The Green Hornet (12A) ***
Directed by: Michel Gondry
Starring: Seth Rogen, Jay Chou, Cameron Diaz, Christoph Waltz
Liberated rather than hamstrung by the demands of the superhero origin story, Gondry’s take on this much-serialised material constitutes 2011’s first real surprise. The set-up’s almost archetypal: upon the death of his media-magnate father, playboy Britt Reid (Rogen, who also co-wrote) is transformed – with the aid of reliably agile manservant Kato (Chou) – into a masked crimefighter. The twist? Though a buffoon, Reid has power enough through his newspaper day job to spin his own story, making him Bruce Wayne, J. Jonah Jameson, Superman and Clark Kent rolled into one – and, in Rogen's central performance, funnier than all of the above.
Gondry adheres to the looseness of his star’s previous work, venturing scenes you don’t normally see in superhero movies, or which set about deconstructing those you have: Reid’s relationship with Kato comes under repeated discussion, eventually cueing a colossal, cartoonish punch-up between the leads, while Waltz’s crimeboss seems more comically insecure than truly villainous. There’s little creative reason for the 3D, and everybody’s too busy goofing for it to land the emotional hook of a Spider-Man, but it remains a rare franchise reboot where the sense of playfulness outweighs that of strained psychological depth or grim commercial obligation.
The Green Hornet opens nationwide today.