Just in time for the Diamond Anniversary of the character’s first radio show broadcast:
A review of the new Green Hornet film.
I haven’t been this confused by a movie in a long time. Not confused by what happened in it, as the plot has all the complexity of shampoo instructions, but confused about how I felt.
I liked, it, I liked it a great deal. It was very funny, and had over the top, exciting action scenes, causing me to cheer out loud repeatedly.
However, I feel like I should have hated it.
Granted, I have mellowed with age. My sister tells me I needed to be forcibly restrained in my seat during many scenes in Batman Returns. (The memory is a little hazy for me, but subsequent viewings have confirmed that action was justified.) More recently, though, in Batman Begins, I greeted the unquestionably wrong line of, “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you,” with a disgusted, “NO!” loud enough to be heard throughout the theater…but I remained in my seat.
So I have gotten much better at accepting the idea that, “Different isn’t always wrong.” Still there were many things in this treatment of the noble family line of the Lone Ranger that should have registered to me as “WRONG”.
As the movie’s first couple of minutes flooded with waves of PG-13 profanity, my second thought (Following, “Boy am I glad my daughter didn’t want to see this!”) was preparation for the spewing of nerd rage over the desecration of a 75 year old superhero.
Most of my confusion came from the fact that the advertising makes it look like a standard superhero film with comedy. The misdirection doesn’t stop with the ads though. The movie itself appears to follow many of the standards of films where the guy pretending to be the hero ends up evolving into one.
We all know the drill: Ned Neiderlander IS that fast. Dr. Lazarus MEANS “By Grapthar's hammer, by the sons of Worfin, you shall be avenged.” Po is THE big fat panda. Yet Britt Reid starts out as a spoiled buffoon, and every moment they set up to demonstrate that he has become a hero falls flat and he’s still pretty much the same buffoon.
Anyone standing next to Bruce Lee would look less heroic, which probably led to the idea that Kato does all the heavy lifting in the partnership. This film takes that to the extreme, where Kato is not only Kung Fu master and driver, but also the genius behind all the weapons and gadgets. Britt wanders through most of the film with occasional insights, but definitely the inferior partner. Packed in and around the standards of a superhero comedy, once it was obvious Britt wasn’t going to change, I was expecting Kato to emerge as the hero. That didn’t really happen either. Kato performs all manner of wild feats, but is basically unmotivated and for the most part requires Britt to push him into using all his abilities by coming up with multiple crazy plans, very few of which actually work.
At the climax, they throw in a near perfect homage to the show opening. In a normal superhero comedy, this is the point where the audience realizes, “Ah-ha! Now he has become the hero he was pretending to be.” But, again, he didn’t, he’s still pretending.
I think that’s one key to why I liked this film (that played slightly differently would have sent me into babbling fits of geek anger.) This isn’t a superhero film. It’s an 80’s buddy action flick pretending to be a superhero film, about guys pretending to be superheroes. This gets driven home forcefully as the violence the superheroes dish out escalates to entertainingly brutal (if unsuperheroic) levels as the action grows.
The pretending doesn’t end with the Hornet and Kato. The villain starts as a typical action film bad guy, with all the typical action film rivals, underlings, and corrupt allies. However, due to the Hornet’s rise in the media (and his own entertaining mid life crisis), he tries to reinvent himself as a Super Villain to oppose them. It provides a goofy, yet interesting, look at the idea suggested in many Batman tales: it’s the presence of the hero that is creating the super villains.
That would be the other key to why I enjoyed Green Hornet. From a twisted perspective (which I can summon pretty easily), this is probably the most realistic Super Hero movie ever made. The reason: Only a completely immature buffoon would think that the best way to solve society’s problems would be to put on a costume and go beat up bad guys. They continue to pretend through the movie, but because of the realistic take (weapons are lethal, secret identities are hard to protect, martial arts masters can be outnumbered.) they never move past pretending. I was so busy waiting for the “he’s really the Green Hornet” moment; I missed the character’s maturing moments. Throughout the film he learns to use his flashes of insight utilize the gifts of others, culminated in his realizing he can do much more for society by running the Daily Sentinel properly than by playing super hero. He spends the whole film pretending to be Superman, but he matures into Clark Kent.
Of course he’ll continue to pretend to be the Green Hornet, because idiot, explosion filled comedies tend to make more money than serious newspaper dramas…God Bless America.