The original 1960’s Green Hornet TV series was before my time (I may be grey, but I’m not that old). Most of my exposure to it was through video clips of Bruce Lee in his first breakout role in Hollywood as Kato, the kung fu fighting sidekick of the titular masked hero Britt Reid, played by Van Williams. Even with my limited exposure to the campy series though, it was rather evident to me that the 2011 goofy action comedy feature film remake starring Seth Rogen and Jay Chou was pretty terrible. Not even Christoph Waltz could save it.
Maybe second time’s the charm though, as Deadline reports that a new, far grittier feature film adaptation is in development. This one comes from director Gavin O’Connor (The Accountant, Warrior) who is not just treating this as just another movie paycheck. This is most definitely a passion project for him, as he explains.
“I’ve been wanting to make this movie — and create this franchise — since I’ve wanted to make movies. As a kid, when most of my friends were into Superman and Batman, there was only one superhero who held my interest — The Green Hornet. I always thought he was the baddest badass because he had no superpowers. The Green Hornet was a human superhero. And he didn’t wear a clown costume. And he was a criminal — in the eyes of the law — and in the eyes of the criminal world. So all this felt real to me. Imagine climbing to the top of the Himalayas, or Mount Everest, or K2 over and over again and no one ever knew? You can never tell anybody. That’s the life of Britt and Kato. What they do, they can never say. They don’t take credit for anything.”
Green Hornet first debuted in 1930’s radio serials and 1940’s comic books and movies, before it hit the TV screens two decades later, but the concept was roughly all the same: Britt Reid is the wealthy and lazy playboy son of the publisher of the Daily Sentinel newspaper. Inspired by a personal crime, Reid decides to don a mask as the Green Hornet alongside his martial artist manservant Kato to fight crime at night, making use of their fists, gadgets and a highly advanced car named the Black Beauty. Green Hornet and Kato are viewed as criminals by the authorities due to their vigilantism, allowing the duo to infiltrate the criminal underworld and eliminate bad guys from within.
There have been some variations in Green Hornet’s origin over the years as the rights bounced around between various studios who all tried to put their own spin on it. After the Sony Pictures produced Rogen version was only a middling success, no plans were made for a sequel and the rights eventually lapsed. And watching all of these changes for the last few years was O’Connor – with the backing of Paramount – eager to give this his own spin.
“For almost 20 years now I’ve been tracking the rights, watching from the sidelines as they were optioned by one studio or another. When I discovered the rights were available again, I tracked them down, partnered with Peter Chernin and we set the movie up at Paramount.
With the rights now in our loving hands, I’m beyond excited to bring The Green Hornet into the 21st century in a meaningful and relevant way; modernizing it and making it accessible to a whole new generation. My intention is to bring a gravitas to The Green Hornet that wipes away the camp and kitsch of the previous iteration. I want to re-mythologize The Green Hornet in a contemporary context, with an emphasis on story and character, while at the same time, incorporating themes that speak to my heart.
The comic book movie is the genre of our time. How do we look at it differently? How do we create a distinctive film experience that tells itself differently than other comic book movies? How do we land comfortably at the divide between art and industry? How do we go deeper, prompt more emotion? How do we put a beating heart into the character that was never done before? These are my concerns…these are my desires, my intentions, my fears, my goals.”
Well, now. That’s certainly waaaaaaay deeper than any other version of the property has ever gone before. Usually it’s just cast a likable lead, get an Asian guy with a decent karate chop, build a cool car and we’re good to go! O’Connor’s version definitely sounds intriguing though, especially since he’s clearly given the character of Green Hornet himself a hell of a lot of thought.
“The Green Hornet is ultimately a film about self-discovery. When we meet Britt Reid he’s lost faith in the system. Lost faith in service. In institutions. If that’s the way the world works, that’s what the world’s going to get. He’s a man at war with himself. A secret war of self that’s connected to the absence of his father. It’s the dragon that’s lived with him that he needs to slay. And the journey he goes on to become The Green Hornet is the dramatization of it, and becomes Britt’s true self.
I think of this film as Batman upside down meets Bourne inside out by way of Chris Kyle [American Sniper]. He’s the anti-Bruce Wayne. His struggle: Is he a savior or a destroyer? Britt made money doing bad things, but moving forward he’s making no money doing good things. He must realize his destiny as a protector and force of justice by becoming the last thing he thought he’d ever become: his father’s son. Which makes him a modern Hamlet. By uncovering his past, and the truth of his father, Britt unlocks the future.”
If that sounds to you like a lot of unexpectedly heavy drama, then have no fear. O’Connell definitely still wants to keep this action packed, as his version of Green Hornet will be a bit of a badass.
“Britt’s shadow war background makes him a natural at undercover work. This is connected to his military backstory, which is more CIA Special Activities Division than SEAL Team 6. He’s cross-trained in intelligence work and kinetic operations. A hunter at the top of the Special Operations food chain, working so far outside the system he had to think twice to remember his real name. We will put a vigilante engine under the hood of his character.”
Wait, so if he’s such a skilled combatant, then why does he even need Kato? I don’t think a solid flying kick will cut it any more. No idea when we will be able to answer that question though, as O’Connor likely still has quite a bit development ahead of him. Sean O’Keefe, who also penned script for the upcoming video game feature film adaptation of Watch Dogs, will be on screenwriting duties to help him.
Last Updated: November 18, 2016