This past weekend was just chock full of magical, whimsical women breaking studious, guarded men out of their cocoons. No, not SEX TAPE — I have no idea about how that plot plays out and, besides, that’s not genre. But otherwise, for all their divergent approaches to the material, both I ORIGINS and MOOD INDIGO incorporate the same base theme. After that, of course, anything goes: I ORIGINS continues director Mike Cahill’s ongoing exploration of humanity’s interconnectedness through the tale of a dedicated, eye-obsessed scientist (Mike Cahill) having his adherence to objective reasoning challenged by the mystical outlook of an exotic model (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) with equally exotic eyeballs; while MOOD INDIGO lets director Michel Gondry explore the artificiality of certain, idealized brands of French romance through the story of how the wacky life of an eccentric inventor (Romain Duris) is overthrown when the health of his wife (Audrey Tatou) is threatened.
Another way to distinguish these films: They aren’t equally successful in their goals. To find out how they fare, click on the player to hear my review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF.
I saw a film today that I had to watch on two levels.
If I were simply a film-goer who had no real idea about who the title character was, I saw an simple action comedy, an affectionate spoof of comic book heroes. It featured good, if ultimately cartoonishly absurd action sequences and a fairly decent 2-D to 3-D conversion. Consistently amusing, but never particularly funny, and pretty much devoid of any real wit or point. An aimless but fun popcorn movie, possibly appealing to an audience who may feel burned out by more serious-minded superhero films.
As an actual fan of the 75-year-old character of radio, comics, TV and film, I’m pretty much appalled. While it’s obvious the writers, star Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg know or researched a lot about The Green Hornet, this just doesn’t seem to be a Green Hornet movie. The premise seems more like: “How do we write a movie in which Seth Rogen plays a masked crime fighter?” Every choice in the film gives the appearance of servicing that concept.
Rogen’s Britt Reid isn’t a smooth playboy or thrill-seeking daredevil, he’s a kind of sad, petulant man-child trying to extend his frat-boy years into a continuing lifestyle, thanks to being the son of a rich newspaper publisher. Well, even that could be acceptable, if he finally becomes inspired to do something positive, if extreme with his life. The idea is toyed with, but you never really buy it, because he remains the same jackass and flop he always was throughout the film, only now with a literally unbelievably talented sidekick. And although Jay Chou does a good, if oddly tentative-feeling job as Kato, and every effort is made to show that he is a full partner—in fact the vital part of the team—Kato remains a sidekick. Despite his fighting prowess and technical expertise in just about everything, he also comes off as being a bit of a jerk sometimes.
That’s no insult, because everybody in the film is pretty much a jerk, no matter how smart or scary they’re supposed to be. Britt’s dad James Reid (Tom Wilkinson) is a charmless, insensitive agressive Type-A personality-hole. The villain Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) is an insecure, hypersensitive, charismaless schmuck, despite being a murderous sociopath who has somehow managed to become the major crime boss of L.A.
Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), who becomes Britt Reid’s secretary/researcher, supposedly with a degree in criminology, comes off as a little clueless. The D.A. Frank Scanlon (David Harbour) turns out to be a screw-up (and more). James Franco makes a cameo as a rival drug lord, who is also an loud-mouthed idiot.
The only character does not seem to be a major dip is Mike Axford, normally the comic relief in the Green Hornet universe. That’s probably because Edward James Olmos plays Axford (now the editor in chief of the Daily Sentinel) in a very low-key and bland style in the few scenes he’s actually in the film.
Michel Gondry does give the film a little visual flair, which helps give the movie some life. The 3-D works alright, though in the theater I attended some scenes and the end titles were noticably cut off on the sides, to the extent that some action, and certainly credits, were not completely visble on-screen.
The action is nicely staged, and works well at first, but the situations the heroes are placed in reach truly PINK-PANTHER levels of ludicrousness at times by the end of the film — without, I must repeat, ever actually managing to be laugh-out-loud funny. Maybe you’ll smile and snicker a bit.
The Black Beauty survives things that even a tank couldn’t bear up under. It’s used as a wall-crushing battering ram repeatedly. That is presented as The Hornet and Kato’s standard tactic in dealing with drug labs. It gets cut in half and is still drive-able. Seriously. If the word serious can be ascribed to anything the film.
The Green Hornet and Kato actually kill people in this film, accidentally and intentionally, which is very much against the original conception of the character. Makes the gas gun pretty much pointless. I’m surprised the Trendle family—still the owners—let that get by. Maybe the ups and downs of trying to get a movie made since at least the 1990’s wore them out.
All that aside, it’s hard to hate THE GREEN HORNET. It’s kind of like that guy at the party who’s trying really hard to be likeable and amusing, but winds up being loud and a little tiresome by the end of the night.
