Should I Watch..? 'Catwoman'
What's the big deal?
Catwoman is an action superhero film released in 2004 and is loosely based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The project was originally announced as a spin-off from the Tim Burton-helmed Batman Returns but remained in development hell for a number of years after Michelle Pfeiffer, Ashley Judd and Nicole Kidman all passed on the role. The film concerns a new character played by Halle Berry who develops strange cat-like powers after being murdered by goons at her job at a cosmetics company. The film quickly became one of the biggest flops in recent years, failing to recoup its $100 million budget and earning Berry a Razzie award for Worst Actress, which she gamely accepted in person. It is generally considered one of the worst superhero films of all time.
What's it about?
Graphic designer Patience Phillips is a subservient worker at Hedare Beauty, working towards the release of a new product designed to reverse the signs of aging. But after visiting the production facility, she accidentally overhears a conversation between the wife of the company's owner Laurel Hedare and scientist Dr. Ivan Slavicky concerning apparent dangers related to the new product known as Beau-line. Sadly, Laurel's guards manage to find Patience and are ordered to kill her, drowning her in a conduit pipe before flushing her body out into the docks.
Weirdly, Patience is brought back to life by a mysterious Mau cat and brought to the attention of Ophelia Powers. She explains to Patience that Mau cats serve as messengers of the Egyptian goddess Bast and that Patience is now a 'catwoman', reborn with peculiar powers. Deciding to track down her killers to discover why she was murdered, Patience begins to stalk the night looking for answers while attracting the unwanted attention of the handsome Detective Tom Lone...
Patience Phillips / Catwoman
Det. Tom Lone
Dr Ivan Slavicky
John D. Brancato, Michael Ferris & John Rogers *
Release Date (UK)
13th August, 2004
Worst Picture, Worst Actress (Berry), Worst Director, Worst Screenplay
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Supporting Actor (Wilson), Worst Supporting Actress (Stone), Worst Screen Couple (Berry with either Bratt or Stone)
What's to like?
On paper, this has all the elements you'd expect from a superhero film - the initial set-up to demonstrate their mild-mannered everyday selves, the origin scene after some tragedy is introduced into their lives, a love interest too blind to spot the obvious truth about the hero's true identity and lots of CG-enhanced fight scenes. Catwoman has all of these things, even if none of them are interesting or even related to the Catwoman character we all know and love from Batman's universe.
At least the action scenes aren't too bad compared to the rest of the film, although they are heavily reliant on CG. In fact, even a shot of the city where this is set is CG when a helicopter shot of Anywhere, USA would have sufficed. It's the most pointless use of CG I've seen since Tommy Wiseau's hideous clunker The Room with its digital sky. If you're blessed with the ability to laugh at bad movies then you'll find this a real treat - dialogue is instantly forgettable, the plot is hopeless and performances are so wooden, I'm surprised that some crew member didn't varnish them between takes.
- Berry became the first actor to accept their Razzie award in person, turning up on stage with her Oscar that she won for Best Actress in Monster's Ball in her hand.
- A total of forty-three cats were trained for use in the film, most of them coming from local rescue homes. One of them was adopted by Berry, an orange and white cat called Play Dough.
- Berry's stunt double was the male Hawaiian actor Nito Larioza although Berry still attempted some stunts herself. One of them ended with crashing into stage equipment during a chase scene, which was serious enough to put her in hospital briefly.
What's not to like?
With a film as badly conceived and executed as this, it's difficult to know where to begin. The very concept is suspect from the start - we see Berry's eyes mutate before our own but other than receiving a personality transplant and constantly licking her hands, we have no idea how her life has changed. Even the costume looks ridiculous - a costume which was apparently just sitting in Patience's wardrobe despite the fact that she would never have worn anything so hopelessly slutty. Berry looks good in most things but in Catwoman, she looks like an extra from a dodgy off-Broadway version of Cats.
The rest of the cast aren't much better, although the most memorable cast member is Stone for being truly awful as the villain of the piece. I could explain her insane plot to you but I'll let you enjoy that laugh for yourselves. Other things to mock include the cheap-looking and mostly redundant CG, the lack of any sort of interest in the film's story and the extreme liberties taken with the character itself. Turning what was once a jokey anti-hero from the Batman mythos into some sort of historical legend is an utter betrayal of genuine fans of the Dark Knight who might watch this expecting their treasured Catwoman to be given her own movie. They won't be making it now, even after Anne Hathaway's decent stab at the character in The Dark Knight Rises. Such is the movie's toxicity that the character will probably never see a solo outing now. Thanks for nothing, Warner Bros.
Should I watch it?
The only people who will get a kick from Catwoman are those lucky sorts who can enjoy bad movies, possibly by providing their own commentary in the style of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. Personally, I believe that this might be the worst attempt at a serious superhero film ever made - Jeez, even Ben Affleck's Daredevil had slightly more to recommend it than this. This is a mangy, flea-bitten, scruffy, smelly specimen that's only good to go to a rescue home where they'll quietly put it down.
Great For: sadists, leather fetishists, idiots, Razzie voters
Not So Great For: anyone looking for a actual Catwoman movie, grown-ups
What else should I watch?
As great as Hathaway was as Catwoman, people like me will forever associate the role with Michelle Pfeiffer's memorable portrayal in Batman Returns. Effortlessly stealing the limelight from Michael Keaton's dull Batman and Danny DeVito's repugnant Penguin, Pfeiffer's PVC-soaked supervillain remains the closest interpretation we're likely to see. It's every bit as good as Berry's was comical.
Superhero films can be a mixed bag for studios. Until Marvel's Cinematic Universe (MCU) came along to shake things up in 2008 with Iron Man, films like Daredevil and Elektra were dull and uninteresting and even not that close to the source material. Neither Fantastic Four and its pointless sequel weren't that fantastic, Spawn really did come from the depths of Hell and even Nicholas Cage couldn't save Ghost Rider. Watch yourself out there, folks!
© 2016 Benjamin Cox