A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 435 – Catwoman

Catwoman – May 9th, 2011

When this movie came out I was super excited for about two seconds. Because oh wow, it had Peter Wingfield in it! For about two seconds! That’s about as far as my excitement lasted. And then I stopped being excited because every preview I saw made it look – how do I put this? They made it look bad. And do you know why the previews made it look bad? Because it is bad! It would take a hell of a lot of work to make this movie look good in a preview. There’s so little in it that isn’t bad in some way. It’s a cavalcade of fail and it makes me shake my head that we own it. Even if it does have Peter Wingfield.

I’m going to be honest: Back when this movie came out I came across a couple of videos online that compiled every second of footage Wingfield had in the movie in one place and I watched it and since I do enjoy just plain looking at him I watched it again. And perhaps a third time. And at no point in my viewings was I ever tempted to actually watch any more of the movie. It just didn’t appeal to me on any but the most superficial of levels, which is pretty sad. I love cats and I enjoy many of the castmembers in this movie, but nothing else about it seemed worth the bother and when a movie can’t tempt me with pretty men (Benjamin Bratt and Peter Wingfield in one movie? Thank you!) or kickass women (Halle Berry is pretty damn awesome) and a pile of cats, then something is very wrong.

One would think that with two lead actors I very much like, a small role from an actor I love and a focus on cats, this would be a slam dunk for me. I mean, cats! Kickass female lead! Two female leads who talk about something other than men! That means this movie technically passes the Bechdel test! And yet it is so very vapid. Even the attempts to make it have some sort of meaning about youth and beauty and dependence on chemicals and believing in yourself and so on? They fall totally flat. A lot of it is poor writing. We get both opening and closing monologues which feel way too long and seem to be telling us things that the movie should be able to either show us visually (what with it being a visual medium) or communicate through the actions of its characters. But every line in here is so flat and so stilted and every action that follows is so affected by that flatness, it seeps through the whole movie.

The plot barely deserves mention. We’ve got a meek and awkward graphic designer, Patience, who works for a beauty product company that’s making a nasty skin cream that has horrible side effects like your face rotting off when you stop using it. She finds out about it and gets killed for her trouble, then revived by some magical cats and granted the powers of the Puma magic cat powers like being able to play basketball like a Harlem Globetrotter and eat ten cans of tuna in one sitting. She doesn’t sleep 20 hours out of the day like my little porkpies do, and she doesn’t bury dead mice in the laundry hamper (as far as we know), but before she gets down to the business of unearthing the secret of the toxic skin cream she does become a cat burglar. Ha. Ha.

Okay, so the burglar part of the story is as close to the character’s canon as we get, so I should be grateful. But at most it’s a nod. A passing nod. This movie doesn’t seem to care much about canon. And I’ve said before that I’m willing to be flexible when it comes to movie canon versus comic canon. Marvel and DC both have a habit of reinventing characters and DC is no stranger to giving numerous people the same role. How many Robins have we had, again? Right. So I’m not going to complain that we’ve got ourselves a new Catwoman with her own canon that’s completely unconnected to Batman or her original stories. I am a little miffed that the movie seems to not even bother with a pretense of being set in Gotham, but I could live with it if they’d made the origin story new and different and an interesting twist. But it’s not. There’s barely a bend, let alone a twist. I don’t dislike this version because it’s non-canonical. I dislike it because it’s boring.

The romance between Patience and the detective who’s investigating Catwoman (that would be Tom Lone, played by Benjamin Bratt) is apparently supposed to be a key point here, with his interest in her forcing Patience to decide which parts of her personality she wants to be true to. But I never really got more than the barest flicker of true conflict for Patience. Mostly the conflict comes from Tom, who clearly suspects something is up and doesn’t quite know what to do with his concerns. Would that it had been given more time to play out, but no. Instead we get scene after scene of Patience in a pleather bustier and cat mask, leaping around in all her CGI glory. We get a shaky cam basketball game between Patience and Tom that takes up an inordinate amount of time to show up Patience’s new physical skills but which could have been much shorter, giving the movie more time to actually develop the relationship or maybe Patience’s new character. It’s just all so poorly handled. And don’t even get me started on the sassy friend Patience has for plot exposition purposes.

