By Don Simpson | January 14, 2011
Director: Michel Gondry
Writer(s): Seth Rogen (written by), Evan Goldberg (written by), George W. Trendle (radio series “The Green Hornet”)
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Tom Wilkinson, Christoph Waltz
And from one Dr. Frankenstein creature (The Dilemma) to the next… Well, actually, The Green Hornet is less of a hobbled together monster and more of a mash-up of different styles and interests…
Admittedly, from the moment I heard that Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) would be directing Seth Rogen in The Green Hornet I had my doubts, but I also had my doubts about Gondry working with Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and that odd collaboration turned out quite well. The difference here, however, is that The Green Hornet is co-written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (Pineapple Express, Superbad) while Eternal Sunshine is co-written by Gondry and Charlie Kaufman. In fact, Gondry has a writing credit on every one of his films except The Green Hornet; for me, that right there is the factor that reduced The Green Hornet from a fantastic film to a fun film.
While The Green Hornet reveals a few brief Gondry-esque flourishes, for the most part it could have been directed by anyone. So the question I ask is why does a studio hire someone with such a unique directorial style as Gondry if you are not going to allow them to use that style? Okay, I should take a step back because that last statement includes an assumption on my part. Maybe Gondry actually entered into this project knowing full well that he was going to have to approach this film differently than his past films? Maybe he was okay with that? Maybe he figured out that his goofy lo-fi aesthetic would not translate well to the world of 3D? Needless to say, I am not entirely okay with that. Gondry is one of my favorite directors working today. I like him for his unbridled creativity in developing stories and his quirky visual aesthetic — neither of which is present in The Green Hornet. While I enjoyed the little visual flourishes that he does sprinkle here and there, Gondry did not do anything special with his direction of The Green Hornet. I left the theater quite bummed that The Green Hornet did not possess what I have grown to admire and expect of a Gondry film.
And now that you all probably assume that I hate The Green Hornet, I am going to flip the tables! While the The Green Hornet pales in comparison to every other Gondry film, it is probably my favorite Seth Rogen film (or it at least ties with Pineapple Express). Judging from Pineapple Express and The Green Hornet, Rogen has a real knack for writing dialogue for his own characters, and that right there is the key to The Green Hornet. Oh yeah, and Jay Chou is perfectly cast as Green Hornet’s (Rogen) sidekick Kato and Christoph Waltz is humorous as the evil Chudnofsky. (I cannot say the same for Cameron Diaz whose character Lenore seems incredibly underwritten and underdeveloped.)
The Green Hornet is very slowly paced for a superhero film. To call The Green Hornet an anti-superhero film would not be too far off, though my only hesitation to formally making that claim is that the critiquing (or the deconstructing) appears to pause whenever there is action (which is impeccably choreographed and staged) and violence (which is so fueled by testosterone). I actually noticed a lot of similarities with Kick-Ass, especially in the non-traditional approach to the superhero genre, but comparatively the violence in The Green Hornet is toned down quite a bit.
For the most part, though, The Green Hornet is a character-driven talkie. And there is a lot of talking. A lot of talking, mostly by Rogen whose character Britt Reid suffers from verbal diarrhea — entertaining and occasionally brilliant diarrhea, but diarrhea nonetheless.
As for the 3D projection, well… it works fine for some of the action scenes but (and I realize that I am repeating myself) The Green Hornet contains a lot more conversation than action, and though Rogen is clearly taking his dialogue to another level, the 3D projection does absolutely nothing to aid him with that quest.