The long and winding road that The Green Hornet endured to receive a cinematic interpretation might be more storied than the film that was eventually released in early 2011. Starting in the early 1990s, the story was passed around to any young and willing recipient who wanted to be attached to it, actor or director, until the story stuck with Seth Rogen (Zack and Miri Make a Porno) as a writer and star of the film. Even then the film remained in some flux, as Rogen's original co-star (and director) was to be Stephen Chow (CJ7), who eventually had to pull out due to scheduling issues. The co-starring role of Kato was eventually filled by Jay Chou (Curse of the Golden Flower) and the director was Michel Gondry (Be Kind Rewind), returning to direct a film he was first attached to in 1997.
Rogen and frequent collaborator Evan Goldberg (Superbad) co-wrote the film that was based on the character from radio serials in the 1930s and comics of the 1940s, but was given prominence in the 1960s television show that co-starred a very young Bruce Lee. Rogen plays Britt Reid, the playboy son of James (Tom Wilkinson, Duplicity), a newspaper mogul eager to write stories about the rampant crime in the city. James is found dead at his home and Britt is shaken by the news. On an incidental complaint about his coffee, Britt encounters Kato, who worked for James as a mechanic and did other odd jobs for him. The two share a resentment of James personally but a respect of his desire to clean the streets up, and eventually don costumes to fight crime in the city, with the main boss being Chudnofsky (Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds), a bloodthirsty and slightly psychotic type.
As you can probably guess the story is quiet simplistic, as both this summation (and the numerous times the trailer aired in the days and weeks leading up to the film's premiere) illustrates. The film spends a great deal of time in a longer than expected first act focusing on the kinship between Britt and Kato. Oddly enough, the first act of the film actually works to a degree; the chemistry between the two is a convincing mix of ode to the characters that have been built through the years, both Britt's boisterous knuckleheaded nature and Kato's calm yet precise fighting nature when called upon. Montages on the building and general introduction of various gadgets and vehicles the pair will use are shown as well. There are some cool moments (notably Gondry's noted visual style highlighting how Kato sees a fight develop) and some funny, slightly off the cuff moments that are entertaining.
However, when it comes to Rogen and Goldberg's story, the framework for the story remains the elephant in the proverbial room. The film spends a lot of time building the characters up and neglects characters (mainly James' newspaper assistant, played by Edward James Olmos) or brings others in that are unnecessary (specifically, Cameron Diaz as Britt's secretary) that the film becomes bloated and erratic in its 119 minutes of storytelling. This is particularly telling in the third act, with a chase sequence through Britt's inherited newspaper building that should finish the story in its proper place, but instead we are subjected to ten more minutes of needless resolution. Rogen's first act work becomes a wasted in the process and Chou, while impressive in the action work he's called upon to do, lacks the charm or charisma of past candidates and full on predecessors that donned the Kato garb.
I had made a slightly concerted effort to not expose myself to the word of mouth the film had, and while the first 40 minutes were fun and the film could have been a great guilty pleasure film, the subsequent 80 was practically unendurable in most every facet possible. Gondry tries to keep the film entertaining, using lots of White Stripes and Rolling Stones music set to sequences or montages in the process. But The Green Hornet is ultimately something that resembles the many years of deliberation and work put into a film that all involved simply want to "get done with and move along from," which killed any potential it might have once had.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Sony drops The Green Hornet in an AVC-encoded 2.40:1 high-definition presentation that looks as good as one would expect with such recent source material. Most of the action occurs at night and the blacks look outstanding, providing solid contrast to what transpires on screen. Daytime shots look natural and image detail in the foreground and background is good, with some images possessing a multidimensional look to them. Skin tones look accurate and shadow delineation is good, and the image has a fine layer of film grain present when viewing. It looks outstanding on Blu-ray.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track might be the early clubhouse leader for 'Best Audio Blu-ray of 2011' to these ears. There is loads of subwoofer involvement in explosions, bullets strafe through the soundstage in and around all of the channels, and speaker panning in car chase sequences (for example) is clear and convincing. There is also quite a variety of music selections in the film and they sound clear as a bell. There are some isolated moments where the dialogue sounds weak and they are minor nits to pick, but otherwise the disc makes for great listening pleasure.
The big extra is a commentary with Rogen, Goldberg, Gondry and producer Neal Moritz. I'm not going to hoe the same field that Brian Orndorf did in his review, but I think the general tone of the film (from Rogen's perspective at least) was one of humility, comic embarrassment, with a sprinkling of "I can't believe we got away with" a scene or sequence. He also talks about arguments Waltz had with him about last-minute changes to the story, along with Chow's casting and eventual departure, and Gondry recalls an instance or two when he walked off the set. It's an entertaining, jovial commentary that when you put it against watching the film makes it a little less painful and worth listening to for commentary aficionados.
Next up are nine deleted scenes (26:33), the bulk of which is taken up by the complete unedited chase in the end of the film. Boy oh boy if you thought the film dragged as it did, wait until you see this thing. A gag reel entitled "Awesoom" (7:18) is more in between takes goofing off than full-on blown lines, and "The Cutting Room" is a disc feature where the user can create sequences using footage from the film to make a better scene which God knows is a pretty low bar. "Trust Me" (9:33) examines Gondry's approach to the film and what the cast and crew's impressions of the director are, along with some minor scene deconstruction. "Writing The Green Hornet" (10:35) shows us the pains Rogen and Goldberg had to take to get the story to work, and they also discuss Waltz' arrival into the film (replacing Nicolas Cage). "The Black Beauty" (7:17) shows us the cars used for the film and some of the beatings they took, while "Stunt Family Armstrong" (7:39) introduces us to second unit director Vic Armstrong, second unit assistant (and brother) Andy, and stunt driver James. They all worked on the film, share their thoughts as to their previous work, and examine some of the driving stunts that James does with Vic and Andy's direction. They're a unique family to say the least. "Finding Kato" (6:00) shows us how Chou came to the production and his music icon life now, and "The Art of Destruction" (14:04) shows us shows us a variety of things getting blowed up. This BD-Live enabled disc includes Sony's "MovieIQ" function as well, a subtitled track that shows cast and music credits, trivia and other items while watching the film.
The Green Hornet isn't much of an action film, and when it comes to making nods to its radio, comic and television past doesn't capture the same feelings that those projects might have had. The film is 25 minutes too long, does not have nearly as many jokes as you would expect and the story is anemic. Technically the film looks and sounds amazing and the supplements are more entertaining than the film itself. If you must, feel free to rent it, but I'd wait for cable to be perfectly honest.