Super-hero films have been progressively legitimizing since Spider-Man swung into theatres in 2002, paving the way for big-budget Iron Man and Batman films, the classic Watchmen, non-traditional Kick-Ass and soon Captain America and crew. The latest addition to this genre, “The Green Hornet,” is teen comedy meets kung-fu, a decidedly unique twist on masked vigilantes.
Basically, Britt Reid (Seth Rogan) is the son of a media mogul (Tom Wilkinson) who inherits a fortune and the power of the press when his dad dies suddenly. While reflecting on the legacy of a distant father, and on his own wasted life, he enlists the help of his dad’s mechanic extraordinaire Kato (Jay Chou) to make something of himself and fight crime in Los Angeles.
That’s pretty much it. But unlike most masked heroes, Reid’s ridiculous tactics against an essentially un-scary villain (Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) whiningly obsesses over whether he is in fact feared or not) make his blunders more interesting to watch than his victories.
Not to say the film is without merit. It’s hilarious. Rogan is at his finest when he’s self-absorbed and drunkenly expounding on his vision for the Green Hornet and the Hornet’s driver, Kato. I laughed often. Chou is the film’s shining star. He’s funny, a great fighter, and has plenty of sidekick spunk to challenge his boss’s ego.
Director Michel Gondry brings a flair of frivolity to the film. From a speed make-out session early on between Reid and a random partier to his comic-style freeze-frame action scenes, he turns the film into a comic book.
But without the comedy there’s no film. Unlike many super-heroes, there are no layers to peel back on Reid. He’s funny, and he likes to blow stuff up in the name of justice. But beyond that he’s not really an inspiring character.
“The Green Hornet” is a “hero” for a broken generation. From the beginning of the film, when Reid’s dad rips the head off his Super-Man action figure, Reid lacks the strong, values-pushing male influence, or memories of it, that enabled super-heroes like Peter Parker, Clark Kent, Tony Stark and Bruce Wayne. Reid’s father is the father figure of today’s film culture. He’s mean, detached; he passes without causing Reid undue pain. And yeah, he’s good in the end, but he wasn’t there for his son during the early years. So is it any wonder that, lacking a role model, Reid never grows up?
Throughout the entire movie, Reid remains the self-involved funny boy. He doesn’t reach beyond it to become something else. A “journalist” maybe, for a second, and a better fighter, but his sense of “responsibility” comes from sexual desire for secretary, Cameron Diaz – a character that’s barely fleshed out – and from boredom. At best his drive comes from early childhood memories of the Man of Steel. At worst, he just wants a thrill ride. But if that’s all you’re looking for out of this film, you won’t be disappointed.