Seth Rogen turns superhero in The Green Hornet, Evangelion 2.0: When robots attack

by Mark Burger

After a number offalse starts and someearly, unfavorablereports, The GreenHornet hasfinally come buzzingto the big screen underthe direction of MichelGondry and with SethRogen in the title role.Surprise, surprise,the film turns out to be a splashy, colorfuldiversion — and in no way the disaster thatsome industry wags predicted. Actually, it’squite agreeable in its own loose way.Based on the popular radio serial of the 1930sand ’40s, Rogen plays Britt Reid, the free-wheelingnewspaper heir who resolves to cleans up hisact — and more — when his publisher father(Tom Wilkinson) dies unexpectedly.In an effort to stave off boredom and shoreup circulation of Dad’s newspaper, Britt joinsforces with his father’s assistant Kato (JayChou), dons the guise of the title hero, andbegins cracking down on Los Angeles’ underworld,in particular the minions of crime bossChudnofsky (Christoph Waltz).Although Kato is an expert martial artist,Reid’s Green Hornet possesses no super powers,relying instead on his instinct and wits (uh-oh!),as well as a gaggle of gadgets and gizmos, totriumph over crime. Good thing he’s got the gadgets,to say nothing of Kato in his corner.Initially perceived as a publicity stunt by thecity’s resident bad guys, the Green Hornet’santics begin annoying Chudnofsky, who isforever intent on proving how truly threateninghe is. Eliminating the Green Hornet wouldhelp that end.Special effects aside, and there are a lotof them, The Green Hornet relies heavily ongoofy interplay between Reid and Kato, yetthe playful tone is easy to take. It’s not marriedto its source material (which wasn’t very deepto begin with), but it doesn’t insult it, either.The script, by Rogen and screenwriting partnerEvan Goldberg (both also executive producers),tries to have it both ways by sending upthe trappings of the superhero genre while atthe same time embracing them. Occasionally,the jokey attitude is at odds with the moreaction-oriented aspects of the story.Yet it could have been so much worse.Cameron Diaz, as Reid’s secretary and ostensibleGal Friday, doesn’t have much to do exceptadd some glamour to the proceedings, Waltz andEdward James Olmos (as the quintessentiallynoble newspaper editor) good-naturedly kid thematerial, and Wilkinson picks up an easy checkas Britt’s ill-fated father. They’re here, and theyseem to be enjoying themselves.Taiwanese pop singer Chou, in his Englishspeakingdebut, has a bemused rapport withRogen, and his obvious unfamiliarity with thelanguage is made endearing rather than beingmade the butt of jokes. Rogen, for his part,doesn’t hog center stage and wisely allows hison-screen sidekick plenty of room to maneuver.Nobody’s lying down on the job here.Opening Friday at the Carousel Cinemas,Evangelion 2.0: You Can (Not) Advanceis the second in a series of Japanese animefilms by Hideaki Anno based on a popular animatedseries called “Neon Genesis Evangelion”that aired on Japanese television in the 1990s.In its native Japan, the films have been enormouslypopular. (Think of it as comparable to the“Transformers” series in the US.)This futuristic science-fiction adventure, inJapanese with English subtitles, pits a groupof young warriors against an alien invasion ofunknown origin. Giant robots are the weaponsof choice here, and city blocks tend to crumblewhen they rumble.There are philosophical and theologicalallusions hinted at throughout the story, but thefilm works best in the action sequences, whichare executed with flair.Many characters tend to come off as cartoonish,no pun intended, exaggerated andshrill in their actions and speech. Then thereare those characters whose silence and reticenceare deafening in their own way. (It’s thequiet ones you’ve got to watch out for.)Evangelion 2.0 is best suited to anime aficionados,many of whom are undoubtedly alreadyfamiliar with the story. This installment, whichrefers frequently to the previous one — thatwould be Evangelion 1.0: You Are (Not) Alone— yet doesn’t really recap it, concludes on a notethat leaves the door as wide open as possiblefor a follow-up, which probably isn’t a surprise.Evangelion 3.0 is on tap for release in 2012