For the better part of my life I’ve had a fondness for THE GREEN HORNET, I say fondness because I didn’t really devour the comics, nor did I dive into the Serials with a great deal of passion, but I did love every peak I got of the GREEN HORNET tv show with Van Williams & Bruce Lee. Not that I got to see many of those for the vast majority of my life.
Instead, I mainly heard about them. You see, growing up, I was highly exposed to the Adam West BATMAN show, much to the chagrin of my father. You see, he was a huge fan in the seventies of the Neal Adams run on BATMAN, and pretty much disowned the camp BATMAN, but to my kid brain, Adam West’s BATMAN was awesome. But while I watched BATMAN, Dad kept telling me about how if he had his way, I’d be watching the GREEN HORNET series that was made around the same time as the Adam West show. And he made me thirst for it by telling me BRUCE LEE was KATO – and as a young boy, BRUCE LEE was my idol. He had a tv spot for the show in 16mm on my 16mm KUNG FU reel. And then there was this poster:
Wow. BRUCE LEE was Kato. The show was a mythical dream for me. I’d seen all the BRUCE LEE movies in theaters, and my parents kept Bruce Lee’s death a secret from me until around 1978, when they broke the news to me. I wanted to know who killed Bruce Lee and they explained to me that his brain popped one day. Why? Nobody knows.
Now, for some reason, I never did see the seventies Theatrical GREEN HORNET feature that cut a bunch of KATO fight scenes together with a story put together in editing from the TV show. At least, I didn’t see it until much later… like when I was 20. It was around this time that I began to really dig into Bruce Lee’s history, read books and discovered that he was never really allowed to choreograph his fights on the show, and always felt hemmed in by Van Williams and the producers.
Sometime after College, but before I created Aint It Cool News, I made a friend with a guy that had all the GREEN HORNET tv shows on VHS, in fact, it was this point that made me befriend the guy… This was that period in history, when you couldn’t find this sort of stuff. After he made me dupes, we remained friends for a couple of years, Scott was a cool guy, but he headed out to the East Coast to join his family after College.
Anyways… Watching the show, I liked it, but I still thought the Adam West BATMAN was more fun. That, and I was bitter that they didn’t make better use of Kato / Bruce Lee.
Now, over the course of AICN, as the GREEN HORNET property was constantly being developed, I began to dig into the source material, I found the Radio Show pretty interesting, the photo cover GREEN HORNET Gold Key comics were fun, but nothing really made it stand out from BATMAN. The idea of THE GREEN HORNET was always about how KATO was cooler.
When George Clooney was attached to play the lead character, I was dying for Jet Li to play KATO – and I wanted a tough as nails bad ass GREEN HORNET movie with FIST OF LEGEND level badassery. I wanted Master Woo Ping to choreograph the fights and John Woo to shoot it. Alas, that never happened.
ALRIGHT – now Seth Rogen steps in with Neal Moritz producing. The idea scared me. I’m totally honest on that. But then they nabbed Michel Gondry to direct and suddenly I became fascinated. Instantly I knew this wasn’t going to be the ultra serious bad ass version of THE GREEN HORNET, that I always dreamt of, but it would be something unforgettable… unless it just sucked ass.
Cut to programming BNAT 12. The very first film I went after was THE GREEN HORNET. First inquiry made was THE GREEN HORNET. I wanted it, because it would most likely make me feel like a kid watching it. And for my birthday, that’s exactly how I want to feel. Especially the older I get. After a week or so, I was told the film would not be ready and that THE GREEN HORNET would not be playing BNAT.
I could not believe that. The film was opening a month after BNAT, and had had its date moved by months. How could it not be ready, so for about 3 months, I thought this must be a stinker. After all, if it were great, wouldn’t they want to start the buzz going strong about a month ahead of time.
So then I started programming, put it out of my mind, but a little sad that perhaps Gondry bungled it. Then about 9 days before BNAT, I get a call saying they want GREEN HORNET to play BNAT, and would I like to see the film in advance, honestly – at 11 films – I had some extra time to play with so I said sure.
3 days before BNAT, I saw the film in a college recruited audience with Yoko & Cartuna. By this point, we knew this was at the least – a comedy. But I really wanted it to be good.
