There are a large number of ways I could start this review.
- “Hey, I used to really like Seth Rogen for some reason. He played a large part in why I bothered with this in the first place.”
- “Hey, just wanted to clarify that I’m actually not that fond of superhero films. Ever since the Marvel takeover in cinema (Scorsese forgive me) circa late-2000’s, they’ve just gotten boring to me.”
- “Hey, despite the previous point, I’ve actually seen and kind of cherish various superhero films I’ve seen during my younger days, such as The Incredibles and the Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. Despite this, I don’t care for, not have I ever cared for, comic books or the heroic topics that typically define the medium.
Instead, I’ve decided to start with this: I watched this around the time of its DVD release and gave it a barely-passing grade. Now, to my utter shock, I watched it and gave it a below-passing grade. All above things considered, however, it could have been worse, so it has that going for it.
Nine years ago, I affectionately wrote about this film on my Rotten Tomatoes profile:
“. . .the film is incredibly stupid, half the actors don’t seem interested in it, and Seth Rogen, hanging around Cameron Diaz, kinda just seems like a sexual predator, does he have no social skills at all? It’s kinda sad what fantasy world this guy lives in to even consider the way he acts around women, it’s a little disturbing.”
Yes, my grammar is atrocious. Yes, this is hilarious in hindsight. Though I’m proud to see that even during my pre-progressive-mindset days, I still cared for the general well-being of women in films.
On a similar note, Seth Rogen’s character—we’ll call him Green—is an immensely unlikable and borderline unwatchable prospect. Understandable as it is that his childhood was full of neglect and he’s a rebellious, spoiled punk, the type of behavior he exhibits throughout a large majority of the film is deplorable and obnoxious. He’s supposed to be the hero, even if there’s some irony within the situation that he’s born into the perfect situation and can’t do shit, while his underprivileged sidekick does all the work. Watching Green harass Cameron Diaz and be unreasonably arrogant towards a minority sidekick is something that may be symbolic of something, though I doubt it’s anything more than a “charming character trait.” Didn’t care for him, even during his inevitable redemption.
Also something I wasn’t expecting, though not entirely surprising considering the time frame, was the homophobic dialogue. Lots of running gags about Green and Chou being gay lovers, with no real reason other than to insinuate that it’s funny that they could be romantically involved? Not too keen on that. Emphasizes testosterone-fueled backtalk quite a bit, as well, including people barking at others to not be “a pussy.” Jokes about mid-life crises, lots of explosion and heart-racing action scenes, and an early scene showcasing Green’s affection for partying and female assets capitalizes on this being a very, er, “male-friendly” viewing.
Earlier I stated that my disdain for superhero films was heightened upon the rule of Marvel in recent years. While true, there’s also some narrative convenience that many of these stories incorporate (especially in debut films of individual franchises) that is prevalent here. Usually, this is referred to (mostly by me) as the “Origin story formula.” The background of a character is established, it progresses through the events that lead to their super personas being created, then treks the ups and downs of maintaining that power, leading to inevitable confrontation with the central antagonist. Name any superhero movie, particularly a first one. It probably uses this formula. Green Hornet uses it, too, because of course it does.
I’ve seen it too many times. The “Origin story formula” is among the most boring types to use because of obscene amounts of repetition. Hell, Sonic the Hedgehog used this formula, and I did not like that film. Funny how that works! Every beat, every moment, every company-invested decision to make it as safe, yet accessible as possible, nothing is new to me. However, I will give Green Hornet credit in that it changes things… minimally.
[WARNING: Spoilers from this point onward.]
Bits of irony here and there splash the writing, making the individual scenes more interesting than the grander story. Cameron Diaz’s character does not fall in love with Green by the end, and is probably still torn on whether to even trust him. When given the chance to be the big hero and save his partner, Green fucks up. But the distraction gives enough wiggle room for Chou to end up saving himself and thwarting the mastermind’s plan. So in the end, Chou is still the one doing most of the work. What appears to be the main antagonist early on ends up little more than a piece of the puzzle, whose motivation is, relatively speaking, bizarre. For all the questionable content provided by the script, it also does a decent job of subverting various superhero tropes to give it a little bit of an identity. Kind of like Deadpool, only not as zany.
What ultimately kills this film’s worth, try as it might, is the writing and horrible lead. It’s not even that Seth Rogen does a bad job at playing the asshole, because he’s pretty good at it. There are just times where one must decide whether it’s good enough for a person to play the asshole role well or if an asshole is still an asshole. If anything, Chou’s actually the weak link in terms of acting. With occasionally self-aware tones and entertainment in tow, Green Hornet is kind of like an uncanny expedition into the weird world of satirical heroism. I wish it did more with it than it eventually did, as the end result brought a whole lot of brow-furrowing moments along with the eye-popping spectacles. I suppose for superhero fans, it’s an okay way to pass the time, but it would probably be better to stick to the comic source.
Final Score: 4/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.
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Thank you for your time. Have a great day.