As a kid, I spent many Saturday afternoons glued to the television screen watching reruns of The Green Hornet. Ironically, I don’t remember much of what I watched. I didn’t even know, till much later, that the late martial arts legend Bruce Lee began his career as Kato, the Green Hornet’s partner. However, I do know this. Though without superpowers, the masked vigilante soon became one of my favourite superheroes, and arguably the reason for becoming the comic book geek I am today.
So naturally, I was excited to hear about The Green Hornet being made into a major motion picture. Despite its initial hiccups, and the surprise casting of funnyman Seth Rogen as the eponymous lead, I waited with baited breath as the opening date loomed closer.
Now, with about half a year to go, the trailer for the movie has been released, and wow, it’s not quite what I expected. But have a look for yourself.
Well, I don’t know if that gave you the same confusing reaction I had, but upon second (and third) viewing, I found much to like about it. Firstly, the Black Beauty feels and looks the same as the TV show, even though it’s apparently a different model of Imperial (though both are from the 1950s). That’s already a step in the right direction, as the vehicle was a crucial element to the show – arguably the third in the Green Hornet triumvirate – and changing the car too much would effectively limit any connection to the original as simply a gimmick (see: Knight Rider).
Secondly, Seth Rogen looks incredible. He has really slimmed down for the role and looks freakishly amazing as The Green Hornet. It’s awesome what a mask can do to for your face. However, and I really hate to admit this, he’s no longer quite the oddball charmer now that he’s skinnier. His goofy facial expressions, once the only reason to buy him as a romantic lead in Knocked Up, now comes across as contrived and limiting as he struggles the find a happy medium between action hero and comedic tour de force. Still, it is just a trailer, and an early one at that. It remains to be seen if Rogen’s character of Brett Reid is able to capture the movie audience’s attention the way other Rogen characters do.
But what I love most is the strangest casting of all – Jay Chou as Kato. Clearly it’s futile to suggest that Stephen Chow, the man formerly attached to the role, and indeed to directing the movie, may have been a better choice – since we’ll never really know. However, Jay Chou brings both positives and negatives to the film. Let’s start with the bad stuff first – Chou’s heavily accented English makes Bruce Lee sound positively American in comparison, and that’s saying a lot, considering how Lee’s own accent probably prevented him from getting bigger roles. Chou also lacks the martial arts quality of Lee and though Western audiences may be satisfied, those of us more acquainted with the gongfu flicks of Donnie Yen and Jet Li will probably feel that there’s a lot to be desired.
Yet the good stuff promises to overcome all these initial fears. Jay Chou not only looks like how Lee did when the latter portrayed Kato in the mid-60s, but he also looks amazing in his Kato costume, gloves et al. Just in case you were sniggering at how the costumes cover most of the actors anyway, need I remind you about the George Clooney Batman or the Billy Zane Phantom to prove that not every actor (even the ones who charm your pants off) can don a costume and make it look good. Most of all, though, I love how Chou brings with him a very understated sense of humour. His straight-man schtick seems to come right out of John Cho’s Harold Lee persona and believe me, that’s not a bad thing. I just hope the chemistry between Rogen and Chou work, because if it does, then Chou will effectively save the movie, and that’s definitely a good thing.
What the trailer does not highlight, which I’m sure they’ll save for the second (and third?) trailers, is that the rest of the cast is bolstered by the awesomeness that is Christoph Waltz, who replaced Nicolas Cage (thank goodness!) as the villain, and Edward James Olmos, who will be in the supporting role of Mike Axford, the crime reporter who has to deal with Britt Reid the playboy heir to his newspaper, and the vigilante Green Hornet, not realising they’re the same person.
The Green Hornet is set for a 14th January 2011 release.