It has long been known that editing can make or break a movie.
Many are the films that have been saved in the editing room, or at least been rendered releasable.
Even already promising movies have been made great by gifted editors. Consider the justly revered (and much imitated) runaway baby carriage sequence in director Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 masterpiece, “Battleship Potemkin.”
In 1952’s “High Noon,” it’s thanks to Elmo Williams’ razor sharp cross-cutting, along with Fred Zinnemann’s direction, that the classic western builds to its tense climax. And ditto that star Gary Cooper’s look of pain — he was suffering from a bleeding stomach ulcer during filming–comes across as steely determination.
Director Arthur Penn and producer-star Warren Beatty both have long acknowledged the enormous contribution that the late editor Dede Allen made to 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” especially in the final, brutally spasmodic shoot-out scene.
Sometimes, though, an editor’s most valuable contribution can be to cut, cut, cut and keep cutting. As in shorten the movie. As in take out 20 or 30 minutes even though the director keeps moaning that this scene is his or her most brilliant work.
How many movies have you sat through recently during which you were mentally wielding scissors?
There’s a lot of throat clearing and warming up in movies, especially in the early stretches. Snip off that extended expository opening, the lengthy chase scenes and that declamatory comic monologue by the leading man and we could all be out of the theater way sooner.
Case in point: “The Green Hornet,” which clocks in at a bloated 118 minutes. There is not, I promise you, 118 minutes worth of vital plot, special effects or comic business in this movie.
There is maybe, and I’m being generous here, 80 minutes worth — and even that 80 minutes in sub-par stuff.
The movie is a sad misfire. Much of the blame can be pinned on star and co-producer Seth Rogen’s uninspired script, which he co-wrote with Evan Goldberg. It roughly follows the outlines of the classic Green Hornet story — which originated on radio, and then migrated to comic books, the big screen and TV: Brett Reid (Rogen), a wealthy newspaper publisher, becomes a crime-fighting vigilante, aided by Kato, his mono-monikered, Asian chauffer-sidekick (played here by Taiwanese music star Jay Chou).
Rogen spends most of “Hornet” frenetically trying to goose his own pallid screenplay to life. It’s as if he’s believes that if he could just raise his energy level another notch, it would make up for the fact that there is a great big empty maw where a viable plot and characters belong.
To borrow a phrase from that well-known fanboy Gertrude Stein, there’s no there there. “Hornet’s” characters have the heft and dimension of paper matchsticks, and the wispy plot — how Reid becomes the Green Hornet and takes on L.A.’s biggest crime boss (Christoph Waltz, who is at least funny) — is about as involving as your Aunt Sally’s latest anecdote about the center piece she devised for her bridge club’s luncheon.
Director Michel Gondry, who has brought such an inventive, almost child-like touch to small, intimate films like “Human Nature” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” seems here to have gotten lost in the make-it-a-blockbuster shuffle.
As for the well-hyped 3D, like “Clash of the Titans,” it was retrofitted to 3D rather than originally shot that way — that’s a big mehhh. C’mon, if you’re going to have 3D, at least let Cameron Diaz (whose role is nothing but decoration) shake her shapely booty in our faces.