The Green Hornet began life as a radio serial in the 1930s and has had various incarnations since, most notably the 1960s TV series which ran just one season but launched the American career of Bruce Lee, who played the Green Hornet's sidekick, Kato.
Not to be confused with Green Lantern (the comic book superhero with the power ring, which will see Ryan Reynolds donning black and emerald lycra in a film version later this year), The Green Hornet is a somewhat old school crime fighter. Like Batman, he has no superpowers but an array of gadgets and weaponry created by Kato, his Robin if you will.
And like Batman's alter ego, Bruce Wayne, the Green Hornet, aka Britt Reid, is a millionaire playboy who doesn't have much focus until his father, a crusading newspaper publisher, dies. He then teams with his dad's mechanic, Kato (Taiwanese pop star and actor, Jay Chou; like Lee, making his American debut), an inventive whiz and a martial arts expert, to clean up the streets of L.A.
Comic actor-writer Seth Rogen, who plays Reid, may be passable as a playboy (attitude and millions will take you a long way with the ladies) but he's not the first person to come to mind as a superhero. Then again, Rogen, with writing partner Evan Goldberg (they penned Superbad (2007) together when they were just teens), developed the screenplay for The Green Hornet as a vehicle for himself.
That may also explain the left of centre director choice. Frenchman Michel Gondry, best known for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), is a visually inventive and whimsical director making his Hollywood blockbuster debut. And he gets to deploy some of that trademark visual wit, most notably with Kato's fight sequences, including an amusing one in the Reid mansion when Britt and Kato have a falling out.
That is, of course, over a woman, criminologist-cum-secretary Lenore Case (Cameron Diaz), who as the trailer for the film suggested, is a mere token female presence. Short-changed, too, is Austrian actor, Christoph Waltz. The Oscar-winner for Inglourious Basterds (2009) was suddenly hot property following his superbly villainous turn in Tarantino's film, and no doubt felt the need to strike while he still was; signing on as the villain (Chudnofsky) in a Hollywood blockbuster a fairly tempting offer (and pay cheque).
But little is made of Waltz's knack for combining malice with humour. His hard-to-pronounce-named bad guy's only distinguishing feature being his double-barrel pistol. And with an even far less perfect aim is Gondry. With a huge budget and resources at his disposal, he's gone for more of a scatter gun approach with The Green Hornet; some bits work, most don't. It's fun in parts but not nearly enough, and the 3D only comes into its own with the closing credits.