If I’m going to be truly honest with myself, I will admit that if I flipped past this while exercising in my living room? I would probably stop on it for a few minutes. I wouldn’t stick around for the whole thing and if it was that basketball game I’d flip the hell away as soon as I could. But I will admit it’s an absolutely ridiculous movie. One of the villains is flat as a board, which is a pity because Lambert Wilson is definitely capable of being much more of a hammy bad guy. The other is Sharon Stone, who, I admit, seemed to be having a good deal of fun with the role. But Halle Berry is given so very little to work with and much as I like Benjamin Bratt, he shouldn’t have been the one doing the heavy lifting here. The movie is called Catwoman. But regardless of that, the ridiculousness of it is more on the eye-rolling side of things than last night’s offensive pile of crap. Maybe it’s all the pretty. Maybe it’s the cats. Maybe it’s the CGI. I don’t know. It’ll never be my first pick of things to watch, but unlike a few others in our collection I suppose it’s better than nothing.

May 9, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment

Catwoman

May 9, 2011

Catwoman

I think there’s something seriously wrong with us. Me and Amanda I mean. How do we recover after watching a pretty bad movie yesterday? We put in Catwoman. Yeah, I know.

I wish I knew what the thought process behind this movie was. “Let’s make a Batman movie without Batman.” I suppose you could view this as a contrast to Elektra. It’s a spin-off using a popular female character from a comic book movie. Except that the character being spun off here is not played by the same person, so maybe that’s not what it is anyhow. This isn’t even the same Catwoman depicted by Michelle Pfeifer way back in Batman Returns way back in 1992. Instead it’s a “fresh” look at the same character. Only this isn’t Selina Kyle – Halley Berry is Patience Phillips. She has pretty much the same plot arc though. She’s a quiet mousy graphic designer until she’s killed by some guards at the evil cosmetic corporation she works for.

Then she’s resurrected by a magic cat and given the power to morph into CGI and jump around like a video game character. She can see in the dark, she has super agility and can leap amazing distances. She has all the powers of the mighty puma.

What’s odd to me here is that this movie uses a well established character from the DC universe but has nobody else there. I assume it takes place in Gotham, but it’s not ever stated. There’s no sign of any of the other inhabitants of Gotham. The comic book nerd in me would like to at least have had some small nod – have a Commissioner Gordon berate the stalwart police officer who falls in love with Patience while investigating the burglary that Catwoman perpetrated. (And the murders that are later pinned on her.) Have and Oswald Cobblepot or a Dr. Crane… something!

Instead this movie tries to be a new take on the catwoman mythos. It tries to lay a groundwork that there have always been catwomen through history – women gifted with cat powers so they can release their inner wild beast. It has a little potential I suppose, but then it goes and has Halle deliver some awful cliche like “What a Purrrrrfect idea” and whatever potential it might have had vanishes. Instead what we have is a morass of pathetically predictable cat-based one-liners. Try to imagine what would happen if a room full of writers were told to think of every cat joke they could in thirty minutes and then you strung them together and made a movie about it. This is something like that.

The movie also relies heavily on cheesy looking CGI work to let Catwoman leap about, none of which is very convincing. And oh, the camera work. It’s all quick frenetic swooping shots combined with a wide angle lens for that nausea-inducing fish-eye effect. I do not subscribe to the notion that moving the camera faster makes an action scene feel like it has more action, but director “Pitof” certainly does. A quick look at IMDB reveals that Pitof started out as an effects man, working with Jean-Pierre Jeunet, and I can see a certain City of Lost Children vibe here, but it leaches all the fun from that movie and leaves only the jumping flea scene – for more than an hour and a half.

I feel awful for all the talented people involved in producing this litter-box fare. I generally like Halle Berry and Benjamin Bratt. This movie has a small role for one of Amanda’s favorite actors, Peter Wingfield (who does a passable American accent I think.) Lambert Wilson plays the Marovingian from the Martix sequels again – the poor typecast fellow. The only person who seems to really know what kind of movie this is and relish the scenery chewing is Sharon Stone. She’s the best thing in this as the jilted wife of the owner of the evil cosmetic corporation (and previous spokeswoman.) I’m not saying I’d watch it again for her, but she is perfectly cast and seems to truly enjoy the over-acting involved.

This movie isn’t despicable like yesterday’s movie. It’s not disappointing, really, because I have pretty low expectations for a Catwoman movie. It is simply bad. Badly written by committee. Badly directed. Badly conceived. It’s not even bad enough to really be good – it’s just lame and kind of sad. Still – it’s a comic book movie so I had to own it, right?

May 9, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , | Leave a comment