2004 - PG-13 - 104 Mins.
|Producer: Denise DiNovi, Edward McDonnell|
|Written By: John Brancato, Michael Ferris, John Rogers|
|Starring: Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone, Lambert Wilson, Frances Conroy |
|Review by: Joe Rickey
Catwoman, the DC Comics villainess made popular by Michelle Phieffer’s salivating performance in ‘Batman Returns’, gets her own feature film directed by Frenchman Pitof and with Halle Berry as the titular woman scorned out for revenge. The result of which is a highly stylized picture with more swooping camera effects than you can shake a stick at, well-filmed action sequences, and some of the worst dialogue ever written in a screenplay with perhaps the dumbest excuse for an action movie plot.
Catwoman or stripper? You be the judge.
Patience Philips is a lowly worker at an industry-leading cosmetics company. One night while working late Philips is witness to some nefarious deeds, chief among them is the development of an anti-aging cream that causes unwanted - not to mention deadly - side effects for its users. Unfortunately for her, Philips is spotted and promptly killed but far from gone. Instead, through extenuating circumstances, she is reborn as Catwoman; now out to stop the company from distributing the aforementioned anti-aging cream.
First off, what works in ‘Catwoman’ is the sometimes stunning way in which director Pitof makes the film look like one 104 minute commercial for color filters and camera angles that literally swoop all over New York City. New York never looked so good. It is never stated outright but one gets the feeling that the film takes place sometime in the future because some of the devices utilized by the police in this film have not yet been invented. I counted no less than a dozen scenes in which the camera swoops around and around a character and sometimes scenery; it has an almost hypnotic effect at times.
The film also makes use of color filters to an extreme with one elongated chase scene filmed to look bright red; it is a technique akin to what was used in the ‘Predator’ films to signify the alien’s vision. Here it is put to use in a unique fashion that gives the film something to make it stand out from other films of its ilk. Finally regarding the look of the film, every character is filmed in such a way that their skin has an almost glossy sheen to it; a stylistic device that fits the film’s plotline.
Credit must also be given to Pitof for doing something I wish more directors would do when it comes to composing and filming fight sequences: he more or less lets the camera stay stationary long enough so that the viewer can actually tell what is going on; an improvement over the constantly shaking camera technique seemingly favored in action films these days. Of course, Pitof no doubt felt inclined to throw in some of his swooping camera angles along with the stationary look; so one can expect that as well.
It’s really too bad though that given its positive visual elements, ‘Catwoman’ couldn’t have been supplied with a much better script. This film perhaps more than any superhero film before contains more than its share of cornball one liners meant to garner chuckles but more likely to elicit groans. Not to mention the storyline - with all the mythology from the comic book, one would think that screenwriters John Brancato, Michael Ferris, and John Rogers could have crafted a better idea than an evil cosmetics company, of all things.
In the lead role, Halle Berry is all over the map. As the pre-Catwoman Patience she is actually decent; a meek and depressed loner. Once she becomes Catwoman, a confident dominatrix of sorts, she gives a pathetically over the top performance. As the detective hunting for Catwoman, Benjamin Bratt fares better as he resists the urge to overact and actually manages to bring likeability to his role. Main villain, Sharon Stone, chews the scenery with the best of them, relishing her now rare chance to appear in a high-profile project.
‘Catwoman’ is not a great superhero film by any means. Does it deserve all the bad buzz though? No it doesn’t. The film is a mixed bag, not an outright disaster.