I’m not gonna lie–I saw this movie to hear the theme in righteous surround sound. I feel cheated with its brief appearance at the end, and demand that Michel Gondry, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jay Chou reunite for a sequel to open a Green Hornet movie with that theme. I understand its placement in a dramatic context, but in a fandom context, I can’t allow that. As such, I refuse to recognize this movie by its proper title for the next 118 words (and counting).
The Orange and Teal Hornet is the new adaptation of The Green Hornet radio series that debuted in 1936. It comes to you from the writers of Superbad and Pineapple Express, as well as the director of several music videos by the White Stripes starring a guy who gets stoned in a lot of his movies, a Taiwanese pop star, an Academy Award winner and Cameron Diaz. … That’s a really hard sentence to follow up on, but rest assured–The Lens Flare Hornet is a lot better than that description can possibly make it sound. It’s the feature that has the unenviable responsibility of being a January Blockbuster–a movie everyone goes to see after December, when all the “good” (read: Oscar Bait) movies have been released. The last notable movie to be released in this post-Oscar wasteland was Cloverfield. Everybody liked Cloverfield, right?
Seth Rogen plays Britt Reid; in this incarnation, a playboy with a dormant taste for justice. So sorta Batman-y, right? Doesn’t really matter, because unlike Bruce Wayne, James Reid starts the movie alive, well and asking Britt why he’s such an eternal disappointment. Britt Reid has been a cock-up every day of his life so far, and James Reid has been a newspaper magnate in the meantime. The day after this dressing down in his poolhouse, James Reid dies, leaving the entire newspaper to Britt Reid alone. Britt is devastated, and entirely outclassed at running a newspaper or his own house. Enter Kato (Jay Chou), his dad’s auto-mechanic/espresso god. You know where this is going. At the same time, Lenore Case (Diaz) enters the scene, and Britt falls head over heels for her. Surprisingly, you don’t know where this is going.
The original Green Hornet was a master detective who could solve any case with his massive intellect. This one is Seth Rogen. Seth Rogen naturally plays the character as a much more broad, comedic role, but he doesn’t sacrifice humanity or the taste for justice. Playing the Star Sidekick with style and humour is Jay Chou. I’d heard of him before as a performer that a Chinese girl in my class really liked back in the day, but that was sort of it. Now, in this feature, I get a performance I can believe as a follow-up to the legend that was Bruce Lee. This is augmented, of course, with Kato-vision–Michel Gondry’s trademark surrealist style moments where Kato breaks down an entire fight in his head then carries out an ass-kicking. This prevents a Taiwanese pop star from being too fast for television, though it doesn’t prevent the reference from being made.
This movie thrives on being a living, breathing tribute to The Green Hornet on TV, forty years of action cinema and buddy movies. It’s a very inconspicuous frame on which to hang a commentary on action movies–a January Blockbuster adaptation of a 74 year old radio series. Its script almost relies totally on pointing out which conventions are being used and how weird they always are but how we always accept them. I’m pretty sure most of this feature’s lampshade hangings were the result of improvisation on set. It gets a bit annoying at times, but overall, there’s a lot to commend about Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s script. Their writing is very self-aware and slyly subversive of the typical action movie plotlines and clichés. A love interest or romantic subplot is set up twice, just to be thrown out at the end. They have their own trademark elements of male bonding and a fight scene that isn’t scored that goes on for long enough to stop being funny. And then keeps going until it’s funny again.
Christoph Waltz is deliciously evil again as Chudnofsky, the man with a gun that has two barrels. His character’s quest to become more frightening throughout this movie is a winning subplot, to be sure, but I can’t help but wonder. This is an Academy Award winning actor, whom most of my friends agree should have won Best Leading Performance, not Supporting. Why is this the movie that was offered to him, when so many other high quality projects could use his expert touch? Is he already being typecast as a cartoonish caricature of villainy, thanks to his thick accent and breakout role? Really, Hollywood? That being said, I’d still like to see Mr. Waltz’s take on a Bond villain–if someone could hook that up for Bond 23, that’d be great.
It’s hard to write a thousand words about The Green Bee–what is there to say, really? It’s a good movie that you should go see because a sequel would likely be even better than this one. But at the same time, you have to wonder where a sequel could possibly go from this premise. Not because this movie sets a bad precedent, but merely because it sets an average one. Will it take the follow the leader route and try to emulate The Dark Knight Begins and The Dark Knight Falls and The Dark Knight Rises in trilogy structure? Does it have any memorable, indelible villains to portray on screen? Indeed, apart from Green Hornet and Kato, who are the recognizable characters from this franchise?
This movie does a lot of things I hate better than I expected it to. It’s certainly a step above the competition in post-converted 3D, managing to look good and not feel gimmicky. Despite its post-production orange-and-teal overdose, it comes out looking fairly solid. Its lens flares are present, but not obnoxious. Camera tricks for no reason don’t distract from the feature. But after all that, is The Green Hornet anything but enjoyable? I still want that sequel. Just open it with Flight of the Bumblebee, please. THREE STARS