[The Week in Geek is a weekly Tuesday column that plunges headfirst into a deep pool of genre geekiness without ever coming up for air.]
I went into Michel Gondry's 'The Green Hornet' knowing next to nothing about the Green Hornet. I have vague memories of the masked vigilante guest-starring on the 1960's 'Batman' TV show, and I've been semi-aware that he's popped up in comic books from time to time over the years. I know he has a really cool sidekick (Kato, played in the new film by Jay Chou), but beyond that? Nothing.
Because of my general lack of knowledge, I can't really say if Seth Rogen, as the co-screenwriter, producer, and title star of 'The Green Hornet' was faithful to the original 1936 radio material, but the movie sure was a blast to watch. 'The Green Hornet' has a loose, anything-goes energy that recalls the action-comedies that seemed to arrive like clockwork every summer during the 1990s. Will the die-hard fans appreciate it? I'm not sure. Better question: Are there any such thing as die-hard Green Hornet fans?
The first thing I did after seeing the movie was roll up my sleeves and dig deep into the internet to find out a little bit more about the mythos of The Green Hornet...
6. The Chinese had a Green Hornet movie first.
In 1994, Ching-Ying Lam directed a martial arts version of 'The Green Hornet,' translated 'Qing Feng Xia.' The film is actually about Kato's successor, Dong, not the Green Hornet himself. This is due to the overwhelming popularity of Bruce Lee in his native country of China, where the 1960's 'Green Hornet' television show was known to Chinese fans as 'The Kato Show.'
5. Kato, the Japanese Korean Filipino, is now played by a Taiwanese man.
Kato was intended to be Japanese, but as the radio series progressed, and WWII loomed large on the horizon, Kato was changed to a Filipino. Confusing the matter even further, the 'Green Hornet' serials pegged Kato as Korean. So...what's his nationality? In Gondry's film, he's played by Jay Chou, a hugely successful pop star from Taiwan, and Kato's exact origins are never explicitly stated. He's simply Asian!
4. The Green Hornet is related to The Lone Ranger.
The Green Hornet is Britt Reid, millionaire playboy. Britt Reid is the son of newspaper tycoon Dan Reid. Dan Reid's uncle was The Lone Ranger. Both masked men were created by Fran Striker, and were joined together in continuity on a 1947 episode of the 'Green Hornet' radio show ("Too Hot to Handle," which you can listen to here). Punching bad guys in the face runs in the family!
3. The French made their own Green Hornet movie in 2006 (kind of).
Fan films are not just an American phenomenon; geeks are truly international. Aurélien Poitrimoul couldn't wait for a 'Green Hornet' movie, so he made one himself. His heavily stylized take on the character is no-frills and all-action, with a great eye for fight scenes. By casting French stuntman Manu Lanzi ('Taken,' 'The Transpoter') as Britt Reid, he's got a Green Hornet that kicks way more ass than Seth Rogen's ever does.
2. Nicolas Cage Almost Played the Villain and Stephen Chow Almost Directed (and Starred as Kato).
Before production began on the version of 'The Green Hornet' that you'll see in theaters this weekend, there were more than a few hurdles to leap over. First, Nicolas Cage was going to star as the villain, but eventually left the project over creative differences. Apparently he wanted to use a Jamaican accent for whatever random reason. Another person who departed for similar reasons was Stephen Chow, who was supposed to direct (and possible star as Kato). Rogen recently told the New York Times, "Stephen wanted Kato to implant a microchip in Britt's brain and control him with a joystick. Maybe they're doing that in China, and I'm not aware of it. I don't read the newspapers as much as I should."
1. Kevin Smith got to tell his Green Hornet story after all.
For the longest time, Kevin Smith was attached to write and direct 'The Green Hornet' movie (with George Clooney as a possible star). The DIY director never seemed quite confident with his own skills at directing a big-budget action movie and the project didn't gain any real traction under his control. However, if you're curious about what Kevin Smith's take on the character might have been, then look no further than the recent Dynamite comic book series, written by the man himself.
In it, Britt Reid is killed by the villainous crime lord The Black Hornet. The original Kato and his daughter, Mulan Kato, take Britt Junior under their wings and train him to take up The Green Hornet's mantle and avenge his father's death. The series is continuing into 2011 as 'Kevin Smith's Green Hornet' with writer/artist Phil Hester pitting Green Hornet against cultists and exploring the romantic tension between Reid Jr. and the new female Kato.
(sources: Wikipedia, Comic Book Resources, International Catalogue of Superheroes, Radio Mick Danger)