Like I said, I didn’t hate it. It’s passably amusing, and I don’t regret seeing it, even though I might really wish it hadn’t been made in this way. I sure don’t think it’s a good Green Hornet film. If Seth Rogen had played the Blue Wombat, I might have thought it was decent slacker/stoner action comedy.
If you don’t feel nostalgic about the character, and are looking for a little undemanding fun amongst the winter doldrums, you might well enjoy the movie.
THE GREEN HORNET (2011) Columbia Pictures
Starring Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Christoph Waltz, Cameron Diaz, Edward James Olmos, and David Harbor.
Directed by Michel Gondry, Produced by Neal H. Moritz , Written by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Based on The Green Hornet by
George W. Trendle and Fran Striker.
Music by James Newton Howard, Cinematography by John Schwartzman Editing by Michael Tronick.
A Studio Original Film, distributed by Columbia Pictures.
It’s all change, baby, and with that in mind we’re experimenting with the format of the podcast. We’ve stripped away the news and theatrical and homevid release segments, combining them with our weekly Post-Mortem bull session to form what will be called the Cinefantastique Round Table Podcast. What’s left, now dubbed the Cinefantastique Spotlight Podcast, will provide us with time to stretch out, unhinge our brains and mouths, and let the conversation about the week’s top release take us where it will.
And brudder, do we have a kick-off film for the new format. THE GREEN HORNET arrives in theaters with a clouded past that’s only been partially concealed by a late-in-the-game decision to convert it to 3D. Did the extra months give its creators — including director Michel Gondry and star/co-writer Seth Rogen — time enough to find the right balance between super-hero action and Apatow bro-comedy? Join Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons to find out.
Columbia Pictures releases this big-screen adaptation of the old radio character, previously seen in a short-lived television series around the same time as BATMAN. Seth Rogen plays millionaire playboy Britt Reid, who rouses himself from his drunken torpor after the mysterious death of his father, turning himself into the mysterious crime fighter posing as a criminal. Jay Chou is sidekick Kato. Cameron Diaz and Tom Wilkinson co-star for director Michel Gondry, working from a screenplay by Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg, based on the radio series by George W. Trendle. Release Date: January 14
Interviewed by the UK’s The Guardian, Michel Gondry, director of Sony/Columbia’s THE GREEN HORNET showed surprisingly thin skin for a professional regarding the Comic Con audience walking out on his poorly-received panel this summer.
“I usually identify with the nerds, but these ones just reinforce the social rules. Their values are fascistic. All those people marching around in capes and masks and boots. The superhero imagery is totally fascist!”
While there may arguably be an element of fascism in the superhero/vigilante concept, Gondry seems to be unaware of the actual meaning the word. Fascism refers to a movement that combines far right and far left ideologies, promoting an ultra-nationalistic, modern and mechanized semi-socialistic state organized around a corporate model. Generally, authority is vested in a strong leader who controls both civil and military forces.
In recent decades, it’s been used as a pejorative label by various people who think that anyone who disagrees or disapproves of something they’ve created or support is a bad person.
Enjoying superhero films that show respect for the traditional depictions of the characters is not a character flaw. On the other hand, using hyperbole that compares someone with a different, possibly somewhat conservative view of things to jackbooted thugs is, in my opinion a rather large character flaw… or at least a lapse in taste and judgement.
He goes on to say:
“When you step into this genre, they feel it belongs to them. They want you to conform, or they won’t like you. They want the conventional. But it’s fine. The movie’s been doing very well, I think, whenever we’ve screened it to normal people.”
From that statement, one must assume that Gondry feels superhero fans are not “normal people”.
Earlier in the interview, the director said:
“I don’t mock things, which makes me more vulnerable to mockery myself. If you’re cynical, you’re protected from mockery. But I have to be nice. I don’t think I have irony. A sense of humour, yes, but not irony.”
So he doesn’t mock people and he wants to be nice? Is Michel Gondry sure he has no sense of irony? (Which, in case you’ve forgotten, means saying the opposite of what you mean, for purposes of humor or sarcasm.) Irritation at his apparently contemptuous assessment of a potentially significant segment of THE GREEN HORNET’s audience aside, I truly hope that Gondry’s authentic talents as a director make the film worth viewing. Some of the action sequences look promising. Perhaps the action-comedy approach will work better in context than it seemed in the rather labored and juvenile gags showcased in the trailers.
Next year will mark The Green Hornet’s 75th Anniversary, and it would be nice if the film helped revive interest in the venerable character.
Sony/Columbia Pictures has starting running three TV commercials for THE GREEN HORNET, and has posted them on their youTube site.
The action-comedy is due in theatres in standard, 3D, and IMAX 3D formats on January 14th, 2011.
Directed by Michel Gondry, THE GREEN HORNET stars Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz, Edward James Olmos, and Tom Wilkinson. Check out the other two Ad clips at the link above.