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The Green Hornet

By: Addison Wylie

Based on the long running character that was created in the late 30’s, Seth Rogen plays Britt Reid, a spoiled oaf who grew up with a strict Father, played by Tom Wilkinson. After his Father gets stung by a bee and has a lethal allergic reaction, the property and his Father’s belongings are given to Britt; one of those possessions being the role as publisher of The Daily Sentinel newspaper. However, Britt couldn’t care less about the newspaper. What Britt is worried about is his morning coffee. It tastes horrible! Once discovering that he’s fired the mechanic who is also the man responsible for the delicious coffee in the past, Britt calls him back to the estate and the two develop a bond. This mysterious mechanic Kato, played by Jay Chou, begins to show Britt his secret experiments including bulletproof windows on cars as well as weapons that spring out from the same car’s wheels. The two proceed to drink and after an eventful night of robbery and accidental crime fighting, Britt proposes an idea to Kato. The idea being that the two will run around the city posing as criminals in order to capture the real criminals populating Los Angeles. It’s not long until the villainous Chundnofsky, played by Christoph Waltz, finds out about the two caped crusaders and he’s not happy. Not one bit.

Gondry can be a clever director who provides stimulating visuals with inspired characters but he’s also left alone during his productions for the most part. This time, due to the film being a larger budget project, Gondry is a little fish in a big pond where producers and studio executives are always looking over his shoulder. There are hints of fun and creativity during some scenes involving Kato using slow motion to map out his martial arts but almost every scene feels as if Gondry is being restrained. Take some of the montages for instance. The montages seem to be Gondry’s forte; or the only areas studio employees let him let loose. They feature fast edits, inventive camera movements, and upbeat music. One montage in particular features Chundnofsky putting a hit out on the Green Hornet and “his masked partner”. Each criminal tells another criminal and then that newly informed villain begins on his own path to tell another criminal. When a criminal walks off, the screen is then divided into a split-screen where we see the two criminals spreading the word. As the montage plays out, the screen is divided into at least eight separate screens showing different mini shorelines. This creativity expressed during this and other montages should’ve been the overall spirit of the movie. In fact, the one moment that the movie gets right is the climactic action piece that takes place towards the end of the film. It features Gondry’s style and choreographed fights you’d find in any big budget action movie. It’s insanely fun.

Outside the montages and the final fight, we get scenes that lack flare. The action scenes are very generic and lack charisma. Sometimes, the sequences are overlong as well. One string of events in particular involves Britt and Kato getting into a fight while using electronics, furniture, and toys to fend each other off. The staging, the cinematography, and the acting is almost an exact lift out of Rogen and Goldberg’s prior film Pineapple Express; when James Franco and Rogen fight Danny McBride. This is a perfect example as to why the script is flawed as well. Rogen and Goldberg take the same formula and style they applied in previous collaborations and use it here. I think the duo has a good ear for intimate dialogue but how much longer can they use this structure? If the same formula is going to be used, the script should feel and sound fresh. The script may be devoted to its source material but the end result feels tired.

Not all the blame is on the studio though. For instance, the blame in regards to how terribly Rogen portrays Britt Reid is the fault of Gondry. Rogen’s performance portrays Britt as an arrogant, egotistical, man-child. This is funny for a brief, and I stress brief, amount of time before it starts to get on one’s nerves. Rogen’s one-note performance doesn’t allow an audience to root for him. In a scene where Chundnofsky is facing off against Kato and Reid, Kato devises a quick plan with Reid just to see Britt cowardly running away yelling “every man for himself”. I know Rogen is trying to make the audience laugh but at some point, the audience has to bring in an element of reality and question the nature of the character. Is Britt THAT self-centred that he’d really abandon someone who he’s bonded with for 45 minutes of the movie? Even if Gondry constantly had studio members tweaking with his vision, he should’ve known better and had a serious talk with Rogen and Goldberg about adjusting this irritable leading role.

Watching The Green Hornet is like watching one of those tug o’ war challenges that starts out fun but suddenly turns into a cutthroat battle to determine who gets bragging rights. On one side of the rope, you have a one-man team consisting of Michel Gondry; a talented and creative director who loves to make art. On the other side of the long rope, you have producers and studio executives and screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg who in fact are also executive producers. This side of the rope wants to play things safe because they know what makes money. Because there are more people on the studio side of the rope, the studio side has more victories. During every scene of The Green Hornet, you can’t help but feel this ongoing struggle that possibly occurred during production.

However, no matter who wins the bragging rights, the problems in The Green Hornet can be spread around to everyone on the crew involved in the production. Everyone thought they understood how the film should be represented. However, there was miscommunication. It constantly feels like the studio kept swooping in to make final decisions without acknowledging how Michel Gondry felt. Now, if Gondry supported these decisions, then he belongs in that group and deserves the blame as well. If that is not the case, Gondry should’ve vocalized how he sees the movie. During pre-production, both groups should’ve called a meeting where everyone could be on the same page with one another. Some projects sound promising but once you see a final product, you figure out that some things aren’t meant to be because they simply don’t work and the pieces don’t fit. The feature film adaptation of The Green Hornet, unfortunately, has become one of those projects.

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