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Friday, 7 April 2017

Retro Review: Catwoman (2004)

Cast: Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, Benjamin Bratt, Alex Borstein
Genre: Superhero
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $82 million 

Plot: A shy woman, endowed with the speed, reflexes and senses of a cat, walks a thin line between criminal and hero, even as a detective doggedly purses her, fascinated by both of her personas

'Not Completely Kitty Litter Bad, Though It's Still Poor'

Based on the DC comics character spanning the Batman universe by Bob Kane, the screenplay and story for this film was written by Michael Ferris who penned The Net starring Sandra Bullock, Terminator 3 Rise of the Machines & Terminator: Salvation. Catwoman became a bearer of criticism and negativity - with its reported budget of $100 million, yet only grossing around $80 million or so in box office sales. 

Going into Catwoman, I was all too aware of the negativity, backlash and knee-jerk reaction this film received by so-called "professional movie reviewers", but also keeping my mind open, watch the film, and to see how I feel about it. The Amazon website went as far as pulling down user reviews on the film that were being posted which bashed this film to death - and that was before the film was officially released in cinemas. 

I've seen lots of bad movies, as well as good and great ones. I've also seen and enjoyed films critics hated or loathed. I've sat through even worse and more mundane films than Catwoman. And films that I personally don't like that I have reviewed. To name such as What Dreams May Come, Dying Young: each one starring Robin Williams and Julia Roberts, actors whose movies I enjoy a lot. 

Personally, Catwoman, unlike those movies started well, which I can't say the same for those films. 

Halle Berry, hot off her star turn in Monster's Ball, is Patience Phillips. At least she is not named Selina Kyle. A timid and sensitive woman, lacking in confidence who is also an ad designer for a cosmetic company. She falls down a building, is apparently dead, only to be resurrected by live cats. When Patience sees to it the cosmetic cream has harmful side effects, as the reborn alias anti-hero Catwoman, she plans to take down her evil employers, with the help of a detective named Tom. 

I thought the film started off all right but that I didn't really envision it in a typical superhero movie sense. What I didn't buy into and didn't like was Patience's transformation into Catwoman. I thought the way it was done wasn't so good, wasn't as nearly as shocking, believable and frightening as Selina Kyle's transformation in Batman Returns. Although Halle looked the part with the cropped pixie haircut - and Halle looks great with the shorter hair- as well as the sleek Catwoman costume. Was she the right fit for the part? Well, her physical prowess during the fight scenes, but for the stunt double, was good. It's just that the film, doesn't do justice to Halle and her character, which needed more intrigue. That, and Michelle Pfeiffer's turn as Catwoman in Batman Returns can't be measured, nor bettered. 

With the special effects, some of it was good, but I also thought that with the basketball scene and the one where Catwoman beats up some jewel thieves, it did become silly and overused. 

The supporting characters in Patience's colleagues, were boring and forgettable, such as the token gay character and Patience's best friend. The basketball scene where she shoots some hoops with the kids was slightly cringing with Misteeq's Scandalous playing in the background. And Benjamin Bratt was inconsequential and had a meaningless supporting role as the love interest for Halle. He plays a cop in Tom, just like he did in Miss Congeniality, yet he is not as effective. The romantic subplot was unnecessary and I didn't see the need for that cop character. The story wasn't that great, the action but for some of the fight scenes weren't great and they were too heavily dependent on CGI. 

The cat lady was boring and her conversations with Patience bored me out of my mind. Sharon Stone looked like Ellen Degeneres with the short, peroxide look. Although her character was somewhat interesting, as she camps it up as the villain. 

Also with the club scene, they were trying to make it more modern and hip, and yet this also took away from the dark, eerie, atmospheric tone this film was trying to evoke. 

If I had been the writer or director of this film, I would have definitely done things differently but more to it kept it in line with the comics and not divert away from it. Perhaps bring back Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, instead of having Halle. There are a few things that were all right and the outfit looks amazing. But the overuse of CGI really brought this film down slightly amongst a few other issues. It just didn't need it all the time. 

The tone of the film was awkward in places; one minute there is a fight scene, the next you have some romantic melodrama. It's weird how it shifts so much. 

Final Verdict:

I can't help feeling that rather than being abominable, Catwoman is a film that should have been better. I know this film had disaster written all over it but had it been conceived better and wasn't treated as a disposable Z-grade comic book based film, Catwoman would have stood a chance. 

I liked the first 40 mins but after that, when it started to go overboard with the effects, that's when the film lost me. Although it did win me back with the Halle Vs Sharon Stone fight, just. The script needed a lot more work and but for Halle Berry, everyone else seems to be here for the ride. 

Sharon Stone's career since Basic Instinct has been rather disappointing, to say the least. Still, out of her and Benjamin, she fared slightly better of the two, whereas Benjamin Bratt hasn't really had a virtuoso performance that put him in the same league as the likes of Tom Hanks, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt. As such, their turns in this film didn't do wonders for their careers. 

Catwoman is not down and out the sheer disaster that professional movie critics have labelled it as. And, despite my score, I don't outright hate it as much as they did. But script -wise, it is flawed in places, with the over the top usage of special effects and it is too off-key. And it just didn't have any moments that made it a guilty pleasure as a film for me. 

Halle Berry deserved better (and not least some of the negative comments about her performance, I found to be rather spiteful and too hateful) and the writers should have done better. This film should have been a whole lot better.

But alas, she does it better in Boomerang, Monsters Ball, X-MEN and The Call.

I think that by viewing it as a standalone fantasy action flick, excluding the Catwoman association and references, if you don't take that into account, then this is, by all means, a decent movie. 


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