Enter the void: 8 notes on The Green Hornet
1) Watching The Green Hornet was like sitting in an expansive tent and noting the wind blow through a large hole in the back of the canvas. The nihilistic emptiness of the entire enterprise has one discernable purpose: Columbia Pictures desires a profit.
2) As a newspaper baron's spoiled son Britt Reid, Seth Rogen revels in immature buffoonery. He's an entitled boorish slob. His initial motto: "Never stop the party!" His method of seduction consists of making out with women inside his father's fancy cars (moving from car to car in frenetic fast motion). He happens upon his career as a "hero" when he tells Kato "Let's go get ourselves some goddamned justice!" He's a 29 year old man acting like a 12 year old in the hopes of appealing to a predominantly 16 year old male audience. His character's father says "Trying doesn't matter when you always fail," a rather apt line for the entire movie.
3) Why is Cameron Diaz (as Lenore Chase) involved? She is ten years older than Seth Rogen, so his character makes a crack about how Lenore Chase is perhaps more suitable for Cocoon, but he lusts for her anyway, and she threatens him with a sexual harassment suit (the one semi-realistic scene in the film). Knight and Day also showed how Diaz is having difficulty moving beyond the ditzier Tweetie Bird persona of her twenties (now that she's nearly 40). Here, her character, Lenore Chase, is, by the way, very intelligent, so the casting psychodynamics are confusing. Did the filmmakers mean for her to play den mother for Britt's arrested development?
4) Why is the storyline chiefly concerned with a newspaper The Daily Sentinel, run by Britt's dad (a pained-looking Tom Wilkinson)? I noticed that the 1930's children's radio show version of The Green Hornet featured a newspaper publisher hero, but this new version only makes one reference to the contemporary news situation, and that's when Britt decides to place some incriminating information about an evil district attorney on the Internet. Otherwise, this Sentinel is huge, loaded with employees, and director Michel Gondry even includes a Citizen Kane reference when everyone on one floor of the Sentinel building stands up when Britt arrives to take over his father's business. The newspaper world depicted in this film might have come from the 1950s.
5) At one point, the villain Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz) asks a fellow villain, "You truly don't think I'm scary?" Chudnofsky is so insecure about his evil status, he changes his name to Reign of Bloodnofsky and affects a red outfit with a gas mask that somehow corresponds to the Green Hornet's get-up. After Waltz's triumph in Inglourious Basterds, this jokey meta-super-villain debasement is very sad.
6) Seth Rogen, as co-writer of The Green Hornet, keeps including dialogue that indicates how we're supposed to react to what's on screen. At one point, he says "I'm feeling conflicting emotions, Kato." At another time, he says, "These guys are good." Situations are either "Incredibly dangerous" or "really very intense." Kato is a "complex man." All of these verbal cues make the movie gratingly self-aggrandizing. A gang fight becomes, for Britt, "the greatest moment of my entire life!" One can assume the audience is supposed to feel the same way.
7) And what of Kato (Jay Chou)? Proficient in making fancy coffee and equipping muscle cars with weaponry, Kato can also fight by slowing down time in order to note in infra-red the different weapons of various bad guys menacing him simultaneously. Otherwise, his role still carries a hint of the casual racism of the old comics that birthed him (Britt wants to keep him as his "sidekick," not his partner. He calls him "Little Stinger" and other derogatory names). My friend Dr. K., a comics scholar, told me recently that he found it difficult to find a comic from the Golden Age that doesn't include some racist caricature. Kato could, perhaps, be a self-possessed character except for one glaring problem: he befriends Britt, thus becoming something of a hanger-on, a toady, and a stooge for rich swine. In real life, Kato wouldn't suffer Britt's presence.
8) In the frenetic, endless climax (spoiler alert), Kato and Britt lead the bad guys on one last long chase back to a large building that gets demolished in the firefight. Their 1965 Chrysler Imperial, the Black Beauty, suffers much wear and tear. Britt comes to terms with his dead tyrannical father, but it's all a bunch of concussively futile motion that attempts, and fails, to mask the void.