For a while I've promised myself that I would start writing about comics again this year. This means not only reading more new comics but also posting my old articles for another website so they don't become lost forever.
The first thing I ever did for the site was a review of a movie based on a comic property. The irony of this didn't escape me even then. In fact it was a shade of things to come given how comic websites and podcasts seem to focus more and more on movies and less on the comics they purport to love.
When The Green Hornet came out in 2011, I watched with a friend in an old Salem movie theater. The Marvel and DC cinematic universes were just starting and mis-starting respectively, and while I enjoyed many of these movies, I was irritated by how seriously the Nolan Batman movies were taking themselves. from this perspective, The fabulously silly Green Hornet was a welcome relief.
I accept that I am in all likelihood the sole holder of this opinion.
One last disclaimer: I saw no previews of this film, and I'm not lying when I say I had no idea who Seth Rogen was at the time (seven now I see very few mainstream movies per year). I truly went into this deprived of any information aside from what I viewed.
Here's the article. Originally published on January 31, 2011. Slightly edited from it's original publication for clarification. My embarrassing enthusiasm has been preserved as much as possible.
One of the reasons I joined this review team is that I wanted to subject myself to things I hadn’t seen before and may even be reluctant to. I’m now ashamed to write that I’ve never seen anything by or starring Seth Rogen (I had no TV to watch “Freaks and Geeks,” and The 40 Year-Old Virgin has a title that hits comics fans right in the crotch, sight unseen). I clearly have regrets as well as newfound respect for Rogen, who co-wrote the script and played the lead role of Brit Ried.
I want to call the film brilliant, which surprises me given how much the phrase “balls deep” is uttered throughout the film. I guess I’m starting off the spoilers early, but suffice to say, this is not a movie I’d recommend my parent friends take their kids too. It is one movie I’ll bring over while their kids are asleep so I can share the laughs.
This movie seems subversive to me. As someone who didn’t know Rogen’s body of work, I expected to see something typical of superhero movies that have to set up the hero’s origin.
The beginning with the routine character-defining moment (future Green Hornet Reid’s childhood altercation with his father) seemed to set the pace early, but after the first 20 or so minutes, the movie started messing with my head. And the heads of most of the audience who brought their kids into this small Gloucester theater, presumably ignorant of Rogan and lulled in by the superhero fare (Mommy, what does “balls deep” mean?).
Anyway, Reid’s father dies and he and his father’s former genius employee Kato (played by Jay Chou) go out on to perform vandalism, not knowing it’s their first time as crimefighers posing as criminals. Reid plays "Gangsta's Paradise,” starts rapping to it, and just as I’m wondering if this movie is going to get “serious” or go full out comedy, Kato, who could have given him a look or said something to break the silliness, starts singing along (“Tell me whyyyyy are weeeee…”) and since Chou is a Japanese pop singer, it’s not only straight faced, but right in tune, adding to the hilarity. The two friends continue the sing along, and I was almost off my chair.
Ohhh, I finally realized. It’s a comedy! And using an already established licensed character. A character that, in the words of Kevin Smith, “was Batman before there was a Batman.” Blasphemy!
Granted, it’s a character that, by and large, no one gives a crap about, no matter how long Smith wanted to do an inaction movie himself or how many Green Hornet comics he writes.
This movie is another example of Hollywood resurrecting recognizable trademarks to bring in viewers, but come on, it’s The Green Hornet. Does this even count? Still, Rogen and company play a nice twist on the playboy as hero character by making him a complete doofus with no knowledge of the world he inherits from his moneymaking newspaper mogul father (more farfetched than anything else in the movie, but the character in the 20’s was originally in publishing, so go with it). From his lecherous past to his crime fighting career, he takes to it like an overgrown child throughout most of the movie, not really growing past that. And that’s a good thing.
At one point towards the film’s end, the Hornet looks like has his hero moment before tripping up at the last part, making my friend whisper, Good, I didn’t want him getting competent all of a sudden. She was right. The Hornet’s good-intentioned incompetence actually helps his relationship with Kano work throughout the movie. Kato is the mechanical genius making everything happen, but Hornet is the crazy idea man in over his head from the minute he sits up in bed. Hornet gives Kato direction while Kato keeps Hornet alive.
Rogan and Chou by themselves have a chemistry that carries the movie far more than the conflict with the admittedly funny midlife crisis villain Chudnofsky (played by Christoph Waltz) or even the love interest they fight over in the form of Reid’s secretary (Cameron Diaz), who Reid actually asks why she’s perusing a career in journalism in her “twilight years.” Rogen plays a character only pseudo-likable. You want to hug him and punch him at the same time, and both does happen in the course of this story.
At one point I asked myself, What’s next? Will Ferrell as Batman? as Rogan himself seemed very Ferrellesque in his outbursts and his baby face almost bursting through the mask. I saw the movie a week ago, and I now want Will Ferrell as Batman. It will never happen, but maybe if both comics and Warner fall into the same well of obscurity as the radio dramas that birthed the original Green Hornet, maybe I’ll be 70 and seeing Ferrell’s grandson adopt the role as Dark Knight. I can dream.