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Digital Divide: May 2011

| April 29, 2011

The Green Hornet
Sony Pictures

The Green Hornet has always been sort of the red headed stepchild of the hero world. Beginning as a radio serial in 1936, the Hornet was created to capitalize on the popularity of The Lone Ranger. Then, in the 1940s, a pair of film serials hit the market. And, of course, the 1966 television series arrived as a way to grab some of the “Batman” ratings. Seems that anytime there has been a franchise that needed leaching off of, The Green Hornet has answered the bell.

So with its spotty history, it’s no wonder the inevitable big-screen adaptation was far from inevitable.

People have been trying to get a film version off the ground since the early ’90s. During this time, names such as George Clooney, Jet Li, and Kevin Smith have been attached. However, as these plans have fallen by the wayside, we were left with Seth Rogan. In the end, the Green Hornet that finally hit the screen plays as the film equivalent of a guy who has just spent five hours shopping with the wife, then throws his hands in the air in desperation and says, “I don’t care what it is or how it looks, just buy something for chrissakes!”

Rogan, who also co-wrote the script with Evan Goldberg, stars as Britt Reid — wealthy playboy turned crimefighter. In this version, he’s pulled from his spoiled-rich-boy duties by the murder of his father. He takes over as the publisher of the Daily Sentinel and assumes the Green Hornet guise.

And what would the Hornet be without trusty sidekick, Kato? As made famous by Bruce Lee in the television series, Kato has always been the muscle doing all the heavy lifting. Here, he’s obviously the brains of the duo, but seems more interested in being a barista than a badass.

That’s just one of the many problems with the film, the main one being it doesn’t know if it wants to play things for laughs or straight. The result is it goes for — and fails — at both. Cameron Diaz appears as some sort of love interest, I guess, but she isn’t given anything to do. Christoph Waltz, so brilliant in Inglorious Basterds, fairs much worse. His turn as the lead heavy finds him snarling ersatz tough-guy lines while trying to convince people he’s actually, you know, tough.

The 2D and 3D versions are available on separate Blu-ray versions, and both come loaded with special features such as interview, deleted scenes, and outtakes that almost make up for the film.

Tron: Legacy

Say what you will about it in hindsight, but on its 1982 release Tron really did seem like cutting-edge stuff. Its primary-color-saturated world of computer innards immediately became geek catnip, and turned into the forerunner of the cyberpunk genre. Of course, in 1982, the Commodore 64 was kinda mind-blowing as well. So there’s that.

Looking at how far we’ve come with the advancements of computer gee-whizery, the question wasn’t whether the world of Tron would get revisited, the question was when.

With the answer of “no time like the present,” Disney finally gets around to Tron: Legacy.

It’s 20 years after Kevin Flynn, creator of the world of Tron, has disappeared into the matrix. After looking for answers, his son Sam gets drawn in after him. Sam is then forced to take part in the program’s gladiatorial games to stay alive and find his father — a sort of Spartacus on a motherboard.

Jeff Bridges is back to reprise the Kevin role, and Legacy‘s big pitch is the computer animation technique that lets him play Dad as both the real-age character and the younger version of himself (’cause computer programs don’t age, see).

However, like the other effects of the film, they’re quite disappointing, especially for such a touchstone title. Whereas the color scheme of the original was bright and vivid, the world of Tron: Legacy is muted, muddy, and indistinguishable. That may have been what they were going for thematically, but it just makes for a dull feature.

With much overkill, there are at least three Blu-ray versions available: two-disc, four-disc, and even a whopping five-disc set. If you can’t find a feature or two to watch out of all those choices, you really should give up trying.

— Timothy Hiatt

Category: Columns, Digital Divide, Monthly

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