Making the Grades
Like many fictional characters that ultimately perform heroic feats, (Batman, Spider-Man, Superman, even Frodo Baggins and Harry Potter) Britt Reid (Seth Rogen) is orphaned. He lost his mother when he was a child and, in a sense lost his father then as well. Consumed by his independently owned newspaper, The Daily Sentinel, James Reid (Tom Wilkenson) has little interest in parenting his only child. Fueled by his dad’s neglect, Britt becomes increasingly self-centered and hedonistic as he grows up, indulging in girls, booze and wild parties.
But when the publishing mogul dies as a result of a bee sting, Britt suddenly finds himself as heir of the family business. Totally unprepared to assume the role of president, Britt can’t even brew his own morning cup of joe. Thankfully his father’s mechanic, Kato, (Jay Chou) is a man of multiple talents, including coffee making and martial arts. Those fighting skills prove useful when the two men intervene on behalf of a couple ambushed by street thugs. Empowered by the adrenaline rush that follows the encounter, Britt decides he and Kato should become masked avengers.
While many comic heroes push the boundaries of vigilantism, Britt, who assumes the identity of The Green Hornet, and Kato, who remains without a nickname, intentionally promote themselves as bad guys. While their goal is to delve deeper into the criminal element and discover who is behind it, their behavior is questionable at best. On their first night out, they leave an entire group of drug sellers dead on the sidewalk. Later they blow up a meth lab where only one man escapes.
Their actions catch the attention of underworld boss Chudnofsky (Christopher Waltz) who controls the drug and gun trade in Los Angeles. His attempt to stop the Hornet ups the lawless behavior in the city and results in the killing of seven innocent citizens who made the unfortunate choice to wear green. As the gang violence escalates, other characters are crushed, blown up, shot, impaled and relieved of their limbs by means of a circular saw. All this often occurs to the musical accompaniment of singers like Johnny Cash, The Greenhornes, Van Halen, Coolio, The White Stripes and Jay Chou. In that context, the gruesome actions look almost fun, especially when no consequences result for any of the deaths or collateral damage.
Left unchecked, the droll and excessive depictions of violence not only become tiresome but also regrettable since the film contains some smart dialogue and well-paced one-liners that will appeal to the hives of teens likely lured into theaters by the popularity of Seth Rogen and the comic book genre.
But other conflicts exist in the script as well. Based on a 1936 radio character originally introduced as the grandnephew of The Lone Ranger, the Green Hornet gets an update in this screen adaptation, yet the storyline contains antiquated elements left over from an earlier era. The likelihood of a large, independently owned, urban newspaper is iffy. Equally anachronistic is a scene where the heroes make a gun-riddled run for the office so they can post something on the Internet, rather that uploading it from a phone or wireless computer in their high tech car.
Though this aspiring superhero has moments of improved behavior, he falls short of the honor and dignity he supposedly craves. With very little to commend in his actions, Britt and his masked alter ego may be one hornet’s nest many parents will want to avoid.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Green Hornet.
How many characters are killed or maimed in this film? Are these deaths mourned? Who are the countless victims that result from the collateral damage produced during crime sprees?
According to an MTV interview, Seth Rogen envisioned his Green Hornet character as a male version of heiress Paris Hilton. What difficulties are faced by children born to parents who have accomplished great things? How challenging is it to make a name for yourself? Is the Green Hornet character a fair depiction?
How does this movie glamorize crime? How does the soundtrack make the mayhem seem less horrific? How does this superhero differ from others?