The Time I Let The Catwoman Movie Happen

The Time I Let The Catwoman Movie Happen

10 years ago, Catwoman (starring Halle Berry) was released. And I'm sorry that I allowed that to happen. There were ways that I could have saved that film, but I didn't, because being a rich and famous movie producer means that sometimes I'm busy. And yet, I feel like I owe you an explanation. So here it is.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Dr. Sweet, your standards must be suuuper high if you think Catwoman wasn’t the best superhero movie of the year.” Well, you’re right, my standards are high, because Catwoman (at it’s worst) should’ve been at least an eight out of ten.

You add this: 

 
With this: 

Now we're done, right?

For those of you with selective memory, I’ll recap the film pretty briefly for you: Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) is a modest and meek graphic designer who’s tasked with creating an ad for George and Laurel Hedare’s (Lambert Wilson and Sharon Stone) Beauline cosmetic. When she unwittingly overhears talk of dangerous chemicals in her client’s signature (and apparently, the only) makeup product, she’s murdered to keep her quiet. However, an Egyptian Mau and his gang of merry cats deem her worthy and revive her from the dead through some connection to the Egyptian goddess, Bast. Born anew, Phillips investigates the circumstances of her own death while trying to understand her new powers (agility, strength, random cat like behaviors and the power of SEXINESS), that’s only complicated by a budding relationship with hot cop Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt).


The film doesn’t try to break new ground, instead, relying on your standard The Crow-esque storyline with a dash of Raimi’s Spider-man (new powers = growing into an adult/developing sexuality). With that said, it does have it’s goals. Halle Berry’s origin received plenty of well deserved flak for being contrived, and yet, it’s unmistakably a call back to Michelle Pfeiffers Catwoman.



Cats have a thing for dead bodies...

 

This origin is pretty dumb to anyone (and I would’ve ditched it) but only those who know Catwoman from the comics were genuinely thrown off by it. Apparently, my peers in Hollywood valued connecting to fans of Batman Returns and Michelle Pfeiffer rather than connecting to fans of Catwoman from the comics. The sad part is, it’s not the worst part of the film and could have worked.
 

 


They even gave Pfeiffer's Catwoman a cameo for good measure

There are a couple of new things that kind of sell this new Catwoman. One scene shows Phillips talking on the phone as she gracefully walk across the furniture absent-mindedly. Her balance and finesse are clearly due to her being Bast’s avatar on Earth. There’s also a scene where Det Lone finally figures out that Patience and Catwoman are the same after using state of the art lip recognition software (...I… I don’t know either..). She finds him waiting in her apartment with his gun and he says.

Lone:
I guess you could take this right out of my hands if you wanted.


Patience:

(Solemnly)
If I wanted
(Allows herself to be taken in)

 

For just a few seconds, the movie was interesting....
 

Where They Went Wrong:

 

Alright, I’ve told you about the movie, and some of the things that they did right (or at the very least, things that they didn’t completely f*** up). Now, let me tell you where this film went horribly wrong. Spoiler alert, it’s the very beginning.

 

First off, let me just say that I never wanted this movie to happen. The idea first appeared in the early 90s after Michelle Pfeiffer played the cat in Batman Returns. However, this film languished in development hell for almost a decade. Once Michelle Pfeiffer was out of the equation, this script should’ve been shelved and started from scratch. Instead, a decades worth of input from almost 30 different writers made it on the silver screen. And for that, I am truly sorry.

 

It’s easy to say, “This movie sucked! It should’ve never been made!”, but, since it was, let’s get down to what specifically is wrong with this film.

 

There are way too many reasons to list here; you’ll be reading this all day if I point out every terrible line of dialogue, every stupid scene, and every performance from the stars that was hammed up. Instead, let’s talk three major points: The Theme, The Villain, and our Hero’s Journey.

 

Theme - From what I can tell, the movie makes a few attempts to establish a feminist tone. The Cat Lady makes a reference to “male academia” being the reason why she didn’t make tenure, Stone’s character is literally turned into a monster by relying on makeup (don’t cover those beautiful faces, ladies!), and Patience’s best friend shows concern that Det Lone’s frail man brain was fractured by losing a game of basketball.
 


My fragile male brain was fractured when I was forced to watch this...

 

However, this same tone is immediately undermined, either by one of the terribly written lines of dialogue, an inexplicable change of new confident Patience to meek pre-cat powers Patience, or Catwoman’s very sexy but very impratical “superhero costume” that suggests some sort of dominatrix angle (which is not a complaint from me, btw). It’s one of those moments where the writers have attempted to please teenage boys AND teenage girls, but by compromising so much, they ended up disappointing everyone.

 

Villain - As I hinted at earlier, Stone plays our "monstrous" villain. As someone who’s been using the face cream poison for years, or even decades, she’s developed a face as hard as marble and resistant to pain. Yup… that’s our villain ladies and gentlemen, evil makeup magnates and face poison that actually gives you superpowers if you use it enough. Are we going after makeup companies or big business in general? The movie explains that using the cream will actually prevent the harmful effects from happening (which is proven false when Berry’s best friend falls ill, despite using the cream faithfully), which implies a “businesses turn it’s consumers into slaves” vibe. I can dig that, I suppose, but evil makeup? Really? That’s all the attention that this part of the film deserves, I’m moving on.

 

The Hero’s Journey is arguably the most important part of any film, especially a superhero’s origin tale. By the end of this film, Patience needs to have learned and grown as a person and as a hero. Let’s see what we got.
 

Det Tom Lone:
The gun that was in your hands!

