Green Hornet (2011) should have been about Kato and Lenore

I watched this movie totally ready to have fun and enjoy it.

I grew up with a collection of comics from my older sibs, just another of the many good things about being at least a decade younger than them. Those comics were part of what convinced me to read. Among that collection were a few Green Hornet comics, and I loved them. The comic collection wasn’t especially organized, and little-me hunted through them repeatedly for more Green Hornet, overjoyed every time I found another. I don’t have strong memories of what those Green Hornet comics were about, but the imagery—and my enthusiasm—stuck with me.

I was excited every time I heard of, or thought about, 2011’s Green Hornet movie. That excitement changed, waned as years went by without me watching it or hearing anything about it, but some of it remained.

My excitement for this movie didn’t last through the movie’s middle.

Honestly, I almost paused it and stopped watching. The only reason I didn’t was because I am some mixture of stubborn and slow; I took too long to decide whether I’d ditch the movie, and I wanted to see whether it would save itself. As you might have guessed by now, it didn’t really manage the trick.

That’s a damn shame, because with the cast this movie had it could have been truly awesome. It wasn’t. Not even having Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos, Christoph Waltz, Tom Wilkinson, and David Harbour as support could manage to rescue this.

Honestly, I think it’s because I never came to like Seth Rogen’s Britt Reid (the eponymous Green Hornet), and because I never felt like Jay Chou’s Kato was allowed to be more than a caricature.

Rogen’s Reid starts off with few redeeming qualities beyond the desire (at some deep-seated childhood level) to be a hero and help others. But over the course of the movie, he never really resolves any of the things that I didn’t like about him. A wannabe Don Juan and endless flirt who won’t take no for an answer is a pretty hard sell, especially when there’s basically no heroic transformation. He’s like a worse version of Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man.

All of which means that the person who’s supposedly at the center of the story was consistently infantile and awful, and never discovered his redeeming qualities. I started the movie thinking that I’d be able to enjoy watching him become a better person—he’s an ass at the start—but the few ways in which he changes were insufficient to improve my opinion of him and didn’t feel like they carried the narrative or emotional weight I’d want to see to make him actually sympathetic—he’s still an ass at the end, and not in a “shucks I guess that’s cute” way.

I think the joke here is supposed to be that Kato is the real hero. And I get that. It’s obviously true. But while the movie winks and nods at this, it never *does* much of anything with it. Worse, the time and space given to Jay Chou’s Kato, the narrative room for him to be more than a quirky cardboard cutout, is insufficient. The few times that we can see deeper into Kato’s life, or his experiences, he’s cut whole cloth from the background of a perfect Golden Age comic book hero: orphaned, grew up fending for himself, autodidact and genius polymath. But he’s so perfectly stuck in Green Hornet’s shadow that not even a movie that’s hinting at and pointing at these things is willing to give him room to grow. It’s painful, really. And it makes me wonder just how bad the comics I read and loved as a kid were.

Honestly, Cameron Diaz’s Lenore Case isn’t in a much better situation. Never mind the fact that she winds up as the brains of the Green Hornet (thank goodness, because Britt Reid seems to have none); she’s forced to constantly fend off or suffer under Britt’s harassment without him suffering any repercussion. Which, like, okay—sure maybe this movie is doing realism now, but DAMN, if I’m going to watch something that is already divorced from reality does it have to keep that?

Which brings me to the writing and directing credits for the movie. Michel Gondry directed (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, Be Kind Rewind), and Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg have writing credits. Movies aren’t made by only three people, so presumably there were other folks involved. Maybe studio execs had a hand in it. I don’t honestly care. They made a very run-of-the-mill movie that doesn’t stand up well to the passage of time.

Someone decided that this was what they were going to ship. I honestly feel kind of sorry for them. Looking at this movie in the context of 2011 films, I guess I can understand why they might think it was fine… but it wasn’t anything more than that. And while my childhood love of Green Hornet is still somewhere inside me, it’s not thanks to this movie.

Watch it for dumb shit, I guess, maybe while in an altered state. Maybe Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg thought they were making another Superbad / Pineapple Express? I don’t know. All I know is that that isn’t what I wanted from a Green Hornet movie. I can’t really recommend this movie. Just watch The Old Guard again instead.

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