A fondly remembered pulp hero, the Green Hornet was born on the radio in 1936 before making the move to Columbia serials and more. Direct descendant to the Lone Ranger, Britt Reid combated the forces of evil with unique weaponry from a stun gun to darts. Along with his manservant Kato, the pair patrolled the streets in the rolling arsenal known as the Black Beauty.
A remarkable twist in the series involved the Green Hornet being hunted down as a vigilante by the police. Reid cannily decided to use this to his advantage and let it be known that not only was wanted by the cops for taking the law into his own hand but he was in fact a crime boss of the most ruthless variety. This allowed him to play both side of the same coin and operate in the criminal underworld as one of their own and thereby take them down fro within.
In 1966, William Dozer had a hit on his hands with the Adam West Batman series. Seeking to extend the range to include another costumed hero, he developed the Green Hornet. Starring the dashing Van Williams as playboy Britt Reid and international star Bruce Lee as Kato, the TV program had difficulty finding an audience but remains a cult program. Part of the problem may have stemmed from the fact that whereas the Batman series was comedic and absurd, Green Hornet was an action/adventure drama played straight. It is actually a remarkably good series and I recommend viewing it if you can find it.
More recently, a modern film version of the Green Hornet started to build momentum. Directed by Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) and starring Seth Rogen as Britt Reid/Green Hornet and Chinese singer/entertainer Jay Chou (in his feature film debut) as manservant Kato, the movie has been in development limbo for about three years (witness the June 25, 2010 release date in the film logo).
Normally associated with comedic films, Rogen has adamantly defended the assumption that his Green Hornet would be a spoof, confusing many. He’s hardly a dashing action hero and he’s certainly no Van Williams. The actor has faced plenty of criticism before the first images of production work were released, so I’m not about to add to the negativity. I have to admit that it’s a bold move for Rogen to sign onto such an unusual movie as his foray into the comic book genre. Nevertheless, the film has slowly but surely progressed, signing Cameron Diaz as the romantic interest and Edward James Olmos as the forthright reporter determined to reveal the Green Hornet’s identity and Christoph Waltz (replacing Nic Cage) as a new villain.
Last Summer, fans were treated to the real Black Beauty to be used in the film but news has otherwise been scant. The first trailer will accompany Rogen’s appearance tonight on Jimmy Kimmel live.
The script was co-written by Rogen as well. What I find very interesting is that Gondry was as replacement director for Gondry replaced Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) who would also have starred as Kato. The studio was apparently adamant about their Green Hornet being a serious action film and not a comedy. Now that the trailer has been released, I wonder what changed at Columbia Pictures as this looks very much like an action/comedy/spoof.
Green Hornet will premiere in 3-D, IMAX 3-D, and regular old cinemas on January 14, 2011.
I don’t want to jump to conclusions or anything, but the trailer for the Michael Gondry/Seth Rogen film looks predictably goofy and written down to the audience (witness Rogen mugging to the camera and actually explaining the premise behind his character and even defining Kato’s character in the trailer… as if we could not figure any of this out for ourselves). In short, the trailer is flashy but it’s not doing the movie any favors. Maybe ‘the kids’ that studios are always trying to reach will like it.
Coincidentally, an excellent Green Hornet short movie was released this year by Reservoir Films. It’s interesting to see what can be done when a filmmaker is not self-conscious about the material and simply produces a great action flick that is faithful to the source material yet modern enough to attract attention from the uninitiated.