The Green Hornet (2011)

Rated PG-13. Our Ratings: V-5; L -1 ; S/N -1 Running time: 1 hour 59 min.

They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see us?
Who can search out our crimes?
We have thought out a cunningly conceived plot.”
For the human heart and mind are deep.
Psalm 64:5-6

Our heroes are lured into a trap, just barely escaping.

2011 Columbia Pictures

The two things that I recall from listening on radio to the Green Hornet long, long ago are Kato and the theme song “Flight of the Bumblebee.” Kato, because it was unusual back in those days of Ming the Merciless and Fu Manchu for an Asian to be a hero, even a secondary one, and the Hornet’s theme music, title unknown to me then, was exciting—how could anyone play the violin so fast?

In this newest version of the preposterous tale co-writer and co-producer Seth Rogen adopts, with director Michel Gondry, a self-mocking approach similar to that of the “Batman” TV franchise. As in the case with the Caped Crusader, this is just the right one for making a film that non-fan adults can enjoy, along with children and readers of the comic book versions. I can remember many times my wife and I watching along with our kids, and the latter looking uncomprehendingly at us when we laughed at some absurd moralism uttered by Batman. In this film Britt’s suggestion that he name himself “The Green Bee” is delightful, calling to mind the old radio theme song!

The film begins with the old father-son conflict and then, with the death of his father (Tom Wilkinson in an all too brief appearance), playboy Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is catapulted into leadership of his father’s newspaper “The Daily Sentinel.” Discovering that his driver and handyman, Kato (Jay Chou) is the only one who can make a satisfactory cup of gourmet coffee, Britt quickly learns what a mechanical genius the man is. The two are soon teaming up to fight criminals. Britt concocts some nonsense that we never really see working out about appearing to be crooks so that they can get closer to them and thus defeat them (hence their masks), but forget all this, and lay back and enjoy the action, and the rivalry that arises from their mutual jealously, partly over the lovely assistant Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) whom Britt hires at the newspaper, and partly to the Green Hornet’s receiving all the credit/blame in fighting the criminals. Another good reason to enjoy the film is to watch Christoph Waltz play the master criminal with the hard to pronounce name of Chudnofsky—remember him as the Nazi Jew hunter in Dirty Basterds?

For Reflection/Discussion

1. What do you think of the filmmakers’ adopting a tongue in cheek attitude toward story and characters? Compare this to that of the animated The Incredibles. Or to the dark Batman Returns.

2. Why do you think comic book characters have been so appealing through the years? Do you think there is a strong streak of vigilantism in our national character? Compare this with the more serious films such as Death Wish.

3. How could the treatment of Kato in the script, moving him more to center stage, a correction of long standing depiction of minority race characters (from Tonto in The Lone Ranger to Rochester in The Jack Benny Show, to mention two extremes).

4. Super heroes always adopt masks or disguises in order to conceal their identity. What is the reason given (it was best stated in one of the Spider Man movies)? Note how, in the case of the protection of loved ones. This is borne out in the Mexican drug wars by the slaughter of entire families.

5. How in the comic book genre do its creators balance the super hero’s powers with that of a villain? What are the basic themes of the genre? How is the hero’s role similar to that of Christ?