What I saw delighted me thoroughly, so much so that I programmed it for BNAT – and told Sony that I’d be up for handling advance screenings around the country, as this is a film to screen for AICN audiences.
Upfront – There will be people that wish this film was played straight, and will never be able to adjust that this is a Comedy first and foremost. But if you can make that leap – and from our advance screenings, it certainly seems most can, well you’re in for a blast.
Here’s the REVIEW….
The film begins with a pudgy Britt Reid in the back of a limo playing with a 12 inch off brand superhero action figure, holding it out the car window. Lost in that little kid imagination one has when holding an action figure out the car window to pretend it is flying. He doesn’t seem overly enthused though. He’s been sent to see his father, James Reid, the owner of a media empire and Editor In Chief of the Daily Sentinel in Los Angeles. Lil Britt is being sent to his father’s office to be scolded for getting in a fight at school. Seems some bullies were picking on a girl, and Britt came to the rescue, got caught fighting, and sent home to his father. Tom Wilkinson seems like a scary fucking father. He’s tough on the boy, treating him as though he were a man, tearing the head off his superhero toy and throwing it in the trash can.
Britt never recovered from that incident. In fact, he spent the rest of his life punishing his father for it, the spoilt rich son of a Billionaire Media Industrialist… He partied, screwed around, made out in every car of his father’s amazing Stark-ian collection. He pretty much became one of those terrible spoiled uber-rich types that shows up in the tabloids and makes us all wish for an untimely death.
Britt considered his ‘kept life’ a joke. Something to waste, because what could he possibly do to make his over-bearing demanding father happy? Nothing, so what’s the point. This fucker ripped the head off my favorite childhood toy, perhaps something his mother gave him, FUCK HIM.
Then, one day, driving home with another babe to fuck and leave, there’s a media circus outside his estate and the news hits… JAMES REID dead. Killed by a bee sting. Suddenly, Britt is the sole owner of a vast media empire, that we only see the tip of in this film.
At this point you can see, he’s dazed. He’s not particularly sad to see his father dead, but now his life has no point at all. What can he do? If he runs the paper, he’ll just fuck it up, he didn’t prep his life to become his Dad, he prepped his life to be everything but his Dad. After a day that included going to the Daily Sentinel, meeting his father’s right hand man at the Newspaper, Axford – played wonderfully by Edward James Olmos, sitting at his father’s desk, sipping some booze that was left in one of his father’s desk. Eyeing the waste basket that his precious toy’s head was thrown into, he tells Axford that he can do whatever he wants with the newspaper. That he’s never read a full edition and could care less. He’s not the man to do it.
After that sort of self-realization, he returns to his pad, fires his father’s staff and probably got drunk as fuck. I only know this from information that happens later, but the main thing is, he wakes up, grabs his coffee that is fresh brewed and sitting next to his bed… and it doesn’t have that creamy beautiful leaf drawn in the foam of the coffee. He sips it, and it is dreadful. WHAT THE FUCK!
He demands to know who had been making his coffee for his adult life and he’s told KATO, his father’s car mechanic. He demands to see KATO.
At this point in the film, it is kind of impossible to imagine this guy becoming any kind of superhero. I mean, he’s about as likely to be a superhero as… ummm… Seth Rogen.
Enter Jay Chou / KATO. Here’s a guy that has been wasting away working for Britt’s father… not really happy, making a few modifications to the cars, but nothing to crazy. But when he and Britt get drunk together… they decide to do something crazy… Cut the head off his father’s statue at his cemetery plot. Heroic, huh?
After successfully beheading his father’s ‘eternal shrine’ – he comes across something that strikes back to his youth. A couple in danger, bullies in the dark jumping them, it looks like it could get real ugly, so in his drunken stupor he tries to be brave. The same thought he had as a kid. When the gang pulls out weapons, chases him down and threaten to do significant damage to him with a switchblade… Suddenly a fist burst through a car window, then we hop into KATO VISION mode. I can’t describe it, too fucking cool.
In fact – that’s all I’m really going to unfold of the movie, at least in that kind of detail.
