"Batman Returns" (1992): Michelle Pfeiffer Is Forever My Favorite Catwoman
Batman Returns is a 1992 superhero film directed by Tim Burton. It is the sequel to Tim Burton's Batman, and I absolutely love it. It came out when I was a little kid and I've been in love with Michelle Pfeiffer ever since.
First, let me pause here to say that I've been a dorky Batman fan since before I got my first pair of glasses. When I was a little kid, they used to show reruns of the original campy television show, and I'd watch it all the time. So when Tim Burton brought out the first Batman film, I was psyched.
When Burton made another film involving Catwoman, I was even more psyched. You can't imagine what it's like to be a little girl and grow up loving nerdy things, and yet, you never see yourself on screen in those fantasy roles.
Eartha Kitt gave that to me with Catwoman.
There have been a lot of Catwomans so far, the most memorable probably being Eartha Kitt, may she rest in peace.
While I did look at the Batman TV series as a child, it was so long ago (and I was so young) that I hardly remember Eartha Kitt's performance. I still loved her as Catwoman, but she's not my favorite.
There was also Halle Berry in the 2004 film Catwoman.
I didn't like her depiction. It's not that I feel Halle Berry is a bad actress -- in fact, she's a great actress and she stars in a lot of my favorite films. The problem was the movie's dismal plot and how uninteresting it was.
Halle Berry herself brought it to the table 100%.
And most recently, we had Anne Hathway, but I found her performance forgettable -- again, not because she's a bad actress. In fact, she's an amazing actress and I loved her (and Heath Ledger, who was Joker in Dark Knight) immensely in Brokeback Mountain. No, it's because the script for The Dark Knight Rises didn't do the character of Catwoman justice.
So Michelle Pfeiffer will always be my favorite Catwoman.
Here's more on why.
Michelle Pfeiffer isn't just beautiful, she's also talented. Her transformation into Catwoman is unforgettable.
In Batman Returns, she plays Selina Kyle, a nerdy woman whose life is in shambles. She is meek, fidgety, lonely, and needs rescuing by Batman in the opening of the film, during a raid by the Red Triangle gang.
For me, being the nerd-girl that I am, Selina Kyle was very relatable. Years later, I still find her relatable. What nerd-girl wouldn't want to transform into a badass and beat the crap out of the men who constantly belittle her?
That's exactly what Selina does in becoming Catwoman -- she takes back her power. No one is going to push her around anymore. She's is now a badass mother****** with a crapload of awesome lines.
During one of her nightly prowls, she comes across a man attacking a woman in an alley. As the man turns on her next, she mocks him with, "Be gentle -- it's my first time" in a sexy, purring voice right before knocking him unconscious.
Instead of patting the man's victim on the head, however, she grabs the woman by the face and berates her for not fighting back,
"You make it so easy, don't you? Always waiting for some Batman to save you."
No doubt Selina sees her old self in the woman -- perpetually in a victim role -- and that's why she is so sneering and condescending: she hates the person she used to be.
The raging feminist in me agrees with this premise: if women want equality, we need to take it, rather than staying stuck in a perpetual victim mentality. This is our world, too.
The badassery continues.
Selina's boss tries to kill her, which sparks her transformation into Catwoman. Rather than running and hiding, however, she shows up at work the next day, game face on, ready to go toe-to-toe with her enemy.
Another thing I've always loved about Catwoman is that she's Batman's equal -- meaning, she is allowed to face him head-on without him pulling punches because she's a woman.
Just for the record, equality -- you know, human rights for everyone -- isn't about physical strength and feminism isn't an excuse to beat up women you don't like. People are deserving of human rights regardless of physical strength, and no one should be beating up anyone.
What I love is that Catwoman puts herself forward as Batman's enemy, and instead of waving her off or belittling her, he treats her like a worthy adversary.
The film itself makes a joke about sexism when Batman punches down Catwoman and she looks him at him in shock and says, "How could you? I'm a woman!" I always laugh so hard at that part, because Batman immediately starts apologizing in the most humble, awkward way.
The entire script is just so great.
The romance between Catwoman and Batman is bittersweet and amusing. It's probably my favorite Batman romance in the entire franchise.
When in their costumes, they fight each other. When out of their costumes, they commiserate false newspaper headings about them while struggling around wanting to have sex and yet being afraid the other will discover their injuries: Catwoman injured Batman's side in their fight, while Batman injured Catwoman's arm.
It is the sort of romance that makes you wish the two could just be together because it seems like they could make each other happy. They have so much in common -- such as their dark sides and love of cosplay. And yet, it is their darkness that ultimately keeps them apart.
For all her darkness, however, Catwoman isn't evil. She gets suckered into helping the Penguin kill someone, only to have the Penguin (Danny DeVito) turn against her when she protests. He attempts to kill her, sending her falling through the roof of a greenhouse.
Another of her nine lives down.
Selina Kyle is ultimately such a sympathetic character, you can't help but root for her when she finally confronts her boss, Max Shreck (Christopher Walken), at the end of the film.
Batman steps in and tries to save Selina from tainting her soul by committing murder. He tells her that they are the same "split down the center."
Batman tells Selina to just come home with him, and you can see the tears filling her eyes as she listens to his gentle words. He doesn't want to fight Selina and he doesn't want her to have to fight anymore. He wants to take her home and take care of her. So sweet.
If they made a new Batman film about the romance between Catwoman and Batman, my ass would be in a seat on the front row. But I don't see that happening any time soon. Plus, all my favorite actors and actresses are now too old for the roles.
Selina refuses to let Bruce save her. When I was a kid, I thought that was really sad. Now that I'm an adult, however, I'm glad it worked out that way. Selina has a lot of issues and the only person who can save her from them is her. Choosing to go her own way rather than bringing her baggage into a relationship with Bruce was a selfless act of true love.
When Bruce is shot by Shreck, Selina defends him in a climatic scene, finishing the film both beautiful and fierce.
The audience is left to think that Selina has died, but when Bruce later sees what looks like her silhouette creeping along the wall, it's implied that she survived her encounter with Max Shreck.
I like to think she did.
© 2019 Ash