Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Green Hornet: Does It Have Any Sting?

In the last decade, there have been a slew of comic book movies, a practice that has seen a significant increase in quality. With movies such as Spiderman 2, The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and Watchmen, it appears that the comic book movie is here to stay, at least for now. The Green Hornet, on the other hand, was actually based on a radio series that ran from 1939-1950, including a brief return in the closing months of 1952. While the series can still be heard on the radio today, I will admit that I have not heard a single episode. Because of this, this review is based on the movie itself and whether or not it holds as such.

Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is a 28-year old slacker son of James Reid (Tom Wilkinson), who runs the newspaper The Sentinel. They don't have a good relationship, but that all changes for Britt after his father dies from an allergy to bee sting and he must take over running the paper. The day after the funeral, Britt gets to know Kato (Jay Chou), who worked as James' mechanic and who is a skilled martial artist. When Kato shows Britt the modifications he made to James' car, the Black Beauty, the two of them get drunk and saw the head off a statue of James. Britt witnesses a gang attacking a couple and the two of them end up rescuing them. After a frantic chase from the police, Britt realized he had fun saving people and convinces Kato that they should fight crime together. Kato accepts his proposal and they begin to protect the law by breaking it.

With this in mind, the story was a lot better than I expected, as it was more serious than the ads made it out to be. While it wasn't the best plot I had ever seen in a superhero movie, it was still pretty solid, mixing plenty of action sequences with a couple of lighthearted comedic moments. Thankfully, the comedy is conservatively peppered into the dialogue, which I think allowed the movie to be more serious and work in its favor. It was fun to watch and see what would happen next, even though it was easy to figure out what would generally happen in the plot.

The acting wasn't the best I had ever witnessed, but the characters were pulled off surprisingly well. The villain, Benjamin Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) was fun to watch, as he tried to look tough, but you could tell he was a little insecure about his criminal power, especially during his transition to calling himself "Bloodnofsky." Britt's secretary, Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), didn't have as much depth as other characters, but she was still okay to observe. She mostly provides research on the Green Hornet since she has a degree in criminology, but it seemed a little odd that she wasn't seen as much as she could have. Most of the development in the movie is saved for Britt and Kato, who were pretty enjoyable characters. You could see how Britt goes from being a total slacker to a man of action, even acting like his father towards Kato later on. Kato has to deal with Britt's behavior, but it was interesting to see how he was able to put up with him, even continuing to help him when their friendship becomes razor thin. I'm not sure whether this cast was the best for the movie, but they were pretty enjoyable for what it turned out to be.

A good majority of the movie is action scenes, as probably expected from a superhero movie, and it was cool to watch. The special effects tied to the weaponry were very believable for the universe that was established and was pretty top notch by itself. The most fun I had was watching how much punishment the Black Beauty could possibly take before they even considered abandoning it in the climax. During the combat scenes with the characters, Kato takes center stage, showing off his martial arts skills combined with a sense of time slowing down when his heart is racing. His ability to detect every single weapon in view is visualized by targeting them in red. This was a neat effect and, as a gamer, reminded me of the V.A.T.S. targeting system from the Fallout series. There is also a sequence I particularly liked where the screen would continue to split as different criminals interacted with each other and split off to commit murder. While the action in the individual boxes was eventually difficult see, I was blown away by the fact that the timing of it was possible.

As for the music in the movie, most of it is licensed music. While not unexpected from a movie today, the choices they made were balanced and had appropriate placement and timing. It worked for the atmosphere of the movie and could work as a good soundtrack.

While I wasn't particularly looking forward to this movie, I found myself enjoying it surprisingly well. Overall, it wasn't of the best superhero movies I had ever seen, but it was fairly decent and held up as a film on its own. Although the movie didn't seem like good sequel material, it held up enough that I feel like actually listening to the radio series in the future. If you are looking for a decent 2 hours of entertainment, you may want to check this out. For huge fans of superhero or comic book movies, you may want to consider seeing this at least once, if only to have something to talk about until Thor and Captain America come out in the summer.

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