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The For Real ‘The Green Hornet’ Trailer Raises Reasonable Fan Concerns

Last night, the official trailer for the new “The Green Hornet” film was released and this old Hornet fan finds himself thinking: ” … really?”

For a long time “The Green Hornet’ film production read like a list of recasts and delays. Plans were made in the ’90s, then dropped. In 2004, Kevin Smith was set to direct and script the film, only to announce he was no longer a part of it two years later. Then Stephen Chow was slated to direct the film and play the Hornet’s valet Kato, only to later leave the project due to scheduling conflicts and his desire to make the film a comedy with Jack Black as the possible lead role. Since then, the film has been re-casted and rescheduled a couple of times. Finally, it was locked down with director Michael Gondry (whose last film was “Be Kind, Rewind”) and starring Seth Rogen and Jay Chou as the Green Hornet and Kato, respectively. It was going to come out this summer, but then got pushed to December and then got pushed again to January 2011 because it was decided it should be in 3D.

Now before we go on, some background. In 1936, the Green Hornet was introduced in his radio series as Britt Reid, publisher of a newspaper called The Daily Sentinel. Frustrated with mobsters and corrupt politicians blocking his newspaper from exposing certain crimes, Britt decided to step outside the law. As the Green Hornet, he pretended to be a vicious gangster, infiltrating mobs in order to learn more about their network so he could feed this information to his own reporters. When the time was right, he’d sabotage the criminals he was working with or would leave damning evidence with the police. Aiding him in this was his valet Kato, who donned a mask and used his incredible martial arts skills to act as the Hornet’s nameless enforcer. The two rode around in a buzzing car called the Black Beauty and they used customized weapons (such as gas-guns) that Kato himself created.

The Green Hornet was hero not like others of his day, doing his best to be feared as a criminal even by those he was trying to help. At times, he would take credit for the crimes of others and once, in the original radio series, he deliberately planted evidence on a suicide victim so that people would think he had murdered the dead man. All of this was to ingratiate himself towards the same criminals he would later take down. He was cunning and slick, emphasized by the fact that he walked around not in a costume but in a tailored green suit and matching fedora. He was also unique in that he was a legacy hero, which had never been done before in the genre of masked crime-fighters. You see, Britt Reid was the grandnephew of John Reid, the Lone Ranger.

The Green Hornet’s had a long history in the decades since then and has been featured in various media. If you’re curious about more info on that or want to see the evolution of his costume and fashion over the years, check out my latest Agent of S.T.Y.L.E. column.

But back on the topic, this new movie is supposed to be a modern-day take on things. In this film, Britt Reid is a spoiled playboy who later rethinks his life after the death of his father. Deciding that he should directly fight the same criminals his father’s newspaper tried to expose, he recruits Kato and becomes the Green Hornet. Okay. Not a bad story. Seems to keep the same beats. It also, perhaps not coincidentally, bears a strong resemblance to the premise of Kevin Smith’s current Green Hornet comic book series. So knowing all of this, I decided to keep an open mind about the new movie. Then this trailer came …

… seriously? After we’ve seen how successful superhero movies can be when the director takes the source material seriously, after critical achievements such “Iron Man”, “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”, we’re taking a character who predates Superman and making him campy? How does this incarnation of the Hornet expect any criminals or gangsters to welcome him into their fold if he’s firing twin machine guns down the street and blowing up street lights on a whim? And do you realize how many innocent bystanders could be killed? Even if those turn out to be rubber bullets, this character obviously doesn’t care about the lives of the police he’s secretly trying to help if he’s sending their squad cars crashing through the street. This film seems to treat its action like a Frank Miller film or a Tom and Jerry cartoon. That works for “Sin City.” It works wonderfully for characters like Deadpool. But it’s not for the Hornet.

And why do you need to shoot a traffic camera if your license plate is a fake one that just says “Hornet?” Are you really that afraid of a ticket?

I’m not against comedic elements and I’m not anti-banter. On the contrary, I love it. I love when Buffy calls out Giles for being old, I love when Alfred and Bruce Wayne exchange dry insults, I love Tony Stark yelling at a robot with a fire extinguisher and I love seeing in this trailer that Britt and Kato can obviously have a beer and trash talk a little. That’s cool. But there’s a difference between giving the Hornet humor and making him a joke. What idiot points a gun of ANY kind at their own face? What if that had been Kato’s experimental acid-shooting water pistol? We all learn a basic rule of life from Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck before we reach the age of 10: guns pointed at your face always result in something bad and painful. If the hero I’m supposed to be rooting for doesn’t know that fact, I think we’re better off without him.

I’m not blaming Seth Rogen for this, he didn’t direct the film. And I think Jay Chou actually looks and sounds pretty cool as Kato. So far, he’s the main draw for me. But looking at how the trailer is setting-up this story, I have to wonder if director Gondry just watched Robert Downey, Jr. in “Iron Man” and decided to copy the obvious traits and funny stuff while completely missing the introspection and pathos that gave that character and film some weight. You can’t just take Tony Stark saying “I shouldn’t be alive, unless it was for a reason” and turn it into “I haven’t done anything good with my whole life.” You need to make me actually feel it and believe in it. In this trailer, Britt’s explanation of his desire to become a vigilante sounds more like a pitch for a new video game or that scene that’s in every other fraternity comedy where someone excitedly details a plan “so crazy it just might work.” The man is talking about risking his life to fight ruthless mobsters and killers while also becoming a target of the police force for no reward other than the sake of altruism. Shouldn’t that be a heavier scene?

This trailer defeats my hopes of seeing the Green Hornet as a cool, calculating gangster act who’s actually a manipulative hero. And that’s essential because just like with Superman and Clark Kent or Bruce Wayne and Batman, the lead actor has to convincingly play TWO roles in a film like this. I see a not bad Britt Reid, now where’s the Green Hornet? Again, not Rogen’s fault if he wasn’t given anything to work with.

And filming action sequences that seem to be there only for a 3D effect does not make up for it.

Maybe I would feel differently if I knew nothing about the Green Hornet as a character. Maybe I’d look at it the same way I look at “Kick-Ass.” But instead, I’m just shaking my head at wasted potential and hoping that this trailer is just incredibly misleading.

Frankly, the short Green Hornet film by Aurelien Poitrimoult felt a lot more faithful, even with some cheesiness of its own. Don’t believe me? Check it out.

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