Film review by Lee Medcalf

Starring: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt, Lambert Wilson

Dir: Pitof

Catwoman: Patience Price (Halle Berry).Sometimes it seems that no matter how many times Hollywood hits the right note with its big banner movies, no one seems able to sustain the quality or understand the reason for a movie’s success. Take, for example, Hollywood’s fascination with the Comic book genre. X-Men, Spiderman and their superior sequels should be the template for any new movie based on four-colour 2D heroes in spandex. Sometimes we get over faithful adaptations which confuse the mainstream (Hellboy), or movies that take the limp subtext of a hero and making the film something unexpected (Hulk). There should be no reason at all for another Judge Dredd or, God forbid, another Batman and Robin.

In the recent comic-to-film war between the rival publishers, Marvel has been the most consistent with their output. Marvel succeeds by simply sticking to the essentials of their titles, (yes, even with The Punisher), while rivals DC still flounder around with their “Big Two” of Batman and Superman, waiting for something that will resurrect these titles. In the interim DC have dug out their other recognisable “hero” who is, in the comics, merely a second-string character, but who, with the help of Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns, became a rather prominent character in her own right…… Catwoman.

The Catwoman of the comics was Selina Kyle, who got her name from being a slinky, kinky cat burglar. In Batman Returns she was still Selina Kyle, but became some kind of acrobatic zombie, resurrected by cats after being pushed out of a window by Christopher Walken. In the new Halle Berry version, Halle plays Patience Phillips, a mild-mannered secretary who works for pantomime villainess Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone). Patience uncovers a conspiracy revolving around a cosmetic range that requires the user to continually use the product, or die if they stop. After discovering this Patience is bumped off, only to be brought back to life by a mystical Egyptian cat, becoming Catwoman, with Spiderman-style acrobatic powers and incredible strength.

Catfight: Laurel Hedare (Sharon Stone) and Catwoman (Halle Berry).Within minutes of the film rolling hackles were raised: the simple fact that the whole film revolves around makeup and its overuse (see Sharon Stone, with her marble-hard skin, come the films protracted and ludicrous finale) is almost like the women’s lib equivalent of a blaxploitation movie of the 70’s. Oh, no, we can’t have Catwoman save the world from nuclear destruction: she's fighting face cream and the makeup industry! The characters are badly served by the naff direction, and the poor acting from all concerned. The script is laughable, with Patience doing everything cat-like after her transformation, so much so that it’s a joke in itself: Patience hisses at dogs; Patience drinks milk in a nightclub (by ordering a “White Russian, no ice, no vodka, hold the Kahlua”); Patience acts all selfish and slinky; Patience eats raw fish with gusto… its almost as if someone wrote a list of what their pet cat was doing and drafted it in to the script. We must be thankful that Patience doesn’t dig a hole in the garden and answer the call of nature in it.

Halle Berry, as I’m sure some would agree, is very sexy, and really doesn’t need to work at it, but when Patience gets all dolled up in the second Catwoman costume (the version in the posters), and starts wooing bemused cop (Law and Order’s Benjamin Bratt), you cant help but feel you’re watching your mum at a fancy dress ball chatting up a waiter after too many glasses of Blue Nun. The men simply look confused, while the glam model women try to sex it up at every opportunity.

Director Pitof seems to want to slam R’n’B soundtrack over every mortal moment, and kills any tension under a barrage of attention deficit disorder, MTV-style imagery. The action is lacklustre and flabbily directed. The CGI moments, of which there are many, are so painfully obvious that anyone would cringe to see them in a computer game, let alone a well-funded Hollywood movie.

Catwoman has been slammed in the mainstream press, rightly so. It truly is an appalling film, and a couple of hours wasted.  I suspect, however, that it would not have been received so badly if it had been released back when Batman and Robin ruled the roost, and expectations were low. The problem is that since Peter Parker started web-slinging, people expect more from a comic book movie than someone in leather who looks good on a poster….



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