The film version of The Green Hornet has been one of those projects that's floundered in 'development hell' for a long time, versions of it have been in production from as early as 1992 with actors like Eddie Murphy, George Clooney, Vince Vaughn, Mark Wahlberg and Jet Li attached at various points. It got very close to being made with Kevin Smith as a director in 2004 before Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (the writing team behind Superbad and Pineapple Express) took over script and production duties. Even from this point the film seemed like it was never going to get made... comedic martial arts superstar Stephen Chow was brought on board to both play Kato and direct the film, but creative differences eventually led to his departure (I wish I could travel to an alternate dimension where this version actually got made). The final version, which got to our screens this year, is directed by Michel Gondry - whose keen visual eye and flair for pop filmmaking helps energise what could've been quite an anticlimax.
Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is the hard-partying heir to a newspaper empire who finds himself at a loss when his 'douchebag' father (Tom Wilkinson) suddenly dies due to a fatal bee sting. Reid's quest for a decent cup of coffee leads him to Kato (Jay Chou), his father's driver and a brilliant inventor with a mindbending talent in martial arts. They become friends and Reid's quest for a life direction inadvertantly leads them into becoming a crime-fighting duo; the Green Hornet and Kato. It's a great plan except for a few setbacks - L.A. is presided over by insecure uber-ganglord Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz), Reid's newly inherited newspaper has issues with the local D.A. (David Harbour), and both Reid and Kato are interested in the same girl (Cameron Diaz).
The third paragraph of my review is usually where I try to pull the film apart or talk about it in more depth, but all I really want to say about The Green Hornet is that it's really frickin' cool. Seth Rogen is pretty much playing his usual character (IE. Himself) but that's okay because Rogen is one of the few actor-comedians who comes across to me as a real guy that I'd actually want to hang out with. He cracks me up, and I could watch him do anything. It's nice to see him stretching himself by taking his usual schtick into a new genre (the superhero-action film) but by the same token I like that he hasn't tried to be your standard square-jawed alpha-male or some 'dark' action hero. One of the best things this film has going for it is that it's a superhero movie with Seth Rogen in it. It's exactly what that sounds like. It's not a parody or a stoner 'bromance' comedy, it's a modern superhero film but with Rogen in the place of Christian Bale or Toby Maguire.
Gondry pulls out a few cool tricks but by and large he plays mostly by the book. The script is witty and cliche-free enough for him to not have to try and be gimmicky, he just lets the action and acting do all the work and as a result it's a slightly shambolic but ultimately fun ride. The characters of The Green Hornet don't really have the cult following that a lot of other superhero properties have, so the production team had a free hand to just do their own thing with it. I think that's pretty refreshing, and as a result the film is everything you would want it to be and a lot more. I have big hopes that Rogen and co. follow it up with a sequel, there's a lot more that could be done with the dynamic between Rogen's enthusiastically clueless Hornet and Chou's hip and prickly Kato.