The Green Hornet is not a very good movie. Although, save one approximately fifteen minute stretch where Seth Rogen, playing the title character, devolves into horrific, appalling stupidity, it avoids being truly bad. Its problems are largely with Rogen, who is a very talented comic actor who I usually enjoy greatly, but who should not write for himself (he co-scripted with Evan Goldberg, his collaborator on the similarly uneven and frustrating Pineapple Express).
Where The Green Hornet is at its best is in the way Rogen’s Britt Reid interacts with Jay Chou’s Kato; due to political correctness, Kato is now less Reid’s manservant and more of his bro. Their first handful of scenes, where the two get drunk and mourn Reid’s deceased father (Tom Wilkinson), seem almost improvised. This has always been Rogen’s greatest strength: scenes displaying the rapport shared by young men of similar interests.
The movie has a number of compellingly weird touches, such as Christoph Waltz’s villain being largely motivated by intensely neurotic insecurity rather than the standard-issue megalomania, and the fact that, Kato’s genius at gadget-making and dazzling martial-arts ability, neither he nor the Green Hornet have the slightest idea what they’re doing. Sometimes these touches work, sometimes they don’t, just like the movie is only intermittently successful.
It’s a little disappointing that Michel Gondry directed this picture. As a visual stylist, Gondry is entirely singular: there has never been another like him, there is no one like him, and there will never be another. His music videos represent a high point in the entire history of the form. His features have been largely inconsistent, with Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind being the only unqualified classic, but all have been recognizably his, on a visual level. The Green Hornet is not, even in the handful of “Kato-vision” sequences in which Kato sizes up and, with blinding speed, defeats multiple opponents (which recall a similar trope in Jet Li’s Romeo Must Die, a movie almost ten years old). Aside from a light, whimsical tone which seems largely derived from Rogen and Goldberg’s script, there is very little Michel Gondry in The Green Hornet, which is really too bad.
The worst thing, though, is the horrible post-production conversion to 3D, which actually delayed The Green Hornet’s release date by months, and makes me wonder, with shocked horror, just how bad the 3D looked back last fall, because my God. It looks dreadful. If the projection hadn’t had to be so dark for the stupid 3D, it might have been possible to see whether the action scenes actually were as mediocre as they looked. I’ll leave it at that, because if I go on any longer I’ll start calling for Los Angeles to be nuked from orbit so we can reconstitute a new movie industry without this insane compulsion to convert every movie to 3D when it always looks terrible.
Despite all of these complaints, The Green Hornet still has some entertainment to offer, but it can wait until DVD, if only because one has control over the brightness settings on one’s own TV, and can fast-forward through some of Seth Rogen’s more unfortunate scenes. There have been better superhero movies, and there have been worse, which is, regrettably, the faint praise with which this movie must be damned.