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GREEN HORNET

How Kato Fights...In Kato-Vision
In the "Green Hornet” television series, Bruce Lee made both himself and Kato international stars. Because of that, the filmmakers were aware that there would be certain expectations for Kato's fight sequences. As the film's fight stunt coordinator, Jeff Imada, says, "To me, the present day Kato either had to follow Bruce Lee but be better than Bruce Lee, or go completely the other direction. I think that's what Michel wanted to do – our Kato would not have any martial arts background.”

In Jay Chou, the filmmakers found someone who "understands body mechanics,” Imada continues, "and he can captivate the screen. He's got a great presence.”

Chou began his training before production began. "He was very interested in training,” says Imada, "and wanted to learn as much as he could in the time we had.”

"Because he has a dance background, Jay picks up choreography very quickly,” says Imada. For instance, on one occasion, after watching a run through of a fight scene with stunt players, Chou said, "Let me try.” As Imada recalls, he proceeded to get "half-way through the fight on his own without any prompting. He just visually picked it up and went through it. He understands how to flow from one thing to the next.”

Still, even though Chou sought to make the character his own, it seemed appropriate to give a tip-of-the-chauffeur's-cap to Lee, in subtle ways. "Jay is definitely a big Bruce Lee fan, and there were certain elements he's trying to carry over,” says Imada. "His favorite thing is, ‘Well, that's cool.' He wants the cool factor. As long as it has a cool factor, he's happy about it.”

One example, and one of Chou's favorite moves, were the "hand trapping movements,” Imada continues. "People saw Bruce Lee do that many years ago and Jay likes that, the quick hand motions and being able to take people out very quickly.”

Imada's resume includes films such as Armageddon, Rush Hour, Fight Club, Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Ultimatum. On The Green Hornet, he was asked to emphasize the comedic elements of the fight sequences, but in a very specific way. "It's not slapstick,” Imada explains. "There's still a lot of seriousness in the story. But a lot of comedy is physical, and I approached the physical comedy by using things in the environment for things other than their intention. For instance, in the Britt and Kato fight, we got a lot of physical comedy in there by using everyday items that are in Britt's bungalow.”

"I think that's my favorite thing,” says Gondry. "The fight is gritty and mean but funny at the same time. It's very well-orchestrated – we use everything in the room. It flies in every direction but it's still very realistic. We wanted to maintain a good level of comedy during the action. Even when everything is blowing up around them, it's fun to watch.”

But story always comes first. The action, just like the comedy, must serve the story and the characters. "You have to control how the fight escalates and how it tapers off so that in doing all this physical action, it still tells a story, just the same as dialogue,” says Imada.

What would really set Kato's fight sequences apart – and put Gondry's singular signature on the film – would come to be known as Kato-Vision. Imada explains, "Michel basically wanted to show the audience how Kato saw things – as far as any kind of danger or action.” This point-of-view perspective would allow the audience to see how Kato's brain takes in a threatening situation as it unfolds.

"When Kato's heart starts beating fast, time slows down for him and he assesses the danger,” says Gondry. Ever have the feeling – in that moment between sleep and waking – that you've suddenly solved the most complex problems in the world? "That's called hypnotic hallucination, and Kato can make himself go into that state at critical moments. The objects he'll need in the fight are highlighted, and every character he's going to take out is projected. He also has a spacial memory – he can recall immense amounts of data and map it all in his brain. Kato's fighting is pretty impressive because he knows where everything is and how he is going to use it.”

What's more, when time slows down, Kato moves at super-human speeds, quickly taking on multiple bad guys in the same frame in which they move in slow-motion. Very early on, as part of his presentation to Moritz and Rogen showcasing his vision for the film, Gondry presented a test that he created with the Phantom Camera, a digital camera capable of shooting thousands of frames per second. The test showed two men fighting at different speeds – one seemingly stuck in place and the other moving very quickly.

Kato-Vision is not only the kind of signature imagery that audiences expect from Gondry – Imada feels it adds to the audience experience by giving them the full impact of a fight sequence as well as the melodic beauty of martial arts. "Sometimes you want to see everything happen in real time and see how good the person is. Other times you appreciate the movements, because you can see the reactions and how hard people are getting hit or falling in slow motion,” says Imada.

The 3D really shines in the Kato-Vision sequences. "The way that Michel envisioned Kato-Vision from the very beginning opens up the opportunity for Michel to go crazy with 3D,” says Sony 3D Technology Center stereographer Rob Engle. "Michel's idea was for the 3D to give you a hyper-reality idea. All of the elements that make up Kato-Vision – the idea that we are seeing the world as Kato sees it; the idea that time is slowing down for him – are heightened by the 3D experience, by the idea that you're actually there and experiencing that world.”

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