Approaching Catwoman with an open mind proved to be difficult because the theatrical reviews gave the movie a fairly uniform shellacking. I have liked movies that no one seemed to appreciate before so I was hoping I would come away with a better opinion than average. The least I was hoping for was something so bad it would entertain me on a whole different level. I was disappointed on both accounts.
Catwoman tells the story of dowdy Patience Phillips (Halle Berry, as if she could ever be dowdy), a meek graphic artist who works for a large cosmetics firm headed by George and Laurel Hedare (Lambert Wilson and Sharon Stone). While trying to rescue a cat off the ledge of a building, she meets handsome police officer Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt) (why is no one ever named Lebowski or Lundegaard except in Joel and Ethan Coen movies?) who rescues her after mistakenly assuming she is trying to commit suicide.
Patience stumbles on to some nefarious plan being hatched by the firm she works for and is murdered for her bad timing. The elusive kitty who she tried to save hacks up a mystical, vaporous hairball on her face and revives Patience, which also turns her into Catwoman so she can steal things (hey, just like my cat!), eat tuna, sleep on high shelves, and wreak vengeance on those who wronged her. Meanwhile her Patience persona gets into it hot and heavy with Tom romantically while her kitty woman persona does battle with the police officer.
Where to start on what is wrong with this movie? Up to the point where Patience is revived, the movie is fairly competent – characters are introduced, situations are set up, things happen – workmanlike but watchable. Then it all collapses as the movie starts meandering. Too much time is spent on establishing Patience’s cat-like behaviors and abilities, and expanding her relationship with Tom. To make matters worse, the direction and editing of the action sequences commit the unpardonable sin of confusing the audience as to what is going on. Would-be directors out there: it is entirely possible to film action sequences with the camera constantly in motion (see The Road Warrior) or with rapid edits (see The Terminator). It is of vital importance, however, that the people watching the film understand what is going on. In both examples I cited I never lost track of what the characters were doing.
The DVD release is as appropriately unremarkable as the movie itself. The sound and the picture quality are fine, but they aren't really anything to condemn or praise. The extras are somewhat bare bones and there are no commentary tracks. Fine by me, but it would have been a little interesting to hear some director’s comments as he has some explaining to do for some of his poor choices. Included is a standard behind-the-scenes documentary, trailers, and just-as-boring deleted scenes.
I did enjoy the featurette “The many Faces of Catwoman” because it explored in surprising depth the incarnations of the character in the Batman comics as well as in the television shows and movies. I’m forever complaining about the lack of supplementary material in DVD extras and here is one of the best examples I have recently seen, containing interviews with all of the actresses who have played her, including Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt, and Michelle Pfeiffer. Of course the net result of this featurette was to remind me of far more entertaining characters and shows.
Overall what is so frustrating about this movie is that it could have been decent with only a few changes. Not every superhero movie has to be Spider-Man (although that would be okay, too). Better direction and a tighter script might have produced an entertaining movie, although I have no real problems with the cast or the premise. The ultimate condemnation of this movie came from my husband, who watched Catwoman with me. He has standard entertainment tastes and is a good gauge as to what the general movie going public will like. About three quarters of the way through the movie he yawned, and left to go play Battlefield 1942. No matter what else is right or wrong, the one insurmountable error any movie can make is to bore its target audience to the point where they leave.