Michel Gondry’s The Green Hornet, which is out today in theaters, has had a long, arduous path to the big screen. Gondry was initially supposed to direct Hornet way back in 1997, but significant creative differences led to the film being shelved. Then, Kevin Smith climbed aboard the project to write and direct, before Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg finally seized control in 2007. Initially, martial arts favorite Stephen Chow was slated to direct, but further creative differences led to him leaving the project and Gondry assuming control once again (for more info on the film’s history, check out this NYTimes piece).
The final product cost over $100 million to produce and has a wise-cracking Rogen playing Britt Reid, the titular character who teams up with martial arts expert and genius engineer Kato (played by Jay Chou) to defeat the vicious Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz). So was all the hullabaloo worth it? Does Rogen show he can still draw laughs? Does Gondry manage to imbue a superhero story with his whimsical visual style? Does Jay Chou’s heavy accent threaten to torpedo the whole thing? Hit the jump to leave your thoughts. Spoilers are allowed in the comments and after the break.
I’ve read many reviews saying that Green Hornet was a lot of fun, but for me, it was an exercise in frustration. I found Rogen’s character to be completely insufferable with virtually no redeeming qualities whatsoever. And while I realize that was likely the intention, that didn’t make watching this film any more bearable. We’ve seen the playboy-turned-superhero film done much more skillfully, in films that try to have fun with it (Iron Man) and films that aim for deepness profundity (Batman Begins). This film doesn’t rise to the heights of either of those films, and ends up being a hodgepodge of different tones and genres that doesn’t come together in any meaningful way.
A large part of this is due to the chemistry between Rogen and Chou, which is virtually nonexistent. My colleague Matt Singer from IFC News (see his review here) made the astute observation that Rogen is at his best when he’s riffing off of others. But when you put him opposite someone whose English isn’t great, the results are fairly disastrous. As a result, the journey that these two characters go through together feels forced and painfully paced. And it pains me to say this, because I’m usually in support of more Asian leading characters in film.
Still, the movie is not a complete waste. Christoph Waltz, always compelling, is decent as the villain Chudnofsky, and his opening scene with James Franco had me in stitches. In the end, I got a few laughs out of The Green Hornet and found its occasional visual flourishes to be impressive. But for a film with this pedigree, I was crushingly disappointed by the final result.
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