“Catwoman” should have had at least one life at the Cineplex. Look at its pedigree: Halle Berry dons the fur (ok, leather) and whiskers, the Matrix’ enigmatic Lambert Wilson and Sharon Stone team up to take her on (tooth and nail), and hell – she’s based on a DC Comic character… how can you go wrong?
Unfortunately, Halle and gang just hacked a hairball all over the summer boxoffice. And it ain’t pretty.
The plot is predictable to the point of formula. Geek introvert working a dull life is imbued with incredible powers and turns do-gooding nightstalker while living a dual existence. Yawn. This time, her name is Patience Philips (Berry), and she is given the mystical Egyptian power of the cat after hearing a nefarious plan and meeting her mortal doom in the sewage of some unnamed city. Then she climbs buildings in a skimpy leather suit, trying to piece together her identity while enjoying the courtship of a young police officer (Benjamin Bratt) until finally her past gets let out of the bag and she brings about a “cat”aclysmic solution… all in ninety minutes.
If it sounds familiar, you’re right. “Catwoman” is nothing but a callous attempt to capitalize on the comic book craze – but even if you call this homage, it sucks. Bratt, director Pitof and screenwriters John Brancato, Michael Ferris and John Rogers are of no help to poor Halle, Lambert and Sharon as they gamely attempt to act past the mediocre CGI effects, patchwork plotting, trendy but misplaced soundtrack and insipid dialogue. At every turn is another convenient gimmick, another attempt at human interest that falls woefully flat, another punchy line like “I’m not all good, but I’m no killer.”
It’s truly unfortunate because there is some fairly visionary work from Director of Photography Thierry Arbogast and Art Directors Dan Hermansen and Don Macaulay. Gothic and neo-industrialism architecture blend beautifully with soaring camera moves that alternate between grand scale and minutia – admirably echoing the perceived sensibilities of a cat.
What’s really problematic here, however, is the film’s erstwhile but unfortunate depiction of women. Halle is reduced to a hip-swinging, scantily-clad sultress with a passionate purr and a whip: about as sexist a characterization as you’ll find in modern cinema. Only three male writers in a primarily male-centric industry could be given the millions it took to shove this misogynistic trash down the throats of the $10-a-seat movie-hungry public. Women might secretly glorify Catwoman’s disrespect for the rules, while men might secretly desire a woman who growls while she purrs in six inch heels (and some in the audience of both sexes might just envy the costume)… but ultimately the film’s heroine has no control over her base instincts of good or bad, the complexities of human morality reduced to the intellectual equivalent of Berry licking herself on screen for two hours.