Catwoman (2004) / Action-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, language and sexuality
Running Time: 104 min.
Cast: Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone, Lambert Wilson, Alex Borstein, Frances Conroy
Screenplay: John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris, John Rogers
Review published July 26, 2004
Change the name, change the origin, change the town, change the personality, and what do you have? Not DC Comics' Catwoman, I can attest. In fact, the only similarities between Catwoman's Patience Phillips and Selina Kyle of all the other "Batman" related outings is the cat-suit and whip. This radical change was the first among many missteps taken by the producers of this disappointing misfire that only hardcore action junkies could possibly like.
Superhero movies are a hard sell in the disbelief department, but Catwoman may be one of the silliest, as we watch the transformation from mild-mannered graphic designer to vampish dominatrix without very much conflict in either facet. We are supposed to take for granted that such an extremely befuddling series of events could possibly happen, as if we should be used to farfetched superhero origins enough to gloss over the fact that Catwoman's modus operandi doesn't make a great deal of sense.
Apparently, the Catwoman persona exists for three reasons -- to get revenge on the people responsible for Patience's near demise, to amass a wealth of jewelry from heisting the local stores for reasons never made precisely clear, and to make sure the neighbors keep their music turned down.
Here's the plot: Patience Phillips is a shy, reserved artist working for a cosmetics giant, Hedare Beauty, a company that is set to introduce an anti-aging cream to revolutionize the industry and make billions doing it. One day, Patience accidentally overhears some damaging news -- the cream has incredible side effects, most notably that one's face can become disfigured and ugly for those who discontinue using it. Some baddies chase her around until she is flushed out (quite literally) and left for dead, whereupon a mystical cat breathes its essence into her to revive her. Upon waking, she finds that her habits start strangely changing, with heightened senses and agility, and an insatiable craving for seafood. She seeks to exact her revenge, but the more she does, the more signs point to herself in the media as the perpetrator, which makes things difficult in her relationship with the studly policeman known as Tom Lone, (Bratt, Red Planet).
The first indicator that Catwoman is in the wrong hands -- the director goes by one name. Longtime visual effects supervisor, Pitof (pronounced "peet-off"), joins one-word moniker, McG (Charlie's Angels), in trying to make themselves a product rather than in presenting a story as it needs to be told. Everything is done in annoying quick-cuts, ceaseless crane shots, CGI-laden battle sequences, and glossy, artificial looking sets. It's all a very style-over-substance experience, where most action scenes are shot as if for a music video, while the dramatic scenes have the movement and consistency of a perfume ad. With so much directorial masturbation, you'd think he should dub himself "Bitof" instead.
Something else I detested -- I realize that many others would describe Halle Berry's (Die Another Day, Swordfish) Catwoman garb as sexy, and certainly there is something provocative about it, but I found it to be very unappealing. First off, the mask raises far to high above the forehead, giving Berry's noggin an unattractive quality, I suppose to make her body look even thinner than it is. Berry's breasts, midriff, back and tush are accentuated in ways that defy common sense for battle purposes. It seems that the more vulnerable a location on the body, the more exposure if gets, and for a woman who primarily engages in non-stop fighting, such a terrible choice for a suit seems very unlikely. Is she ready to rumble or go for a tumble in the hay? Her eye make-up and lipstick are also unattractive. When Catwoman's sexiness factor is higher without the costume than with it, there's a fundamental problem in design.
And just what is Catwoman anyway? Is she a hero, villain, or what? Sure, she does do battle with some unsavory characters, but this seems more out of revenge, while the fact that she has saved the public from a detrimental substance is merely a by-product of her bloodlust. She is shown as stopping a jewelry heist, but later she has deemed to keep all of these items for herself. What exactly is the reason a catwoman has existed throughout the centuries anyway? Just to play dress up, sex up the men, while looking for confrontations of dubious nature, it seems.
I just don't get it, and neither do the creators of this very weak attempt at starting another comic book franchise. This one isn't for the character's fans, it's for lovers of kinky wardrobe and falsely feminist junk that says to free oneself, one needs to expose themselves to the world, and kick the asses of anyone who doesn't like it. Just like I did with Terminator 3, which was coincidentally penned by the same screenwriters, I'm rejecting this entry as non-canon. It's a hairball hocked on an undeserving public who, after seeing just how good comic book movies can be in Spider-Man and X-Men, are just too savvy to be spoon-fed dross like this and like it. Let's move forward shall we? The world doesn't need Barb Wire redux.
©2004 Vince Leo