Movies have not been all that kind to female superheroes, on television Lynda Carter ruled as Wonder Woman for years but somehow that most iconic of all female characters in comic books has had almost infinite problems making its way to the big screen. Is it Hollywood’s fear that a female protagonist just won’t bring in the box office numbers a man would? Well, I’d say actors such as Sigourney Weaver, Linda Hamilton, and Angelina Jolie would argue that point.
Sadly the comic-based movies starring women have had a terrible track record and one that studio execs can easily point to in their defence. Christopher’s Superman: The Movie was a box office bonanza while Helen Slater as Supergirl flopped faster than a speeding bullet. Why did a Man of Steel beat out a Girl of Steel? Answer: Because the second one was terrible beyond measure. Nothing to do with the source material or the character just that the Supergirl movie was given a much smaller budget and a half-assed script with a plot that wouldn’t survive the scrutiny of a five-year-old. It never had a chance.
But today we are not going to get into the Salkind’s horrible treatment of Superman’s cousin, I’ve already covered that disaster, but one of the other giant female characters in comicdom, which would be DC’s Catwoman. And no not the sexy sultry Julie Newmar or the marvellously malevolent Eartha Kitt from the Adam West Batman series, nor will this film feature the exciting foil of Batman as portrayed by Anne Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises or even the dark and tormented Selina Kyle depicted by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns, no this is the 2004 movie directed by Pitof and starring Halle Berry as Selina Kyle who in this version is a struggling artist working for an evil cosmetic company. Girl Power!
Our movie starts with Patience Philips (Halle Berry) floating in a body of water, her voice-over proclaiming that she is dead. Is it a really good idea for filmmakers to start off with a homage/rip-off of a classic like Sunset Boulevard? I just can’t see how reminding the audience of much better films will help with yours. Either the audience will be unfamiliar with the source material you are “referencing” (which for this target audience is likely the case which means it’s not so much an homage as just plain theft), or if they are familiar with that film then you will most likely just piss them off.
The film jumps back in time to see Patience Philips rushing to her job as a commercial artist for a cosmetic firm. We see her wacky co-workers, including stereotypical gay man, and chubby best girlfriend Sally (Alex Borstein). Her boss George Hedare (Lambert Wilson) yells at her a lot because he is a big meanie who doesn’t treat women with respect, and when she tries to deliver a layout to him in the middle of the night she overhears an evil cosmetic conspiracy about how this new product lean can lead to scarring and eventual death, this is when our story takes off.
Of course, she is spotted during her ill-conceived eavesdropping and two thugs “kill” her by flushing her out into the river through a giant waste disposal pipe and this is where we found her floating during the opening prologue. She then is given the breath of life by a really bad CGI cat and thus she receives all these mystical cat powers. If this sounds dumb to you then the rest of the movie will be downright insulting.
Let’s talk about her “Cat Powers” as this is one of the film’s more idiotic ideas; Catwoman does not need superpowers. Sure, Tim Burton’s Batman Returns had a woman resurrected from the dead by cats, and by the end of that movie you get the idea she may have nine lives, but she does not have the silly ass cat abilities that we see Halle Berry receive. This Catwoman can land on her feet like a cat, leap around with super agility, and kick the ass of any two-bit opponent, now I hear you saying, “That’s not so bad, and not terribly far off from the comic characters abilities” and your right but sadly this movie takes all those abilities to eleven and by that I mean CGI Super-Fu. Both this Catwoman movie and the Daredevil film insist on making the heroes move around like Spider-Man. Neither of those characters is supposed to have super strength or kneecaps of titanium as would be required to have if one were to survive the things these two do on screen.
Halle Berry’s Cat Powers
• Super Agility – Over-exaggerated but we’ll let this one slide.
• Compulsively attracted by shiny jewelry. Bullshit, that is the villain Magpie, not Catwoman.
• Can squeeze her head through steel bars. Weird and creepy looking.
• Really likes eating fish, ’cause she’s a cat you know. Get it?
• She is turned on by catnip. Fuck you movie.
To make matters worse we get an info dump on the history of Catwomen from Francis Conroy and it’s here where we find out that the cats chose Patience to carry the mantle of The Cat. Now what exactly is The Cat Agenda? Is Patience supposed to endorse PETA and the proper protection of cats everywhere? Or is she too run around stealing shit and flirting with hunky cops? Her motives in this movie are a bit unclear, sure she tries to uncover the plot that lead to her “murder” but beyond that what are her plans? Is she going to be a crusader against evil cosmetic companies everywhere (one must assume there are a lot of them) or is she going to become a cat burglar and haunt the rooftops of Gotham City?
On her first night out as Catwoman, she puts on this great black, leather suit and she looks damn good! So later in the film when she sports the torn-up purple outfit we saw in the movie poster we all ask ourselves why? Her first-night costume was so much better and closer to what fans of the comic would expect to see, so why the producers thought to give her that torn travesty is beyond me.
Oh, I haven’t yet mentioned the film’s hunky love interest, who is played by Benjamin Bratt. He is a police detective Tom Lone and after a “meet cute” falls in love with Halle, and surprise, surprise he gets assigned the Catwoman case. What a coinkydink. He’s the kind of movie cop that arrives at every crime scene, making you wonder if the city police force is seriously short on manpower, and he arrives so quickly at one murder scene you have to wonder if he’s actually clairvoyant. That we see him investigating a jewelry store robbery and then later a murder at the cosmetic factory clearly shows us that the writers do not understand that Robbery and Homicide are two very distinct divisions in the police force. That or they simply don’t care and are just lazy hacks.
And what dastardly plot will Catwoman foil? Well, it seems that the cosmetic firm that Patience worked for has developed a cream that makes the user look younger, but it is addictive, causes headaches, nausea and if you stop using it your face becomes horribly scarred, and the wife and face of the company Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone) is trying to cover it up.
That Laurel Hedare kills people to keep this side effect secret makes no sense at all because once the make-up gets on the market, and what it actually does to people becomes apparent to everyone, her company would be sued into oblivion. Laurel is not a crazed psycho like the Joker who would revel in the maiming of thousands of innocent women just for the fun of it; she is a bitter woman who is mad that her husband is stepping out with a younger model. Also, this is really not a great villain for our hero.
Why is Catwoman’s nemesis in this film even a woman? Does Hollywood think audiences wouldn’t buy a final smackdown between hero and villain unless they were of the same sex? And giving Laurel Hedare skin like living marble does not make up for this. If you don’t want Catwoman facing off against Batman why not throw in someone else from his rogues gallery; Clayface, Maxi Zeus, Mad Hatter, Hugo Strange or even The Ventriloquist? Any of those would have been better than “Marble Face.”
This is the kind of movie that thinks it’s about empowering women when in fact it’s quite the opposite. Catwoman vs the Evil Cosmetic Company is just insulting. Add to that the drippy love interest that is Tom Lone, a ridiculous costume, silly cat powers and you have a recipe for one of the worst comic-based movies out there. And that’s saying something.
Movie Rank - 3.5/10
Halle Berry stars in one of the worst comic book to screen adaptations. Nothing about this movie works, from the choice of costumes to the evil cosmetic company villain. Lame, silly and insulting.