From here, the accidental dynamic duo decide… this was fun, this was exciting, this is what they were destined for. At this point, Britt Reid, spoiled brat, Billionaire Heir… unleashes his superpower, financing whatever KATO can dream up. And KATO is a fucking mechanical, bio-chemical super genius that also… is a master of kung-fu that has heightened Asian meta-human abilities that… involve Gondry’s KATO VISION. Britt, emboldened by his new found dream friend, sets about concocting their Superhero backstory as Super Villains, he uses the publicity of his Father’s Statue’s beheading to begin to have the paper declare GREEN HORNET as essentially public enemy #1. He hires the brainy Cameron Diaz as his Secretary, and more. No, not that, but you’ll see.
Throughout all of this though – we’re introduced to Christoph Waltz’s Chudnofsky – leader of all crime in Los Angeles. Again, I will not spoil his character, but suffice to say… Chudnofsky is as uniquely portrayed as Waltz’s Hans Landa. Instantly, you’ll reckon that he’s an actor you’re pretty sure you’re going to follow for the rest of your life. He’s just fucking awesomely unexpected, throughout the film. I LOVE HIS TAKE ON THE CRIMINAL MASTERMIND. It is unique as hell.
There’s several action sequences, each inventive, funny and unexpected. As the story continues, there’s problems between Britt & Kato. Violence throughout the city and I’m pretty sure the loss of life and injury to bystanders must add up.
The thing about the film is that for one, the casting is great. Jay Chou is a great Kato, he’s no Bruce Lee, but then – neither was Bruce Lee when he got to play Kato. Instead, he’s a guy that dreamt of being Bruce Lee. He’s cool, his own man, but basically without any real resources without the limitless pocketbook of Britt Reid.
Britt wants to play the big hero, but the fact is – without Kato, he’d be fucked. Or at the very least, dead. As a result, they’re a real partnership. It works. Its silly, its goofy, it’s a bit crazy and violent as hell in places, but you’ve never seen a Superhero film quite like this.
That’s mainly due to Michel Gondry.
Now I’ve seen the film 3 times now, the 3rd time in 3D. This is extremely good post-3D, but most of that is, again due to two things. One, Gondry planned it to be 3D, so his shot composition is classic with depth and perspective always in mind. If you see it in 2D, and I’d recommend seeing it in 2D first, because it will help you with the 3D experience, because you’ll know what is going on. In 3D, it can be a bit overpowering. But I guarantee if you see it in 2D, you’re gonna die to see what they do with some of the shots. Some of KATO VISION is so damn cool in 3D, it’s crazy. The dream and imagination sequences that Gondry cooks up are again, awesome in 3D. And then the explosions – with the digital glass exploding out at us in 3D… it’s a good thing you’re wearing protective eye wear. Heh.
This is playful 3D, when the scenes really call for it. At other times, you’ll hardly notice the 3D, if you take the glasses off and on in many of the sequences, you’ll see the foreground characters solid, but you’ll notice a slight double image to the blurry out of focus backgrounds, but if you pull the glasses on, suddenly you’ll notice depth behind the characters. It is a bit View Master, but cool View Master – and when the action scenes are going on, they’re incredible. Especially in the DePalma gone crazy scene.
I had a blast with GREEN HORNET, my nephew loved it at BNAT, but went nuts for it in 3D. And my father, who saw all of 4 minutes of GREEN HORNET at BNAT due to hitting a wall of tired, when he finally really saw the movie in 3D, he was singing its praises – and he’s someone that listened to the Radio Show, read the pulps and was the kid at college going nuts over it, instead of the more overtly campy BATMAN.
After the series of AICN GREEN HORNET screenings, I have to say – I got more thank you letters than I’ve gotten for just about any of the wide spread AICN screenings – and only one full on negative review, which I’ll be publishing with the others tomorrow.
But realize – this is a Michel Gondry movie, unlike any that we’ve seen, it is most definitely a Seth Rogen vehicle – so if you’re tired of him, I’m not sure this will be your cup of tea, but you’ll be missing out on pure awesome from Jay Chou and Christoph Waltz. Oh – and the funniest scene at Cameron Diaz’s expense that I’ve seen in a film… ever. So fucking wrong and funny.
So there ya have it, an exhaustive look at this GREEN HORNET and my background with the character. It’s easily the best film of this 2 week old year, that isn’t an Academy chaser. It feels odd that this is a January release. It’s way better than its date.