In honor (or dishonor) of Suicide Squad, I decided to watch an earlier DC attempt at an anti-hero spinoff with 2004’s Catwoman. Directed by an up and coming filmmaker known only as “Pitof” and starring Halle Berry hot off an Oscar win, Catwoman is one of the weirdest superhero movies ever made.
Let’s go back to 2004. The box office was ruled by Swamp Ogres and the alternative charts by a little band by the name of Hoobastank. With the exception of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, “Superhero Movies” weren’t as much as a genre as they were a novelty. Christ, Batman Begins hadn’t even come out. So I don’t know who in the right mind greenlit a Catwoman film. I see it more as a star vehicle move. Back in the 90s and early 2000s, people would go check out the latest Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts movie on star power alone.
What’s unique about superhero movies today is star power is irrelevant to the success of a film. Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Ryan Reynolds, these aren’t names that bring in the big bucks. But Captain America, Thor, Deadpool? Now we’re talking. Catwoman is the opposite. Halle Berry was hot (in more than one way) so Warner Bros made a half-assed attempt–no, let’s call it a quarter-assed attempt to find a female superhero for her to play. Dare they let her actually play someone who is a good guy like Wonder Woman. No, they had to cast her as a sexy pseudo-hero/villain people would be less picky about, and they probably wouldn’t have attempted that if not for the fact Eartha Kitt had already played the character.
Now we have a sexy, non-offensive character being used incorrectly and handed off to a young director for his English-language debut. Roll cameras and… Action!
The film begins with credits over ancient hieroglyphics of cats. Though the writers didn’t bother doing any homework on Catwoman, they give us a thorough history of cats. These images span from ancient Egypt, Medieval times, to turn of the century, and so on. If that sounds like a long period of time, it is. The credits never end. I almost turned the movie off there.
We are introduced to our spunky heroine, Patience Phillips (Halle Berry), who despite the sweet alliterative name is not based on any previous existing comic book character. Patience is a “meek people-pleaser” (Wikipedia’s words, not mine) working as a graphic designer at Hedare Beauty, a cosmetics company. Sweet job, right? Nope. Patience hates it. She wants to be a real artist. Though this is never explored in the rest of the film. All of this feels like filler. Though Patience’s best gal pal is played by Lois from Family Guy, so there’s a plus.
Next, we meet the company board members having a meeting in a circular room that can only be appropriately described as “Post-modern Legion of Doom.” Seriously, they couldn’t have tried harder to make these characters seem evil. The board members are discussing the rollout of their latest product “Beau-line” which literally reverses the effects of aging. The only downside is if you stop using it you’ll be all gross and deformed and old. But the CEO, George Hedare (Lambert Wilson), doesn’t care and neither does his nefarious wife Laurel (Sharon Stone). I got a bad feeling about this.
The scene after this isn’t super important but I wanted to point it out because of how nostalgic it made me feel. Patience comes home to her New York apartment… Or is it Gotham? Hmm, not sure. Anyways, she comes to find her neighbors in the building across from hers partying hard and blasting who else but… Hoobastank. Nice. Then Patience sees a bright-eyed tabby cat.
The next morning, Patience sees the tabby cat again on the windowsill above her, leading Patience towards one of the dumbest moves possible. She stands outside of the windowsill of her third story apartment and tries to grab the cat. She wobbles and people on the street think she’s trying to commit suicide. Luckily, a handsome cop named Tom rushes up to save Patience before she falls. This handsome cop is played by Benjamin Bratt from… um… the 90s. Anyways, he’s a stud so they’re like, “Let’s do it later.”
Back at work Patience stumbles upon Sharon Stone and a scientist at a secret bad guy meeting where they openly talk about how dangerous their product is. Yeah, that’s smart. Talk about the dark secret of your company at work while your employees are around. Sharon Stone spots Patience and a chase ensues, leading Patience to a boiler room and then, a sewer room? The layout of this building is confusing. Patience tries to escape in a pipe and is sucked out onto some rocks near the water. No one goes after her though cause it’s all gross and stuff.
