I remember when comic books were nothing more than cheap pieces of escapist fun and the film and TV adaptations, like the old Adam West Batman series, were camp, pure and simple. A similar crime fighter, The Green Hornet battled across several media beginning on the radio in the 1930s, crossing over to comic books and movie serials in the 1940s before appearing on television during the 1960s with Van Williams as the hero and his millionaire publisher alter-ego Britt Reid and Bruce Lee as Kato.
It is that geeky haze which likely inspired Seth Rogen and Superbad writing partner Evan Goldberg to tackle an updated of this lesser known dynamic duo with Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep) at the helm and Chinese musician-actor Jay Chou joining the team as Kato. Channeling the post-slacker comic stylings of Rogen into a heroic fantasy would seem far-fetched even in an alternative reality, and Gondry’s precious indie vision clashes wildly with the CGI-dominated frames of most of the current crop of comic book and graphic novel translations. But it is in these contradictions that The Green Hornet finds its groove.
The script presents a spoiled rich kid who has no idea of how to be anything but a spoiled kid with crazy dreams. Life, the newspaper business and crime fighting are just part of Britt’s live-action video game of an existence. And Gondry, with only a few begrudging flourishes, sticks to his ingenious lo-fi approach that keeps things breezy and fun, without merely aping our contemporary gameboy conceptions of what superheroes and action sequences are supposed to look like. It doesn’t mean a thing, but Gondry sure does make it swing. Grade: B
Opens Jan. 14. Check out theaters and show times, see the trailer and get theater details here.