Starring: Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone, Frances McDormand, Lambert Wilson
Before delving into their catalog of DC-created characters to compete with comic book rival and summer film machine Marvel, Warner Bros. needs to quickly amend the on-screen failures of their top-two heroes, Superman and Batman (though next summer’s “Batman Begins” will certainly breathe new life into a reborn franchise), instead of looking to less popular characters for box-office success. With that said, “Catwoman” hardly lives up to the expectations of the recent comic-book-to-film explosion with weak acting, gaudy effects and a paper-thin script as only minor problems that garnish this 90-minute disappointment.
After Michelle Pfeifer’s memorable performance as the criminal feline in 1992’s “Batman Returns,” Halle Berry takes the Catwoman mythology by the reins for a newer generation. Formerly a geeky advertising artist for a beauty care company, Patience Phillips (Berry) is washed down a drain pipe and murdered after she overhears the poisoning effects of an upcoming skin product to be released by company owners George and Laurel Hedare (Lambert Wilson and Sharon Stone, respectively). When she awakens the next morning with no memory of her fall to death, Patience doesn’t realize her newborn, cat-like reflexes until she is literally pushed off the edge by a crazy cat-lady-guru (Frances Conroy) with the knowledge of a millennium-long history of catwomen.
With the simple message that “freedom is power,” Patience becomes Catwoman, skipping and crawling her way through the city for clues to take down the Hedare Corporation and deliver sweet revenge to those responsible for her death. Hot on her trail is police detective Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt), who has been delivered a litter full of clues that connect the leather-bound kitty to a number of murders and robberies that she never committed. Catwoman is quickly placed on the city’s most-wanted list, but that’s the least of her problems; Tom also happens to be the same man that Patience is dating when she’s not clawing her way around town.
Working with the two-dimensional character presented to her, Berry is actually a pretty good Catwoman. She dons the black cat mask with sexual prowess and perhaps no one is more suited for the dominatrix costume she’s been given to wear, but “Catwoman” ultimately fails for two reasons. First, never hire an unknown French visual effects supervisor that goes by the name of Pitof to carry a comic book film to greatness. This goofball is so focused on making the film look artistically beautiful with his overdrawn visuals that he completely forgets to inject the kind of life you can find in flourishing franchises like “Spider-Man” and “X-Men.” Second, it’s a horrible mistake to stray away from a comic’s original source material. Taking Catwoman out of her inherent Gotham City environment and disregarding any supporting relationship to Batman, Catwoman just doesn’t have the same appeal as the leading heroine. One life down, eight to go.
You widescreen DVD release of "Catwoman" includes six additional minutes of deleted scenes (including a never-before-seen alternate ending), a behind-the-scenes documentary of the film, the theatrical trailer and "The Many Faces of Catwoman," a 30-minute featurette hosted by Eartha Kitt and tracing the history of superhero feline in the comics, television, and movies.