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.

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May 9, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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