“The Green Hornet” blends the playful visual style of director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”), with the humor of writers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (“Superbad”). You might think the combination of these creative forces would be a recipe for success however the end result is rather lackluster. There are some cool 3-D fight scenes in “The Green Hornet,” which are largely marred by unintelligent jokes.
Rogen and Goldberg adapt The Green Hornet superhero made popular by a 1960s television series and a 1930s radio series created by George W. Trendle. According to their yarn, Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the rebellious son of a newspaper magnate James Reid (Tom Wilkinson). The younger Reid spends his days partying all night and sleeping all day much to his father’s disapproval. When his father is found dead, he reassesses the error of his ways.
The lonely Reid befriends his father’s auto mechanic Kato (Jay Chou), who proves to be quite mysterious. Not only is Kato a specialist in armoring cars, but he’s a martial arts expert as well. While the two are out one night, they come upon a couple being assaulted by robbers, so they impulsively intervene to take out the crooks. Since beating up the bad guys gives them such a high, Britt makes the bold suggestion that they become full time heroes.
Britt asserts though that they will be different from other heroes, because they will pretend to be bad guys so that they can get closer to the real villains. The duo takes to the streets, snuffing bad guys and pissing off the cops, while Britt uses his paper to stir up publicity on the masked criminal they dub The Green Hornet. Needless to say the local crime lord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) does not take kindly to competition and plots to destroy The Green Hornet.
Michel Gondry creates his own entertaining version of bullet time fighting when he captures Kato’s martial arts skills. Time slows down as Kato assesses enemies with a robot like precision. These sequences are exciting to watch because they are well choreographed and make effective use of 3-D to show depth. When bad guys are kicked around, you can see shock waves form around them as they are propelled backward.
Flashy visuals in “The Green Hornet” are spoiled by the weakness of the dialogue though. Despite Rogen and Goldberg’s experience with snappy exchanges in “Superbad,” the conversation in the movie feels dumbed down. One clear example of this is in the scene where Britt tells Kato their strategy, “We could be heroes! We will pose as villains to get close to the bad guys. That way, no one will suspect we're really the good guys.” Uninspired words like these make the jokes fall flat in the film.
Weak writing spills over into the characters as well in “The Green Hornet.” Brilliant actors like Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz, and Edward James Olmos fail to make a serious impact on the film because the script gives them little to work with. Christoph Waltz, for instance, was amazing as the bad guy in Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds,” but his insecure villain Chudnofsky in this film is mostly cardboard cutout.
Use of 3-D in “The Green Hornet” can be quite effective during the fight scenes and some of the action sequences involving explosions and gunfire. Thankfully it is neither offensive to the eyes or headache inducing like some other films in the medium. It still looks crappy and gimmicky in the day to day shots of characters walking around offices or hanging around in their home, proving that there is still room for improvement in its implementation.
Fans of the superhero The Green Hornet will be relieved that this is not an offensive adaptation to their beloved character. They will even chuckle at the occasional nods to the television series. Those not familiar with the hero will enjoy the 3-D fighting, but will probably be let down by the lack of quality humor of the film.