So, for now..let's go with a review from guest reviewer Adam Garcia...
THE GREEN HORNET
Guest Review by Adam L. Garcia
|Art by Ruben Procopio|
This is not your father’s Green Hornet, nor it is your grandfather’s.
And that is not a bad thing.
There had been a lot of negativity around this film from the pulp community, which has been wholly disheartening and something that I have not so subtly fought against, and has made me a bit of a pariah. It’s no secret I’ve been anticipating this film, being a fan of the Green Hornet, Seth Rogen and Michel Gondry, this film was unexpected combination that promised a unique take on the character. But many in the pulp community ballyhooed every aspect of this film, angry that this interpretation of the character didn’t match their vision—which perhaps is part of the reason I was so excited for it. I won’t go too deep into my belief that pulp characters need to break free of their arguably simplistic characterization, which at times feel more like a conglomerations of character traits than actual characters, nor will I discuss my desire to see the genre as a whole updated for a modern audience, there’ll be another time for that, but for now let’s focus on the Green Hornet.
Having watched the original Green Hornet TV show and serials when I was kid (thanks to my father’s massive collection of serials) and most recently before the film’s release, I couldn’t get past how two-dimensional Britt Reid was. Sure, Van Williams played him great and treated the role seriously, but ultimately there was nothing about the character that made him stand out; as character he had as much depth as a cardboard cut out. Sure, it worked great in the show, but for all the praise washed onto the show I couldn’t help but be disappointed, because for all his heroics he never had a reason why Maybe I’m missing an episode or maybe I’m forgetting an important face, or maybe it’s because I grew up reading/watching characters like Spider-man and Batman, whose reasons for being heroes were born out of a single moment that defined them, but for me as a audience and as a writer the whole concept of a “hero for hero’s sake” just doesn’t cut it. There’s need to be something more.
The Green Hornet, for the first time I’ve seen, tries to approach perhaps the big plot hole with these sort of characters: Why would a millionaire playboy choose to risk his life for the greater good? When first meet Britt Reid as an adult, he is boorish and selfish, more interested in parties and women than any higher purpose. In many ways he’s a poor man’s Tony Stark, which gives him a story arc that allows him to grow into a hero. Yes, much of this growth is done for comedic effect, but it’s funny not because it’s campy, but because it’s a normal human being in way over his head. (Sidenote: The 60s TV show is incredibly campy by today’s standards. Holding paintings for a million dollar ransom while you have a multimillion-dollar laser at your disposal? Dr. Evil had more plausible plans.) Which is part of the reason why I loved this film. At the center of it is a goofy lay-about millionaire playboy, who over the course of the film becomes the hero he wants to be. Yes, he begins his heroics after an act of vandalism gone bad, but what was initially another activity for an idle mind becomes a pursuit of justice that is ultimately more legitimate than some vague sense of justice, even if the real hero is Kato.
The decision to make Kato “the power behind the mask” is an inspired one and works well with the Green Hornet’s central concept of deception as a means for heroics. Britt Reid works to save the city by pretending to be a villain; so while everyone’s eyes are on the Green Hornet, Kato is able to use his strength and guile to save the day. Jay Chou isn’t Bruce Lee—then again who is?—but his Kato is pretty damn great, and for those of my generation out perception of the Green Hornet has always been “that show with Bruce Lee… and the other guy.” In many ways, this film is how my generation vaguely views the two characters. Ask most kids and they would think Kato was the brains and the brawn; the Green Hornet was the façade.
Plus Kato vision is fantastic.
But what really make this film work is the relationship between Britt and Kato. Their friendship—really their brotherly love for one another—drives the story forward. They bond over their love-hate relationship with James Reid, their directionless life and waste of potential. It is through each other that they not only discover crime fighting, but also the best of themselves. They are competitive, each fighting for the affection of the miscast Cameron Diaz, each trying to prove to other who is the real hero, but at the end of the film realize they would be nothing without each other. Kato does not exist with Green Hornet and vice versa. Because the filmmakers understood this, they made a superhero film that chucks away the idea of hero and sidekick and is instead a story of a superhero partnership.
I promised I’d keep this review as objective as possible so let’s talk about what didn’t work. Oftentimes there are scenes that simply don’t work, that are either superfluous or awkwardly written. Case in point is the opening scene with young Britt Reid and his father. Christoph Waltz’s Chudnofsky is a halfway decent villain that is either underutilized or poorly drawn, I’m still not sure which. At times the editing can be a little too frenetic, though this Gondry’s style. However these elements are easily ignored as the story comes together nicely at the end, making for an origin of a modern pulp hero that is earned and true to these versions of the character. Is this film perfect? Lord no. There are narrative bumps, odd transitions and more than one groan inducing piece of dialogue, but as a whole, it is a fun film.
Purists will refuse to see The Green Hornet, and will most likely be upset by this review (I’m almost certain to have enraged them with some of my earlier comments, but these are my views, and much as I respect their point of view, I humbly ask they respect mine). I urge you to see with movie with an open mind, remember, this is a licensed character open to interpretation and adaptation.
|Cover by Ruben Procopio|
Most importantly, this movie is fun; something so many pulp fans have argued these sort of films should be. I cannot tell you how many times my dad, in all his 67 years, would turn to me and say: “That’s so cool! This is awesome!” When asked him what he would rate the film he said: “three and half stars, I would recommend this to everybody.”
And while I know this film isn’t for everybody I can safely say this is my generation’s Green Hornet and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see more than a few Green Hornets and Katos running around this Halloween.
Which is pretty flippin’ cool.