Green is the Colour

Two emerald tinted movies to kick off super hero month proper.

The Green Hornet (2011)

I’m unfamiliar with the character’s antecedents, in comic books and other media, but in this case I suspect it would have only compounded my disappointment had that not been so. Seth Rogen, who I loved in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, plays Britt Reid, the wannabe playboy son of newspaper magnate James Reid. We are given some back story that suggests the flaws in Britt’s character are down to his father’s past neglect. With Reid Snr’s death, Britt gets to bond with manservant Kato who, as well as making perfect coffee, is a martial artist and whiz at creating nifty gadgets. After beating the crap out of some thugs (most of the beating is done by Kato) the two decide to go into the super hero business, with blissfully unaware secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz) providing them clues on how to behave thanks to her background as a psychologist and profiler. They take on Christoph Waltz’s villainous mastermind Chudnofsky and his gang, with the stage set for a no-expense spared sfx laden showdown. Most of my reservations about this film have to do with the characters. Rogen simply doesn’t cut the mustard as the titular hero – he lacks the muscle/build to be convincing in the fight scenes, even those where he only has to skip out of Kato’s way, while the attempt to give him suitable motivation, vis a vis the reassessment of daddy dearest, is equally challenging to credibility. Jay Chou as Kato is little more than a foil to the Hornet, while Waltz seems to be doing little more than half-heartedly sending up the bad man roles that he has made such a success of elsewhere. Diaz does a credible turn as the feisty, take no crap female lead, but it’s a dead end role. The real star of the proceedings are the sfx, with exciting car chases and battles, and a heavily armed SWAT squad of baddies invading the newspaper offices with extreme prejudice at the end, all of which the Hornet and Kato take explosive counter measures against. I liked those aspects, but then I’m a sucker for firework displays. Overall it’s a film that’s pitched as an action comedy, with hints of rite of passage and bromance themes in the mix, but sadly didn’t amuse or convince on any count. The car really was the star.

Green Lantern (2011)

‘Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got a-nothing on me,’ sang Donovan round about the time when I was seriously into Hal Jordan’s Lycra clad alter ego. I loved it that Hal was a test pilot. I loved the costume with its distinctive colour scheme. I loved the whole thing with the Guardians and the Green Lantern Corps and the oath. Most of all I was seriously taken with the nature of his super power, which seemed really off the wall in a period when the muscle men and women generally ruled the roost. A lot of the mythology carries over into the film, with the universe menaced by an entity known as Parallax and Jordan inducted into the Corps just in time to show that humans know how to cope under pressure even if all the so called advanced races buckle and bend (primate jingoism). Ryan Reynolds plays Jordan with a fixed smile and goofy grin, and comes over as rather a serious individual while convincingly projecting an air that says quite the opposite. Blake Lively is perfect as love interest come employer Carol Ferris, while Peter Sarsgaard goes credibly mad as big brain support villain Hector Hammond. There’s a sense of wonder to the film, as we step out into a wider universe and meet the diverse races represented in the Corps, not least the Guardians of Oa, albeit we stop short of awe as this remains obviously sfx regardless of how psychedelic and borderline hallucinatory it all looks on the screen. The battles are suitably spectacular, with novel use of the power ring, and underlying it all is a quiet sense of absurdity and gentle, self-deprecating humour, so that it doesn’t suffer from the burden of taking itself too seriously. It’s not the best super hero film I’ve ever seen, or even one of the top ten, but I had a good time with it, and can’t for the life of me understand why or how Hornet outperformed it at the box office, or the disdain of the critics. Too bad the showdown with Sinestro hinted at in the after credits didn’t materialise. I could have got behind a Green Lantern series. But perhaps affection for the character is clouding my judgement.

Anyone else seen both movies? Which do you consider the best and why?


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