As a mousy marketing artist for cosmetics giant Hedare, Patience Phillips (Halle Berry) is routinely stepped on by her bosses (Lambert Wilson and Sharon Stone, who is cloaked under some seriously obvious soft lighting) and unable to express her creativity. When she stumbles on the evil secret ingredient that makes Hedare's skin cream so freakishly desirable, she's promptly killed, and her spirit reanimated by a mystical cat. Now armed with feline-like powers and senses, Patience christens herself Catwoman and sets off to seek revenge on those who took her life, stopping along the way to flirt with a detective named Tom (Benjamin Bratt), who's on her trail.
Sadly, one of the drawbacks to the film business right now is buzz. A nefarious byproduct of marketing, buzz can make the worst movies into hits, and the best movies virtually unknown to the general public. Bad buzz has followed "Catwoman" (IMDb listing) for ages now, almost to the point where one could actually feel sorry for it; but I'm here to report that "Catwoman" is a film that deserves every last drop of its horrifying reputation.
Dear God, the rumors are true. This movie is absolutely dreadful.
So much headway has been made recently in the realm of comic book movies; with two "Spider-Man" and "X-Men" productions demonstrating that treating the source material as sacred scripture is the only way to succeed in this fragile genre. "Catwoman," armed with a French director known only as Pitof, takes the audience right back to square one, when Joel Schumacher put rubber nipples on the bat suit (Catwoman has diamond claws and carefully ripped leather pants) and indulged his fetish for neon-lit sets. "Catwoman" is "Batman and Robin" all over again, enthusiastically crapping over all the well-documented success of "serious" comic book movies, and heading full steam into camp. It's "Showgirls" for the PS2 crowd.
Being foremost in the marketing, it's easy to blame Halle Berry for this frightening failure of a film. After all, she's the one running around the "nameless computer-generated city" wearing an ill-fitting leather (and impractical, let's be honest) costume and playing humiliating scenes where she eats six cans of tuna or she goes crazy for catnip. And Berry was paid millions! The audience, however, has no such incentive to tolerate this garbage. The real wedgie in the crotch of "Catwoman" is Pitof, a former special effects stooge (a favorite of "Amelie" director Jean-Pierre Jeunet) turned Hollywood hack, who has a hard time trusting old-fashioned filmmaking devices such as "acting," "drama," and "self-control" long enough to actually make a film out of this Bob Kane-created character. Pitof believes only in three things:
1) Not one shot shall last longer than three seconds.
2) Whenever possible, have a poorly rendered CG image do the heavy lifting in terms of stuntwork, or even the simple things, like putting a milk moustache on Catwoman's face (last time I heard, this wasn't all that hard to do practically).
3) Make sure nobody catches a glimpse of Sharon Stone's natural features.
These three rules are followed closely through the whole movie, which Pitof likes to turn into an indiscriminate series of images at the drop of a dime. Coherence? I didn't come into the movie expecting any, but the film is extremely offensive with its editing, amateurishly repeating shots or cutting so fast during the Catwoman sequences, nothing can be seen. Who wants to watch a berserk, unsightly movie like this? Maybe I should thank Pitof: he made me happy to take my eyes off the screen. That's the last thing a director should do.
The script is even worse; hastily trying to wring out some hint of story in this perfume-commercial-gone-mad, or working in moments where Catwoman can say clever bon mots like "purrrrfect," or "meow!" Why, Pitof, why? There's a love story, but that's mainly a screenwriting device to give the action (and the money) a breather. There's no chemistry between Patience and Tom, and the detective must be one goofy bastard if he couldn't figure out that Patience was Catwoman right away. But then there wouldn't be a movie if he used his brain, would there? I shouldn't entertain such thoughts.
"Catwoman" is dangerous because it flies in the face of what comic book adaptations have consistently proven works, and what audiences have lined up for in droves. It boggles the mind to think about why the producers have taken such a glossy, campy route with this movie and character, but clearly they were afraid to try and mount a considerate film. Don't reward them, stay far away.
Filmfodder Grade: F