Give or a take a Daredevil here and a Catwoman there, the modern age has been kind to superhero adaptations. Comic book conversions are big business, adult fare too. Few films will do bigger business this year than the X-Men reboot, while barely a day goes by without some snippet of information regarding Christopher Nolan’s forthcoming Batman finale being scrambled into and lapped up by the either. In 2011, superhero movies are cool.
Into this climate now comes The Green Hornet, a new film based upon a character who first entered existence as a 1936 radio serial, then a Universal movie serial, then a 1966 TV show, and which told the adventures of Britt Reid (played here by star, co-writer and executive producer Seth Rogen) – newspaper mogul by day, masked crime stopper by night. It’s telling of the era in which the character was born that Britt/Hornet also had a sidekick, martial arts expert Kato. It’s a role played here by Jay Chou, filling the pumps of the character’s first puppeteer, Bruce Lee.
The new film is unquestionably better than the versions of The Green Hornet that came before, yet it’s questionable whether that’s all too grand of an achievement. The problem with the new film is the titular character himself; Hornet was always a bumbling douchebag compared with DC and Marvel’s sleek elite, and while Rogan’s resume means he has the comedy chops to portray such a character, the age the film is being released into means there’s something heavy footed and dated about the green one’s japes – tonally it’s perhaps akin to the aforementioned Nolan casting Adam West in place of Christian Bale.
Despite an impressive cast of players – Michael Gondry behind the camera, Inglourious Basterds’ Chistoph Waltz the villain in front – the sum of such talents only succeeds in making a film out-of-step with the times; Kick-Ass did comedy sharper, Watchmen more adult, there’s even gags in The Dark Knight if you scrape off the grime. What The Green Hornet does better than all these films is making superheroes uncool – and there’s nothing that’s even a bit super about that.