At this point in the game, being such an unwavering DC Comics geek plays against me while watching Catwoman, the latest round of ammunition proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that, up to Christopher Nolan's involvement in the Batman franchise and Bryan Singer's in Superman, Warner Brothers had absolutely no idea what to do with the rich pantheon of comics characters they own. While rival Marvel has been reaping copious amounts of box-office and critical kudos with their adaptations of Spider-Man, X-Men, and Blade (although faltering a bit with Hulk, which was ambitious if flawed, and the less said about the twin turd sandwiches Daredevil and The Punisher the better), Warner Brothers has been flopping like a fish on its belly while attempting to determine the best course of action with their characters. Anyone who witnessed their attempts to get a Superman movie off the ground can testify to this with all speed. Hell, just take a look at 1997's cinematic abortion Batman and Robin to get a good idea where Warner's head was at: all they needed was a somewhat recognizable property, big name stars to plant tuchas in seats, an enormous budget to overload the movie with sass, boom, and bah, and a director willing to kowtow to every idiotic demand the studio desired. The result? A $107-million grossing monstrosity – the lowest in the entire series – that violated and disemboweled the studio's most successful franchise. I don't know who got Dibney'ed more on that one: the franchise or the legions of Batman fans who sat in abject horror wondering whether or not they somehow slipped into Earth-2 or something where everyone involved in the movie industry seems to have the mental alacrity of tapioca pudding.
No wait, that's our Earth. Damn.
In all honesty, I doubt that anyone could have made a decent Catwoman movie. The character, who premiered in 1940 in the pages of Batman #1 as a costume-less character named "The Cat", has had a host of interpretations and visual styles since her introduction sixty-five years ago, but she has pretty much always been little more than a clever burglar and provider of much sexual frustration for the Dark Knight. Clad in skintight purple and grey, the character of Selina Kyle, former stewardess and/or prostitute (depending on who you ask), one of the most preeminent presences in Batman's rogues gallery, has become one of the most recognizable comic book icons, and certainly a source of horndog appreciation for lifeless comics geeks worldwide. Yet Catwoman as a character has always succeeded because of her supporting role in the Batman mythos. Sure, she's been the focus of several individual stories, and is even currently hosting her own solo series, but I found Selina Kyle to be a much more effective presence when she slinked out of the alleyways to provide some sort of thinly-veiled sexual frustration for Batman and then disappear with a teasing but affectionate come-hither laugh. Less is more, you know?
I suppose you could make a halfway enjoyable Catwoman film if you eschewed the entire Batman linkage and just focused on Selina Kyle, master thief, dealing with her fiendish compulsion to steal shiny, pretty things, yet unable to resist the "One Big Score". Somewhat cliché, I give you, but a film in the Italian Job or The Score mold might have actually worked. Instead, you end up with last year's Catwoman, a slick-looking bauble of kitsch and camp that, despite what you have heard or assumed, isn't the worst movie ever made. It's a bad movie, sure. It's thoroughly misguided from start to finish, and the head-shaking and eye-rolling will run fast and fierce throughout the movie's 100-minute running time. But Catwoman, for better or worse, certainly isn't a boring movie and while it is a failure it's far from the train wreck the negative buzz has painted it to be.
OK. Obviously, the Catwoman of this film bears absolutely no relationship to the character that has graced comics, television, animation, and movies since 1940. To many, this is little more than absolute heresy, but I would have been willing to let it fly if it had resulted in a worthwhile movie (which it didn't.) Accordingly to industry figures, the latest issue of the Catwoman comic book sold 26,000 copies. Somewhere around eight million people saw Catwoman, the movie. If you were to simply cater to the comic book crowd, you'd end up with grosses that would make Thunderbirds seem like Titanic. Anyway, I'd have less of a problem with the changes if they didn't end up running with the entire "there have been dozens of Catwomen throughout the ages" angle, pushing the concept that Catwoman is in fact a mystical being who carries a mantle that has been passed down through millennia. It amps up the cheese factor considerably. The scene in which Midnight the magical, mystical feline breathes life into Patience's dead body is thoroughly, laughably bad.
