Hollywood Backlot: ‘The Green Hornet’
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The ‘Green’ line: the Hornet and the Lantern

Hollywood Backlot: ‘The Green Hornet’
Drawing the line
By Geoff Boucher, Los Angeles Times staff writer

Two of the biggest special-effects films of 2011 are “The Green Hornet” (January 14) and “Green Lantern” (June 17). While both movies are based on venerable properties (the title heroes date back to the Roosevelt administration), average moviegoers may have trouble keeping them straight. We’re here to help you answer that old question: “Who was that masked man?” (Dynamite Entertainment / DC Universe)
The history
Green Hornet was introduced in January 1936 as the title character of a radio show by Fran Stryker and George W. Trendle, the same tandem that in 1933 introduced another misunderstood masked man: the Lone Ranger.

Green Lantern first appeared in a July 1940 comic book as a big city crime-fighter with a magic ring, a mash-up of Batman and Aladdin. Almost 20 years later, after Sputnik, he was revamped as a sci-fi hero with an alien-tech ring. (Mark Linnihan / AP / DC Comics)
The movie plot
Callow party-dude Britt Reid ( Seth Rogen) inherits the media empire of his father (Tom Wilkinson) but finds a greater purpose by donning a mask to fight an evil mobster with big plans (Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz) and stay ahead of the local police.

Reckless fly-boy Hal Jordan ( Ryan Reynolds) inherits the passions of his pilot father but finds a greater purpose by donning a mask to fight an evil scientist with a big head (Peter Sarsgaard) and overcome an alien force called Parallax. (Warner Bros. / Columbia Pictures)
The stars
Rogen, who is best known as the chubby stoner in “Knocked Up” and " Pineapple Express,” slimmed down for this action role but thankfully skips the spandex in favor of trench coat and fedora.

Reynolds had 2009 rom-com success with “The Proposal” and was just named People magazine‘s “sexiest man alive.” (Elisabetta Villa/Getty Images / Associated Press)
The vibe
French director Michel Gondry (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) says “Hornet” has the old-school peril and humor mix of “Beverly Hills Cop” but skeptics worry it may be “Inspector Gadget” with sex jokes.

Director Martin Campbell hopes for rollicking adventure -- like his hit “The Legend of Zorro” -- and a sort of Jedi-knight version of “Top Gun,” but fanboys worry he might deliver “The Mask” in space. (Ettore Ferrari/EPA / Warner Bros.)
The sidekick
Today, the fans that do know the Green Hornet most likely remember him from the short-lived 1960s TV series with Bruce Lee as Kato, the hero’s driver and combat specialist. In the new film, Taiwanese star Jay Chou is at the wheel and far more fearsome than his feckless boss.

Green Lantern doesn’t have a sidekick in the new film and that’s probably just as well. In the 1940s comics, the hero was accompanied by a Brooklyn doofus named Doiby Dickles, and in the 1960s he had a junior pal in Thomas “Pieface” Kalmaku, a cheerful young Inuit aviation mechanic. ()
The girl(s)
Cameron Diaz plays Lenore Case, the spirited new secretary to Rogen’s just-minted media mogul.

Blake Lively (“Gossip Girl”) is Carol Ferris, the childhood friend of Jordan and (unlike the early version of the character in the comics) a savvy rival pilot. (Getty Images/EPA / Getty Images)
The gear
Like James Bond, the Green Hornet has no superpowers but he’s got some killer gizmos. His best toy: Black Beauty, a tricked-out 1960s Chrysler Imperial with major firepower.

Green Lantern’s ring ranks up there with Wonder Woman’s lasso or Captain America’s shield as hero hardware goes. The ring creates glowing green energy “constructs” of anything he imagines. (Associated Press / DC Comics)