Catwoman (2004, Pitof)

Catwoman

Spoiler warning: these reviews reveal plot twists.

After accidentally learning a dirty corporate secret, Patience Phillips is murdered – but then magically resurrected with a new feline persona. She is now a Catwoman…

Good guys: Patience is played by Halle Berry (who’s better than the material and is very watchable). She’s a designer in the marketing department of a cosmetics company; she’s ditzy and meek, but gets on well with her colleagues. One night, when delivering a new poster design before the midnight deadline, she overhears executives discussing the fact their products have long-term side effects – so they kill her to keep her quiet. After drowning, her body washes up on shore… where a CGI cat finds her, summons more moggies, and mystically brings her back to life. Patience now has cat-like reflexes and senses, but can’t remember being killed. Renewed, she strikes up a romance with a policeman called Tom Lone, aggressively deals with her noisy neighbours, and tells her boss he’s an untalented, unethical egomaniac (so he sacks her). She soon cuts her hair short, starts wearing black leather and intervenes when she spots a jewellery robbery in progress. After learning that she is the latest in a long line of ‘Catwomen’ – women imbued with powers of a cat by a goddess – she gets herself an even kinkier outfit and seeks revenge on the men who killer her… Tom is played, boringly, by Benjamin Bratt. He’s a cipher rather than a character: a romance for Patience, an inconvenience when he investigates the Catwoman’s ‘crimes’. In the grand tradition of these films, he doesn’t realise at first that Patience and the Catwoman are the same person – but, to give him his due, he works it out.

Bad guys: Sharon Stone phones it in as Laurel Hedare, who runs the cosmetics company and knows full well her products cause more harm than good. She used to be the face of the company, but her husband (George, played by Lambert Wilson) replaces her with a younger model.

Other guys: Patience’s friendly colleague Sally (Alex Borstein, the voice of Lois in Family Guy) fulfils the ‘bubbly best mate’ role. She collapses in the street due to the damaging effects of a new beauty product she’s been using. Ophelia Powers – a former professor who knows all about Catwomen mythology and info-dumps the important bits halfway through the film – is played by Frances Conroy. Michael Massey appears briefly as henchman Armando.

Best bits:

* The title sequence, which uses a montage of cats and masked women from history to set up the themes of the film, is well edited and has some excellent music.

* Sharon Stone watching mournfully as huge display boards with her face on them are taken out of the office building.

* A fun time-lapse shot dramatising the office emptying while Patience works late into the evening.

* A dead Patience’s eyeball switching from round iris to almond-shaped – she lives again.

* Now a Catwoman, Patience sleeps on a shelf, naps in the middle of the day, and hisses at a passing dog.

* Patience driving through the city on a stolen motorbike – a rare instance of the movie’s flashy camerawork suiting the scene.

* Patience Googling the history of cats – we then get, essentially, a repeat of the title sequence. It’s a shame we’ve already seen all the images, as they fit better here.

* Patience holding up two very different dresses and asking Sally which one she should wear on her date. “Are you going to a church or the Playboy Mansion?”

* Having seen a cat do the same, Patience gracefully slides between the bars of her prison cell.

Review: There’s no real connection between this and any previous film – aside from a brief moment when Patience sees pictures of previous Catwomen and one of them is Selina Kyle from Batman Returns. It also has little to do with any particular comic book, other than the basic idea of course. It’s a bland, by-the-numbers story, which feels underwritten in every way. Characters are dull, events are predictable, and there’s no intrigue or subtlety to anything. There’s also little subtext or satire, which in a film about female empowerment and society’s obsession with beauty and youth is rather strange. But Catwoman’s biggest problem is just how irritatingly directed it is. The camera sweeps, pans, glides, swoops, cranes, tracks, twists and turns – but with little sympathy with what’s actually happening in the story. It’s a director showing off rather than storytelling. That man is former visual-effects coordinator Pitof. It’s ironic, then, that the CGI just isn’t good enough and is used too often. The film’s got a terrible reputation. And it *is* mostly rubbish. But, I’ve got to admit: I’ve seen worse. Switch your brain off and it passes 100 minutes well enough.

Four cans of tuna out of 10.

Next time: Batman rebooted!

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