Batman. Bloke who dresses up as a bat. Mainly black and grey, occasional yellow accents on the suit. Superman, big bold blue red and yellow. Spider-Man, blue and red. Even Wonder Woman sticks with the red, white, blue and a bit of gold. I’m not sure if there is some sort of costume guidance when superheroes manifest their powers, but there is clearly some guidance that came out of last years crop of superhero films. Thor, whilst silly, stuck resolutely with the metallics and reds. Captain America, as you might imagine, rocked the red, white and blue. So what is it with Green? Why did the two green superheroes fail last year.
Both Green Lantern and The Green Hornet were pretty poor films. And it is more than tempting to tie that to the coincidence in their names. And actually let us pin something on it. Captain America is not the Blue Captain American. Batman may be the Dark Knight, but he hasn’t specified his colour scheme in his name. For Green Lantern its unforgivable, there is absolutely no way you are going to miss that he is green. His glow in the dark, CGI pasted on suit (one of the many mistakes in the film) may be designed to have an eerie, alien quality to it, it infact looks like cheap post-production (look in the trailer at how its just a sickly wrong shade of green).
The Green Hornet is even more perplexing, when you consider that Seth Rogen wears a coat which can barely be described as green. The name is flippant, like much in this film, and completely throwaway. What is actually wrong with both of these films is quite different, but I wonder if the slight silliness in asking for a ticket for The Green Wazoo – and stumping up the extra for your 3D glasses – has already knocked the wind out of the average viewer.
So in order of release. The Green Hornet is a stab at a superhero buddy comedy. This could work. But as in any buddy comedy, the ability for the two partners to comfortably communicate is really important. Jay Chou, as Kato, has the moves but barely any of the talk. Seth Rogen is a comedian who needs to bounce off his co-stars, and the only bouncing here is around how little they talk the same language. There are some ideas here which are funny in principle. Rogen is a waster who is given a kick up the arse by the death of his extremely worthy crusading newspaper editor father. Rather than live up to that legacy by becoming a useful member of society, he does it by becoming a rubbish superhero. So far we have a bit of Kick-Ass going on, but he turns out not to be that rubbish merely by the application of lots of money, a sidekick that does all the work for him and extreme amounts of violence. This is a remarkably violent film. The USP of the Green Hornet is that the heroes pretend to be villains to get close to the criminals. There is no pretending here, there is property damage, there is numerous car crimes, there are honest to god murders taking place. With a few jolly laughs afterwards. Michel Gondry creates a few interesting visuals, around something really empty. Maybe it would work as a low budget exploitation film, but it doesn’t work as a blockbuster. An idiot with Daddy Issues is not what we are really looking for here.
Green Lantern has a set of very different problems to Green Hornet. In theory, it is one of the most cinematic heroes available in comics. The power is a ring which creates anything that the hero can imagine. So it is imagination incarnate and in the comics this has often been a boon to artists. Except in the comics, as here, this often boils down to them imagining weapons, modes of transport or something amusing as a gag when its not a life or death situation. The same is true here, all rendered in a garish green which makes the imagined artefacts all blur into a green mess which is particualrly bad if your villain is mainly the cloud from the end of the second Fantastic Four film. A lot of money has been thrown at it, and quite a lot of foreshadowing too, for future films which will not get made.
That said both Green Hero films do share a number of flaws beyond genre and colour. Both lead actors are known for being slightly glib wisecrackers elsewhere. Both are reluctant heroes at best, and certainly not the best at what they do, Green Hornet is outshadowed by Kato and Green Lantern by all the other Green Lanterns. But fundamentally, when searching for character motivation for both leads, they went to the superhero box of motivation and came back with “daddy issues”. Here is my tip to screenwriters – if you don’t know why your hero is a hero, non-canonical daddy issues is a rubbish way to go. Just ask Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. Which was also rubbish, and about as rubbish as both of these films.