There is an occasional laugh here. Halle snarfing sushi. Sharon Stone insulting her husband with perfect delivery. And, uh, what other chuckles were there? The “Cat got yer tongue” gag fell flat.
But the CGI special effects were pretty good. Catwoman cattily runs, climbs, jumps, kicks ass, and even out-sashays Seven-of-Nine as she catwalks on rooftops in that tight, skin-exposing, leather outfit (what’s that you say, Halle’s sashay is not a CGI effect?). The only thing she did not do was use a litter box; the CGI department has not figured that out yet.
It had excellent actors. Halle Berry: Oscar. Sharon Stone: excellent actress. Benjamin Bratt: Law & Order alumnus.
But they need a good script to perform well. And there was barely enough script to stitch together the zeppelin-size plot holes. I am supposed to care about a conspiracy to put a scary face cream on the market? Or how about when Sharon frames Halle for murder, and Benjamin arrests Halle, and then Halle does the done-to-death trust-me speech: “You’ve got to trust me, because I look so sleek and sexy in my leather outfit.” (OK, Halle did not say that last part.) Here is where Law & Order’s Lennie Briscoe (played by the late, great Jerry Orbach) shoulda stepped into the interrogation room and said to Benjamin, “Hey, kid, she said that face cream was toxic. Did you run that through the lab? And did you wonder about who has motive here? I don’t know any cats with a grudge against cosmetics. Rabbits, maybe. And maybe hubby was trading the wife in for a new model, literally. Or maybe the wife was a little impatient for hubby’s bank account. My ex-wife goes nuts if my alimony check is five minutes late. C’mon kid, you were a lot smarter when you were my partner. Now let’s put Julie Newmar here back in her litter box and do some real police work. I’ll see about changing her bread and water to cream and tuna.”
Very little character development in this script. The relationship between Catwoman Halle and Cop Benjamin? Went nowhere, because it did not move anyway. So they slept together once. Ho hum. How about a meaningful conversation or two? Give them a reason to care for each other besides Benjamin’s pecs and Halle’s boobs. Another wasted relationship: Halle and the older woman who was obviously a previous Catwoman. How about a little mentoring, besides shoving Halle over a railing?
Now to complain about a really bad Hollywood habit: buying the rights to source material and then not using it. This is worse than the I, Robot movie. They did not even use the comic book Catwoman’s name (Selina Kyle) and profession (cat burglar). The only thing they used is the word “Catwoman.” (Look, whips and tight catsuits were invented long before that comic book.) I am not saying that she should not have received her cat powers: they were a great idea. In the movies, it was right to give Batman body armor and to make Spider-Man’s web shooters organic.
But it was wrong to make the pre-Catwoman Halle a meek girl. Here is the only character development in this story: meek to assertive. You-go-girl done poorly. I don’t believe that a character who is that stacked physically and that talented professionally is going to be a doormat. Her character development should have been from bad to good, which would have been easy had she been a cat burglar. (Take a lesson from Stan Lee: “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” is an excellent theme to work with.) Catwoman says she is sometimes bad, sometimes good. I agree with Roger Ebert: “Where’s the bad?” She stole some jewelry? She returned it right away, after stopping others from stealing it. She stopped her obnoxious neighbors from blasting their stereo at 4 AM? That deserves a Nobel Peace Prize.
The director’s name is Pitof. (No, I did not spit out a prune pit.) No director who goes by one name can direct. I looked up his credits on imdb.com: mostly “Visual Effects Supervisor.” It shows. One conversation consisted of a bunch of one-second shots of Halle and Benjamin, with a few half-second reaction shots from a couple silent characters mixed in. Most of the movie is edited like this. There shoulda been a seizure warning for epileptics. Oh, but Pitof did direct and write one other movie: “Vidocq.” (No, I did not sneeze.) According to reviews, it was stuffed with flashy digital effects, and not stuffed with a story. Sound familiar? Catwoman should have been a 3 minute music video, because there is just enough story to fill that.
Oh, that reminds me of the soundtrack. A woman wailing “whoa, whoa, whoa-ah-oh-ah-oh-whoa-oh” to a synthesized loud BEAT gets tiring fast. Music by committee.
My advice to anyone who makes a comic book movie? Mine the comic book for more than the name. Get a director who can shoot a take that lasts longer than 3 seconds. And most of all: hire a writer who can write. Remember: CGI might look cool, and you can get fine actors (Halle, Benjamin, Sharon), but if they have a sow’s ear story to work with, they can’t turn it into silk.
Additional on Feb. 27, 2005: I just read that the director’s real name is Jean-Christophe Comar, but he likes going by the name Pitof (no, I did not hock a loogie, but maybe I should have). Not only does this guy pompously go by one name, he pompously does it on purpose. He is French; maybe a little bit of this is genetic. He is doing to his name what Michael Jackson did to his face. And he does worse to any movie he gets his mitts on.
Additional that I have meant to post for years: This movie had the most offensive gay stereotype it has ever been my displeasure to have laser-engraved upon my retinas. A guy who works in the same fashion place as, oh, what’s Catwoman’s name in the movie, and do I REALLY want to remember that? Anyhow, this guy’s body swishes like a ballerina and a salsa dancer and a drunk spliced together, and I apologize to the dancers. Singy songy voice, as in words with more than one syllable get three notes. Buggy lidless eyes and rubber-faced Joker smile (and NOT in a good way) whenever a “manwich” comes onscreen. Lispy to the edge of drooling. I could go on, but I don’t want to lose my lunch. From yesterday. I have grown less tolerant of gay stereotypes over the years, but this one singlehandedly shoved my intolerance into soul deep revulsion. It was like eating underdone beef and getting violent food poisoning for a couple of days, and forever after the merest whiff of any beef short of well-done would cause my stomach to curdle, nerves to jangle, and tongue to twist into a square knot. If it hits a straight guy like me that hard, I shudder to think what it must be like for gays. What the hell did gays ever do to make Pitof hate them so much?