Catwoman is the best DC Comics movie adaptation since Batman Forever.
Which is saying only that it's better than Steel, starring basketball
player-rapper Shaquille O'Neal. Now, I didn't see Steel. I'm just guessing.
First up: This Catwoman isn't the DC Comics Catwoman. She's not cat
burglar-vigilante Selina Kyle, who does and/or has done it with Batman. Why
do it this way, when the Selina Kyle character has been in some perfectly acceptable
stories for 60 years?
I don't know, but fine. FINE. So from this point, let us not compare it to
the comics Catwoman.
OK, just once. For some reason she changes her costume a couple of times, and
she can't resist stealing things.
Fine, one more. The movie story mentions that there have been other Catwomen.
There is only one wink-wink Get It, Comics Fans? moment in the whole flick,
when a photo of Michelle Pfeiffer in her Batman Returns cat-costume
is seen. There could have been more.
For one, the Crazy Exposition Cat Lady could very, very easily have been played
by Julie Newmar, the first Catwoman from the 1960s Batman TV-series.
The crazy cat lady is played by Frances Conroy, who looks a lot like Newmar.
And that's all. I was totally expecting lines like "I like a man who wears black,"
or "I want to meet Batman in Gotham City, where we can ride in his Batmobile
and fight The Joker."
This movie owes more to Batman Returns than any of the comics, anyway.
And by that, I refuse to mention the nipples on the suits and then Halle Berry,
because I am a professional. In both movies, a mousy girl is wronged by a big
evil corporation, then killed, then brought back to life by cats. In Batman
Returns, it was Christopher Walken. Here it's Sharon Stone, who looks a
lot like Christopher Walken. Sadly, in real life there are far too many people
screwed over by corporations for the cats to bring back to life. Stupid lazy
We actually see the magical moment that the cat brings her to life. The cat
breathes on her. Literally. A magical breath flows from his kitty mouth to her,
and she wakes up. I think anyone who's ever been breathed on by a cat knows
you don't get sexy super-powers from it.
Surprise! There's a big whistling error. Early on, the pre-Catwoman Patience
Phillips climbs onto a dangerous, fire-escape-free ledge outside her apartment
window four or five stories up to rescue a cat. Later, after she gets her powers,
she returns to her apartment . . . but it's just two stories up, and
there are fire escapes all over the side. You may say I misjudged the building
height, and she was around the corner from where she was at the beginning of
the movie. To which I respond, ha ha! I just made you think about the plot of
Catwoman for five seconds!
I waited for the DVD for this movie. There, I said it. My comic book fan loyalty
was tested, and I flunked. I saw Elektra, based on Marvel's likewise
sexy assassin who likewise has a heart of gold who likewise has gotten down
to likewise freaky business with a likewise masked man. Catwoman is better
than Elektra. This is damning it with faint praise, but it's about
as much as I can give. Quickly, Catwoman is to Elektra as "somewhat
competent" is to "almost completely slap-assed."
The entire plot is about beauty cream. It makes your skin, according to the
villainous Sharon Stone, "like living marble." Oh yeah! It's an original plot
from a villain! Beauty cream! Why didn't anyone ever think of . . .
The best part of the movie is Halle Berry. The star could've been Michelle
Pfeiffer or Ashley Judd, who both were going to be Catwoman before Berry. This
movie has been in the works for over ten years. You'd think they'd have worked
out something other than beauty cream, but . . . sigh.
At least Halle Berry didn't have to wear the Phyllis Diller wig from X-Men.
I almost said she "breathes life" into the movie, but the cat already did
that. She's the only colorful character in the thing, which makes it weird to
see her in costume in the same shot as a pants-suited Sharon Stone. My point
is, she seems to get it. She just bounces around and purrs in her ugly-ass cat
helmet, getting it.
This movie had every right to be a train-wreck. But Catwoman is not the type
of bad that, sight unseen, you probably think it is. It's got somewhat intentional
camp that stops me from being truly irritated at it. And that, I suppose, will
have to do.
The history of Catwoman on the DVD really does cover the entire history, says
I, comic book dork. From her 1930s first appearance through lots of ugly costumes.
And there's Adam West, who explains the appeal of Catwoman thusly: "I never
wanted to date The Joker." That Adam West is a bad mother.
The documentary also includes comments from Michelle Pfeiffer and Tim Burton,
but it's very obviously old footage shot in 1992 for Batman Returns.
They both look very young. And there are Alice in Chains posters hanging on
The documentary features EVERYONE who has played Catwoman. The Catwomen from
the 1960s show and movie talk about the Catwoman character. Eartha Kitt herself
narrates, over-acting just well enough for me to wonder why they didn't find
something in the movie for her to do. Julie Newmar and Lee Meriwether are there,
and Meriwether outs herself as a comic book geek.
Then, surprisingly, they talk to Adrienne Barbeau, voice actress for Catwoman
on Batman: The Animated Series. Is this the first time Hollywood has
placed animation actors on the same level as real-life actors? Then Adrienne
blurts out that she never liked comic books and ruins the moment. Still, apart
from the movie's leaping scenes of Catwoman and the bouncy aftershocks of her
body parts thereupon, the documentary is more enjoyable than the movie itself.