The Green Hornet [Blu-Ray] Michel Gondry

The Green Hornet [Blu-Ray] Michel Gondry
Nobody remembers the Green Hornet from the '60s TV show. Unlike Burt Ward's Robin, who only existed for Batman to deliver exposition to, Kato drove and repaired the Black Beauty, invented weapons and used his martial arts abilities to wipe out more anonymous henchmen than the titular superhero ever could. Popular legend has it that The Green Hornet played on Hong Kong TV as The Kato Show, and a British DVD release of the show omits the Hornet from the cover art entirely, with just a large picture of Kato (who, incidentally, happened to be played by some guy called Bruce Lee). Why, then, was Kato a sidekick and not a full-fledged partner? Because he was Asian, of course, and the biggest strength of Michel Gondry's The Green Hornet is how close it comes to suggesting the hero/sidekick dichotomy in this franchise's various incarnations is arbitrary, based only on white male privilege. The biggest frustration is that it ultimately chickens out from its radical premise. Owing more to Batman Begins and other origin-story superhero films than the Hornet's ancient radio and TV incarnations, The Green Hornet follows the standard template of a selfish millionaire heir (in this case, Britt Reid, played by Seth Rogen) finding redemption through crime fighting, except in this case, Rogen's Reid never actually becomes a better man. Kato (Jay Chou), prized servant of Reid's newspaper mogul father (Tom Wilkinson), creates all the team's inventions, fights most of the bad guys and unlike the ostensible hero, actually lands a date with the leading lady (Cameron Diaz), who regards Reid with contempt. Reid himself is a terrible, selfish blowhard who leaves all the work to Kato, sexually harasses Diaz and asserts his rich, white dominance whenever Kato gains any power. The film spends so much time heading to a moment when Kato will overtake Reid that it's really disappointing when it never arrives, with Kato happily reverting back to his sidekick position in the final half-hour. There's plenty to like about The Green Hornet, particularly Rogen and Chou's easygoing chemistry, and Michel Gondry's visual whimsy, not just in the neato time-and-space-altering Kato fight scenes and gadgets, but also the comic book colour scheme (everyone wears striking colour combinations, like Kato's red sweater and black leather vest). But Rogen and Evan Goldberg's screenplay is lumpy and digressive, taking too long to get to the central Kato/Reid relationship, distracting itself with a non-starter subplot about Christoph Waltz's villain with an inferiority-complex, and allowing way too many scenes for Rogen to do shtick (119 minutes is a long time to hear his voice non-stop). The Green Hornet is agreeably entertaining, but it doesn't take its premise far enough to be either the cracked classic or the train wreck that a Gondry/Rogen Hornet film would suggest. Referring to original director Stephen Chow in The New York Times, Rogen said, "Stephen wanted Kato to implant a microchip in Britt's brain and control him with a joystick. Maybe they're doing that in China and I'm not aware of it. I don't read the newspapers as much as I should." Since the first two-thirds of Rogen's script are so merciless towards Reid, why wouldn't he have allowed Chow to follow the Reid/Kato dynamic to its logical conclusion? Could the answer be simply that Rogen is the movie's white, male, A-list star? The best of the Blu-Ray extras is a jovial commentary by Rogen, Gondry, Golberg and producer Neal Moritz, who are reasonably candid discussing, among other things, Christoph Waltz (who did not warm to Rogen's improvisations) and Nicolas Cage, originally cast as the villain, but who insisted on doing the role with a Jamaican accent. Other extras include documentaries and deleted scenes. (Sony)