Patience wakes up by the water where she is surrounded by an army of cats, including the gray tabby. It’s so stupid. All the cats are horribly rendered in CGI and then the gray cat just kind of breaths in Patience’s face. Yeah, I’m not kidding. It makes the cat scene in Batman Returns look like The Godfather. Here’s a link to that sequence in all of its greatness.
When Patience awakens she finds she has cat-like reflexes. Which includes the ability to swipe quickly at a crab and see it with like, cat vision. Patience finds her way home but can’t explain her new senses and compulsion to hiss at dogs. The whole thing is laughable. I mean, would a person who had the powers of a house cat really be that different? Sure they could jump better and move a little faster, but it’s not like she was bitten by a radioactive spider. A normal ass cat breathed in her face. Nice.
One upside to Patience’s transformation is it gives her the confidence she never had. She starts to connect with Detective Tom and they even share a game of sexy basketball together where Benjamin Bratt flashes his abs. I get that it’s supposed to be playful, but this scene is rendered creepy when you realize these two are basically having foreplay in front of a bunch of children.
Next, we see Patience get revenge on her shitty neighbors by breaking down their door and spraying them with a hose. Probably could have cut out all this neighbor stuff, but too bad, it’s in the film. Patience is finally compelled to make herself a sweet costume, but all she does is take out a box from her closet with a tag that says, “Use in case of dating emergency.” I don’t get it. You mean if the date goes poorly, she’s gonna skank it up? Not likely, she’s Halle Berry. Why would anyone buy such a bizarre outfit? It’s basically the full Catwoman costume sans the mask.
In her new duds, Patience knows she must stop Sharon Stone from releasing her evil makeup, but first she decides to steal a necklace. Cause you know, she’s a cat burglar. Patience enjoys the rush of evading guards and having super powers but she’s also concerned about where this path may lead. To learn more about her newfound abilities, Patience goes on to Google and searches: “The cat in history.” Wow, good work Patience.
From Patience’s research, she discovers she came into a contact with an Egyptian Mau cat. Patience tracks down cat’s owner played by Francis Conroy and learns the Egyptian Mau cats served as messengers to the goddess Bast. I guess every Mau cat breed is magical. Not sure what the compulsion to steal is all about, though.
Meanwhile, Sharon Stone is knocking off people at the company (including her husband) for full control and frames Catwoman for the murders. Detective Tom uncovers Catwoman’s identity through her calling card, a signature, and discovers it is the same signature Patience uses in her graphic arts work. Wow, she’s dumb. So she’s arrested. Of course, she has cat powers, meaning she can slip through the bars and tracks down Sharon Stone. The two fight and Sharon stone is scratched which makes her age and deteriorate and other gross stuff and then she falls from really high up and dies. It’s pretty lame. Do Catwoman and Detective Tom end up together? Nah, she’s her own woman now. End of the movie.
I’m not sure why this movie exists. It’s like someone was working on a typical romantic comedy script and then some fat executive barged in and said, “CATWOMAN! THIS NEEDS CATWOMAN! SEXY BASKETBALL! CATS BREATHING IN PEOPLE’S FACES!” Thus the ideas were combined. It’s funny because I can’t imagine this movie existing today.
Even today’s DC movies (as terrible as they may be) do their utmost to cater to the fans. They include lots of characters from the comics, storylines, all sorts of callbacks. This has none of that. It’s called “Catwoman” and the similarities end after that. It’s nice to see superhero movies have evolved so much over the past twelve years. Sure, they’re not always great but at least people have an idea of what they should be.
I feel bad for the director, Pitof. As far as I can tell, he disappeared after this film only to return to special effects position he held before becoming a director. Hell, I feel bad for Halle Berry too. I know she’s not always great *cough, cough, X-Men but she deserves better than this. At least she took it in stride. She actually picked up her award at the Razzies that year.
All in all this film is not as bad as I expected, it’s more confusing than anything else. Why does it exist? Who is it for? Why did Benjamin Bratt flash his abs? Who is Benjamin Bratt? So many questions. If you want to be as puzzled as I am, check out Catwoman on Netflix. If not, better squeeze into a box that’s too small and take a nap. Only there can you be safe.