workaholic and dislikeable father and is faced with filling his shoes, like a slightly less family-friendly Bruce Wayne. Britt Reid (Rogen), the son in question, does the classic rich-kid thing and throws a fit when his coffee isn’t perfect the week of his father’s death.
Stomping around his Los Angeles estate, Britt finds his way to Kato (Jay Chou), the man responsible for said coffee… and his father’s classic car collection. Soon, after discovering the Asian wonderman is responsible for mind-boggling feats of chemical warfare, mechanical engineering, weapons technology and even art (don’t miss the hidden Bruce Lee sketch, a tip of the hat to the legend who played an earlier incarnation of Kato), Britt decides to put his friend’s talents to good use.
Soon they’re crashing around L.A., fighting crime and putting the Reid newspaper empire to work as as headline machine to promote themselves as scary criminals. The results are, predictably, rather catastrophic, and as Kato and Britt find out more about themselves and each other, their cautious testosterone-fuelled rivalry over crime-fighting and investigative reporter Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) becomes a solid friendship.
It sounds generic, but trust me on this – Seth Rogen and Jay Chou make this film worth watching. The pair of them are hilarious, and I’ve not seen such a winning combination of Asian smooth-talking fist-fighting fury and bumbling American guffawing since Rush Hour. The dialogue is sharp, witty, and Rogen puts his trademark stamp on the film for that reason. The special effects are slick, but most of the time the 3D felt unnecessary, save for a single fight scene less than half an hour in.
Sure, it’s no Iron Man, no Batman Begins, because it’s a whole other beast entirely. Tony Stark may be just a man, but he’s also extremely intelligent. Same goes for Bruce Wayne. Britt Reid’s Robin to his own Batman is the more talented of the pair. You might ask why Kato doesn’t simply go it alone, but the reality is that he does have a few rather surprising weaknesses as well as a fondness for his former boss’s son.
This film’s worth a watch if you’re tired of seeing Bale, Maguire and Downey, Jr. pummel their way through bad guys, and want to see a slow-motion adrenaline-fuelled fight that ends with the hero face-planting five feet from the person he’s trying to save, or possibly to see the only car that’ll make you wish you’d taken more interest in Top Gear over all those years. It’s a good laugh and a nice change. To the superhero film-factory that is today’s Hollywood, I say: keep it up!