The Green Hornet

28 02 2011

With superheroes such as Spiderman and Batman already having established themselves in a number of recent adaptations, Hollywood is increasingly turning towards lesser-known characters. Based on a 1930s radio series, The Green Hornet succeeds because it does not try to replicate the melodrama and intensity of other franchises, but rather provides a light-hearted variation of the classic superhero movie.

Seth Rogen plays Britt Reid, the spoiled heir to a prominent local newspaper. Although we only see one scene of Britt’s childhood, we are lead to believe that he had a relatively normal upbringing: there were no incidents involving radioactive spiders, toxic spills, or the violent deaths of family members. Similarly, the adult Britt is coasting carelessly through life until the sudden death of his father, which triggers a series of events which lead him to adopt the Green Hornet persona. Unlike other superhero movies, the only special powers that Britt has are his inflated ego and infinite cash flow.

As with many of Seth Rogen’s characters, it is difficult to distinguish the character from the actor. Nevertheless, in The Green Hornet, Rogen’s signature colloquialisms and happy-go-lucky approach (seen in such movies as Pineapple Express and the 40 Year Old Virgin) are well-suited to the character of Britt Reid.

Seth Rogen and Jay Chou star in The Green Hornet

Britt’s partner-in-heroism, Kato, is the polar opposite. While Britt is seemingly unskilled, Kato is a gifted mechanic, a martial arts master, and, (most importantly to Britt) a superb barista. The character is played by Jay Chou, a newcomer to Hollywood after having been successful as a musician in his native country of Taiwan. While the choice may seem odd, especially when we hear Chou stumble over certain English words and phrases, he gives the movie a unique touch and capably complements Rogen’s character.

Much of The Green Hornet’s plot is centered upon the relationship between Britt and Kato. Their attitudes towards each other change constantly throughout the movie as they compete for the title of hero and the attention of the love interest, Lenore (Cameron Diaz). While at first they are a dysfunctional pairing, they quickly form a brotherly bond that triumphs throughout the movie.

Like most of Rogen’s past works, The Green Hornet is funny. While it may not have as many laugh-out-loud moments as a pure comedy, there is a persistent feeling that the plot does not take itself too seriously. Even the villain, played by Tom Wilkinson of Inglourious Basterds, injects his own brand of humour into a serious role.

Above all, The Green Hornet entertains. Amidst all the explosions and jokes there is a surprisingly enjoyable take on the superhero genre. It is not a deep movie, and the audience may not remember much of the plot a year from now, but The Green Hornet works because it is not trying to be epic. It simply does its job, and works well with what it has.