Did Sony Deliberately Make The Green Hornet Trailer Really Generic?
The first trailer for The Green Hornet, which you can watch here, comes after the film has gone through a series of date changes and plenty of skepticism that a stoner comedian like Seth Rogen and a whimsical arthouse director like Michel Gondry could pull off a studio superhero film. And though Sony clearly brought on Rogen and Gondry to bring something new to the tired superhero origin story, you'd never know that from watching this trailer. Not only are the story beats entirely familiar-- playboy rich kid takes responsibility after personal tragedy, outfits himself with gadgets, a sidekick and a love interest, and starts fighting crime-- but it all looks bland too, with the same sleek weapons and big explosions you've found in every superhero movie over the last 10 years. The only thing to distinguish it from The Fantastic Four or X-Men 2 or Spider-Man 3 is slightly less CGI than you might be used to, and the fact that it's Rogen running around as the masked crusader.
But that can't be what this is, right? Michel Gondry is an extraordinarily talented director with buckets of visual skill to share, and while surely Sony wasn't going to let him build the sets out of cardboard or depict the Green Hornet's villains with a series of puppets, we have to assume there's at least something in there that doesn't look like a deliberately dull parody of modern superhero films. Gondry isn't a perfect director by any means, or one so powerful he can override a studio's demands, but you have to assume he brought something to the table that we can't see yet.
There's are two shots in the trailer that suggests any visual wit-- one at 1:03, showing a hedge with a car parked in front of it opening like a gate to let Black Beauty drive through, and the other as Kato kicks a villain over the hood of a car that expands into a long row. Both brief shots contain much we expect from Gondry-- an element of surprise, of whimsy, of taking something ordinary and tweaking it to be special. But the thing is, those kinds of moments are exactly what make every good superhero movie, or any blockbuster really, worth watching. Think of Jack Sparrow stepping onto the dock from the sinking ship in the first Pirates film, the Batpod flipping off the wall during the Dark Knight chase sequences, the gorgeous puppet oddities in the Hellboy movies (if there's any superhero movie director we can hope Gondry emulates, surely it's Guillermo del Toro). Superhero movies, at their best, give us the chance to marvel at something unusual and exciting, and on that count Gondry is a perfect director for the genre.
And yet, with this first trailer, Sony seems to assume we're afraid of all that, and that only the most generic story beats and visuals will fail to scare off viewers. That's the attitude that isn't just leading to a complete overabundance of superhero stories, but helps explains this summer's dismal box office-- Hollywood has spent so long assuming we only want the familiar that we're now finally craving something new. If Gondry and Rogen really have brought actual wit and excitement to the tired superhero origin story, we need to see it soon, lest The Green Hornet fade into the usual din of interchangeable blockbusters. Lets hope this generic first trailer is just an early blip, not a full-fledged marketing campaign.
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