Scaredy Cats: Catwoman (2004)

This sequel of sorts to Batman Returns spins Catwoman off into her own film - the would-be beginning of a franchise that failed to materialize, thanks to poor box office returns. The problem is that Michael Pfieffer’s Selina Kyle/Catwoman is nowhere to be seen (unless you count a brief glimpse of a photo). Instead, we get Halle Berry as a new Catwoman, known as Patience Philips. The result is a weak rehashing of the Catwoman material from the previous film: Like Selina, Patience is a klutzy woman working in a corporate environment who is murdered after she discovers the evil deeds of her boss. Her dead body is resuscitated by a swarm of cats, and she takes on the Catwoman persona.

Sadly, the new Catwoman comes across like runner up in a costume contest. Berry looks silly when she mimics cat-like movements by swatting her hands and darting her head. She is hardly helped by an outfit that suggests a Halloween costume from Frederick’s of Hollywood. To top it all off, the computer-generated effects of her leaping through the air and sliding down buildings looks like a bad videogame.

At least her kitty companion Midnight is a cool-looking scaredy cat. Most often portrayed by a real feline, the character is digitally enhanced for its more carefully choreographed action, such as breathing life back into Patience. The unreal nature of of the CGI is obvious, but it seems stylized in a comic-book kind of way. Unfortunately, the script makes a misguided attempt to underline its silly story with serious mythology: explaining Catwoman’s resurrection (a mystery in Batman Returns), the film reveals that Midnight is the embodiment of the Egyptian god Bast, who revives murder victims, so that they can right the wrong perpetrated against them. Viewers are left wondering whether Midnight and the raven from The Crow ever get together and divvy up names on their to-be-resurrected lists.

You can read a more complete review of CATWOMAN at Cinefantastique Online.