In Defence Of… The Green Hornet

Welcome to the first in an ongoing series of articles entitled “In Defence Of…”. Each week one of the Hope Lies at 24 Frames Per Second team will speak up on behalf of a much maligned film, actor or director. This week, I’m taking a look at Michel Gondry’s The Green Hornet.

Away from the overwhelming negative reaction upon its theatrical release The Green Hornet is a surprisingly enjoyable piece of mainstream American cinema. As a devout anti-fan of star Seth Rogen I never imagined that I would have such a reaction to a film which looked, from the promotional material at least, to be little more than an ill-judged vehicle for a figure completely unsuitable for the role of a superhero. Likewise with the choice of director, Michel Gondry, who, upon being deemed as one of the great independent voices in mainstream cinema, appeared to be slumming it in a work that had been drawn together from ten years worth of studio to-ing and fro-ing, in turn producing a film barely recognisable from that particularly distinctive directors usual work.

I was wrong.

In a year thus far notable for some genuine terrible pieces of blockbuster “entertainment” it was with great surprise that The Green Hornet impressed. I found it to be hugely entertaining, genuinely funny and surprisingly inventive.

As mentioned above, as a fan of Michel Gondry I, like many, if the ill-tempered “Voice Of The Internet” is to be believed, couldn’t help but feel bitterly disappointed when he became attached the project, but fear not, for his mark can definitely be felt upon the film. An incredibly ambitious sequence involving the use of numberous split screens, each one diverted from the last is perhaps the most notable Gondry-ism, with the director perfecting the technique during the time he spent predominantly producing music videos in the 1990’s, with the promo for Cibo Matto ‘Sugar Water’ Gondry’s most notable use of split screen technique. Similarly, much of Gondry can be seen in the overt mechanical props littered throughout the film, and Britt Reid’s A Clockwork Orange inspired opening romp through his fathers garage.

As noted in my review of Matthew Vaughn’s Kick Ass last year, the current wave of superhero flicks rests upon one major laurel; the theme of escalation. This was addressed most explicitly in the closing moments of Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, with the notion that such was the relationship between good and bad, that they were forever intertwined, with each one matching the other in stakes as time progresses. The theme is addressed here too, and handled really nicely. While not hugely different to Vaughn’s film, the manner in which the rise of the super-villain is portrayed is genuinely effective, thanks to the logic that on-screen decisions are led by.

Similarly, the manner in which the very concept of the superhero sidekick is deconstructed is truly interesting. By exposing the politics and the psychological backbone of the superhero/sidekick dynamic, Gondry, Rogen and co-writer Evan Goldberg have introduced a genuinely original slant to a somewhat tired genre.

If you would like to contribute a piece on a film, an actor or director for a future “In Defence Of…” then please get in touch – adam@hopelies.com

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11 Comments

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  1. Good article – might tempt me to revisit the film. I found it entertaining enough, but disappointing given the directorial potential. I thought that the Green Hornet himself was a reprehensible person, and I found little with which to empathise in him. But then, I also suffer from I-find-Seth-Rogen-irritating-itis. It’s a real condition. Ask your local GP.

  2. Oh dear no – I cannot defend such a god awful film. I’m still annoyed that I sat through the entire thing hoping it would improve. Seth Rogen is actually watcheable (albeit bloody annoying) in some films but was totally mis-cast in this. And the key point in the film for me was when I realised I was more concerned for the car than the two leads. The best actor in the whole thing was killed off at the start and even Cameron Diaz fell totally flat.

    Bizarrely though I did start to think that had it been done with Jet Li, Scarlett Johansson and (not sure who could replace Rogen) it might have actually worked.

  3. There’s a lot to be said for how expectations play against or for one’s enjoyment of a film. I try not to say how amazingly brilliant x or y film is, because it inevitably leads to disappointment because expectations are waaaay too high.

  4. Great read but I have to strongly disagree, at the very least because it was just generally a bore.

  5. The humour was derivitive in places. Driving along to 2Gangster’s Paradise” invoked memories of Kick-Ass, together with the Green Hornet web site. The action saved this film, Kato-vision being a highlight. Overall, it was disappointing, a bit lazy, and irritiating. Could have been much better.

    • Dare I say it, but I actually found the Gangster’s Paradise scene quite charming… It wasn’t nearly as cringeworthy as the similar scene in Kick-Ass. Speaking of which, I’m sure those similarities are nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence, I presume GH was well in to production by the time Kick-Ass was released.

  6. No mention of Diaz and rightfully so. I can’t recall an ‘A-lister’ (if she still really qualifies) used so lightly in such a mainstream film. Can’t say I was a fan of the film at all Adam, and I went in with pretty low expectations, like yourself. Also a total waste of Christopher Waltz. Jay Chou was probably the only positive thing to come out of it.

    • I have to agree about Diaz, and I felt really uneasy about the way they shoehorned her in to the “grand plan” towards the end; it was almost as if they realised that they had a major star in the film with absolutely nothing to do. I expected Waltz’s appearance to be awkward and hackneyed, fearing that Hollywood had sent him to the stereotypical waste-ground of bad guys that non-American actors usually find themselves stuck in. Imagine my surprise to discover that I actually really liked his performance! As I mentioned in the article, the theme of “escalation” was handled really nicely, largely thanks to Waltz.

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