Patience Price:
Catwoman’s hands!”

Det Lone:
What’s the difference?

Patience:
(Tears begin to flow) I guess it doesn’t matter…

Teen girls:

.... That’s supposed to be our role model?

 

That scene occurs near the end of the film, where Catwoman is held in jail as a suspect of murder. The confidence and assertive attitude from minutes earlier is gone (again) and she’s crying…. It’s at this point in which a character usually has come to grips with who they have become, and yet, our heroine has regressed. To further prove my point, I’d like you to reread that excerpt but replace PATIENCE with WONDER WOMAN, MS MARVEL, BLACK WIDOW or any other self respecting female hero. Sure, she has (an awesome) fashion sense, an affinity for catnip, and random kleptomania, but I’m not entirely sure that Patience Price is much more of a confident, stronger woman than she was before. And that’s a damn shame.

 

How I Could’ve Saved it:

 

First, let’s assume that we’re not going with this Egyptian goddess, death, and revival origin, but keep the same general idea in other ways. Here’s a brief synopsis of the movie we should’ve gotten:

 

Selina Kyle is a graphic designer for the Hedare’s cosmetic company, owned by the fierce Eric Hedare, and his wife, the face of the company, the soft and compassionate Laurel. Fairly similar to what we got already, right? Wrong. That’s our heroine by day; by night, she’s already a black clad thief stealing from the Hedare’s and their associates every chance she gets. This figure has been dubbed Catwoman by the authorities and media. The apartment she calls home also shelters her young ward, Felicia. Her job, and weak disposition, is just a cover in order to make her seem like a less likely suspect.

 

She hears that Roman Sionis, a shady businessman with a rumored mean streak, is meeting Eric Hedare. Sionis is known to possess the biggest diamond that our heroine could even imagine, and with that rock, she can finally leave this crummy town for good and give Felicia a better life. She crashes the meeting after showing off her athletic, gymnastic, and hand to hand prowess, only to witness a murder. She almost gets away clean before she’s stopped by Sionis’ right hand man, we’ll call him Angel. Angel is quicker, and stronger than the others and manages to defeat our heroine. She’s cast out into the river, or thrown off of a building or some other near death device.

 

 

There we go, exactly like that

She survives, her identity still in tact but now she’s torn. Is stopping Hedare and Sionis’ plans more important than just getting Felicia and herself out of town? What’s more important, saving herself, or protecting innocents?


The Theme and Character’s Journey: There are a league of supporting characters that should be included and fleshed out.  One could be Felicia, our heroine’s ward. On the surface, she isn’t more than just a reference to Holly from the comics, although her name is more of a reference to the Marvel character, Black Cat. At her core, however, she should be our hero’s moral center. I envision a scene in which Felicia argues that Selina doesn’t steal for them, they have more than they need to survive, but that she steals for herself. During this same argument, Selina claims that stealing is necessary in order to make a place for herself in this world in which men kill each other and destroy everything.


At the film’s end, when it’s revealed that the sweet Laurel is more than just complicit in the illegal activities, but is actually the mastermind behind the plans, they’ll have a similar discussion. Mrs. Hedare will attempt to lure Catwoman to her side, using more or less the same argument that Catwoman used with Felicia. Selina will realize that claiming that women need to be sneaky and deceptive in order to survive in a world ruled by men is… borderline offensive. She’ll say something like, “Bitch, it’s 2004,” before spartan kicking her to her doom. By the films end, Catwoman will have become a full fledged anti hero. The ending monologue would be something like:


Catwoman:
I’m no hero. I lie, I cheat, I steal…  (
Show her stealing s***)
     


But I’ll never turn down the chance to help someone in need
(She rescues some young girl from a pimp or abusive boyfriend)


I used to think this was a man’s city, but it isn’t
(Stands statuesque on a building)


This city is mine… leaps toward the camera and…


CATWOMAN


Villain: Sharon Stone’s “Marbleface” isn’t interesting, or even complex as a character. We lose nothing by leaving out her “superpower.” Instead, she’ll be a regular woman who, despite being beautiful, smart, and capable, has been abused by her fairly average husband, and yet has remained faithfully by his side. By the movie’s end however, we’ll discover that he was frustrated by having a wife who’s superior to him, which started the abuse. He’ll pay for his actions though, when she kills him at the film’s end. This would make her much more a foil for Catwoman, the Ying to her Yang. Someone with similar ideals, but has taken the darker road, while the criminal Catwoman is actually the lighter side. Roman Sionis is no chump either. DC fans may recognize the name as the alter ego of the Batman villain, Black Mask.

 

Hell… I’d hit it….

 

In my version, he’ll be disfigured by the chemical compound (thus the need for the mask in the future) and forced into hiding. If my movie had been a success (which, let’s face it, it would’ve been), they would’ve had the option of moving my Selina Kyle to a new Batman series with Black Mask also being an option for a villain. Even with the Nolan trilogy being born, the lack of powers would’ve had both properties fit like a glove. Back in 2004, this would have been a great idea. If they did shoehorn in the mystical properties, the franchises would’ve likely stayed seperate, but that’s fine as long as they both make money.

 

So that’s how I would have saved Catwoman. I’ll apologize again for the film we got, I was busy with something called MySpace, and I was called in to work on a different film.
 

So, actually… you’re welcome

 

Catwoman had plenty of issues, and I’m sure that there are other and better ways the film could have been improved upon. What would you have done differently? What did you think of my ideas? Leave your opinions in the comments below and don't forget to hit the thumbs up!

 


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