Well now that they've alienated the comics
faithful, you'd hope that Warner Brothers would pick up the slack by loading up
the film with talented filmmakers. You'd hope. The script is chock
full of obvious metaphors and campy one-liners, an obvious result of filmmaking
by committee if there ever was one. Former visual effects supervisor and
Vidocq director Pitof demonstrates his ability to shoot a great looking
film, but Catwoman
is entirely flash and dazzle over any substance of note whatsoever. When the
film is moving it does so at a breakneck, stylish vibe, but any sense of scene
and narrative flow is backburnered in favor of making the movie a sleek, hip-hop
feast for the eyes and ears. Furthermore, the editing in this film makes
Looking at the acting,
aspires to be a slick, candy-coated carnival ride that espouses that virtues of
female assertiveness but does little to distinguish itself as anything remotely
worthwhile. The film, despite its many flaws, is actually pretty watchable and
mildly entertaining at times, but it's mostly a loud, campy mess.
Catwoman is not the ultimate bomb/flop/disaster; it
plays more like a lesser, forgettable entry in the Jerry Bruckheimer oeuvre. Yet
while watching it, I can't say I was ever bored or disinterested.
That's more than I can say for
in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and has been
anamorphically enhanced for your widescreen-viewing enjoyment. This is a sharp
looking transfer, rich and vibrant and pulsing with life. If nothing else,
is a visually stunning film, and Pitof's sense
of composition is wonderfully displayed on this disc. Colors are strong, with
deep blacks and rich saturation levels. Contrasts are bright and strongly
delineated, adding a greater sense of depth to the image. At times the picture
looks a little bit harsh, almost overly digitized, but this is
an aesthetic choice rather than a fault of the transfer. Image detail
is mostly strong; some occasional softness is present but this is few and far in
between. Overall this is a strong, extremely impressive
Audio:The audio on this disc is just as impressive as the video. The mix is delivered a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, with an optional 5.1 French soundtrack also included. This is a spacious, immersive mix, enveloping the listener with strong imaging and pinpoint directionality. Surrounds are used aggressively and effectively to highlight background and ambient noise as well as reinforce the various action scenes throughout the film. The movie sports a loud, throbbing hip-hop soundtrack, which is richly and powerfully delivered through ample and often utilization of LFE and rich dynamic range. Dialog is clear, crisp, and without harshness or distortion. The overall soundfield is smooth and balanced, while remaining loud, raucous, and engaging throughout.
The Many Faces of Catwoman, a thirty-minute feature hosted by Eartha Kitt, is pretty much the most impressive and entertaining feature on this disc (it's easily a hundred times more interesting than the movie itself.) This documentary explores the history of the character of Catwoman, from comic books to movies to television and animation. Included in this feature are all three of the television Catwomen: Eartha Kitt, Julie Newmar, and Lee Meriweather, as well as Batman himself Adam West. We also hear from Adrienne Barbeau, who voiced Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series, as well as a host of comic book professionals, including writer Jeph Loeb, artist Alex Ross, DC Comics Publisher Paul Levitz and editor Dan Didio. Cast and crew from the Catwoman movie are also heavily featured, including
remaining features are pretty sparse. There is a
thirteen-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, which plays
as your basic EPK material. The stars explain the film, their roles, how much
fun it was to make the movie, etc. It's OK but not something you'd want to watch
more than once... if it all. Up next are six minutes of deleted
scenes, including a pointless chase scene through a junkyard, a longer
(but still tame) love scene between
Catwoman is not a
horrible movie, but it's pretty bad. Still, it's hard to loathe a movie that
shows off so much of the lovely Ms.
I can't complain too much about the DVD, though. The presentation of the film is stunning, with both impressive video and audio. The extras are pretty sparse, but the "History of Catwoman" documentary is definitely worth a look. Consider Catwoman as a potential rental, with the strong knowledge that you're about to watch a slickly shot, visually dazzling, and kinetically-charged bad movie.