Green Hornet fans are holding their breath this week as a the trailer for a new movie based on the 1930s radio serial hits the Web. Slated for release in January 2011 and starring Seth Rogen as the title character and Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou as his stoic manservant Kato, "The Green Hornet" will also feature Cameron Diaz and acclaimed "Inglourious Basterds" baddie Christoph Waltz. And, naturally, it will be in 3-D.
As the trailer shows, Rogen stars as an over-privileged newspaper scion who has to face responsibility after his father is murdered. He responds to this tragedy in true superhero form: He dons a mask and a fedora, teams up with a Kung-Fu fighting manservant, and rolls through Los Angeles in "Black Beauty," a 1965 Chrysler Imperial outfitted with machine guns and rockets.
A Green Hornet summer blockbuster has been percolating for a long time. In the 1990s, rumors abounded that George Clooney and martial artist Jason Scott Lee were lined up to play the leads. Then it was Jake Gyllenhaal and Jet Li. Eventually, the powers that be settled on an unconventional choice: Rogen, a Canadian comic actor best known for portraying amiable schlubs in such movies as "Pineapple Express" and "Knocked Up."
Based on the trailer, can we say if the film be any good? Gawker thinks not. "We have seen this movie so many times before," sniffed Brian Moylan. "[J]okey rich guy, stoic Asian butler who does kung-fu, explosions—this thing is basically just Batman mixed with Rush Hour with some Bad Boys thrown in for good measure. How original!"
The Guardian's Ben Child is more cautious in his assessment. Encouraged by the choice of French-director Michel Gondry, who is not known for directing action films, Child is nonetheless wary. He writes
[I]t's hard to tell if there's anything remarkable going on from the trailer. In terms of tone, The Green Hornet looks a lot like the previously mentioned Pineapple Express (a passable action comedy) with added superhero stuff. Perhaps it's unreasonable to expect too much, given the limitations of the genre, but with the talent on display, I was hoping for something a little more ... well ... radical.
Still, the film has promise: Even though "superhero" doesn't immediately leap to most people's minds when they think of Seth Rogen, the Canadian comic is perfectly suited to portraying feckless trust-fund baby Britt Reid. Whether he can hold up as a gas-gun toting vigilante remains to be seen. [Editor's note: The original version misspelled Mr. Reid's name.]
And maybe there's some new ground being broken here. As our theaters are clogged with endless rehashes of 80s franchises, it's refreshing – if not a bit startling – to see a 1930s radio serial greenlit for a major film. Seriously, what was the last film you saw based on a radio program? Okay, we'll give you "A Prairie Home Companion," and, because we're feeling generous, "The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy." But those aren't really the same thing.
The closest parallel in recent years has been the 1994 movie based on "The Shadow" starring Alec Baldwin, which, while visually striking at times, was almost instantly forgettable. Will the Hornet have more staying power? You'll have to wait until the movie's release next January, but until then, here's the trailer: