Trailer Tuesday: The Green Hornet
Brace yourself! Another masked crime fighter will soon be hitting the big screen: The Green Hornet. Based on the 1930s radio series that went on to spawn comic books, film serials and a TV show that elevated martial arts icon Bruce Lee to prominence, The Green Hornet centres on playboy media magnate Britt Reid, who adopts the identity of masked vigilante The Green Hornet to fight crime in various law-breaking ways. Reid is assisted by his highly resourceful Asian valet Kato, and together they cruise the streets in their gadget-filled, luxury supercar, The Black Beauty.
Directed by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind's acclaimed Michel Gondry, The Green Hornet looks to be an action comedy with an offbeat retro feel. Knocked Up's Seth Rogen, who also co-wrote the film's screenplay, stars as Britt Reid/The Green Lantern, while Taiwanese musician-actor Jay Chou is Kato. Cameron Diaz meanwhile appears as secretary Lenora "Casey" Case, Tom Wilkinson is Britt's father, Commander William Adama himself, Edward James Olmos, is cop-turned-reporter Mike Axford, and recent Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) appears as the film's gangland villain, Benjamin Chudnofsky.
There is plenty that could be cool about The Green Hornet, but I'm certainly not without my concerns. Chief of these is the film's North American release date of 14 January 2011, which is not a good sign! January is known as the month that Hollywood finally allows its red-headed step-children some playtime. Basically anything that the studios lack confidence in, or really don't know what to do with, they rush out in the first month of the year when audiences are distracted by post-festive season blues.
It is well known that The Green Hornet has suffered from production problems and frequent release delays. Studios have been trying to make the film for decades with no success. In the 1990s it was proposed that that George Clooney and Jason Scott Lee - who played Bruce Lee in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story incidentally - star as Britt and Kato. In 2004, Kevin Smith was at work on a Green Hornet screenplay while Jake Gyllenhaal and Jet Li were rumoured to star as the crime fighting duo. In 2008 it was announced that Stephen Chow would direct the film as well as portray Kato, but when Chow left the project due to creative differences (presumably with Sony/Columbia Pictures), Gondry seized the helm. Meanwhile on the casting front, the only major hassle as filming kicked off in late 2009 was Nicolas Cage bowing out of the production as the series' main villain, Mr X.
Sometimes this kind of chopping and changing behind the scenes has no impact on a film; other times it can be highly damaging to the finished product.
My second major concern after The Green Hornet's troubled production and no doubt related release date is just how Gondry (an acquired taste as a filmmaker) handles the source material. I have high hopes for a highly inventive visual treatment - which the director is known for - but I'm not seeing much evidence of that in the trailer. The Green Hornet looks pretty conventional as far as masked superheroes are concerned, with the usual mix of gunfire, explosions and slow motion combat.
Finally there's my concern about the Green Hornet as a character and how audiences will respond to him. After all, given his character outline and the fact that he dates back to the Golden Age of superheroes, I'd position him alongside The Shadow, The Phantom and The Spirit. All of these heroes are masked crime fighters who, over the decades, have largely slipped from the public consciousness despite various attempts at reviving interest - largely through the production of some real cinematic turkeys. I seriously hope that The Green Hornet doesn't join them in this respect as well, because the film could be a lot of fun - particularly if the role reversal of an inept hero/brilliant sidekick is played to the hilt.
The Green Hornet is set for release on 14 January in the United States. It will be screening in conventional format as well as 3D and IMAX 3D, for which it has been specially converted. There has yet to be any indication of when the film will debut in South Africa. Personally though, I'd estimate its release sometime between March and October 2011.