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   Movie Reviews: Catwoman
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Studio:
     Warner Brothers
Plot:
     Halle Berry, Benjamin Bratt, Sharon Stone, and Lambert Wilson
Cast:
     A murdered woman returns from the dead with cat-like powers to avenge her death.
Rating:
     PG-13
Bottom Line:
     

Coverage:
by
Briana McNeil

In most respects "Catwoman" delivers to audiences exactly what they may expect from a summer blockbuster film about a superhero. An average and ordinary citizen becomes remarkable due to some outside force or mutation, and donns a shiny outfit to fight the bad guys. On the other hand, in his American directorial debut, French director, Pitof delivers a spin on this formula which makes Catwoman worth seeing, because its close, but not quite your run of the mill superhero flick.

For instance, Halle Berry’s catwoman has no connection to the DC comic book series, Batman. Instead we are introduced to the newest in a long line of catwomen who have existed throughout history and mythology. Pitof, creates this mythology in the opening credits by revealing Egyptian stone-edged depictions of feline creatures, and other ancient cats throughout history. The audience is later introduced to cat women through the ages, women with cat like tendancies who were exalted by kings, participated in witchcraft and tribal rituals, and were heros in victorious battles. The mythology in the opening credits is intended to place the story in present day society and away from Gotham City.

The myth building is meant to give the story a different, more believable start than other films in the comic book genre, but instead of something different we’re introduced to the formulaic superhero, the very ordinary character who transforms into someone or thing extraordinary. Halle Berrry plays Patience Phillips, a meek and mild graphic artist who works in the advertising department of the Hedare company, a stylish cosmetic company. She is awkward and painfully insecure, unable to confront a nasty boss or even a loud neighbor. The unlikely superhero. When Patience returns to work one evening to deliver a proposal, she discovers a deadly secret about the company’s beauty cream and is murdered for uncovering it.

Washed up on an island, Patience is reborn when a cat breaths life into her. It isn’t long before she realizes she has changed. She can somehow leap to her balcony, and oddly prefers curling up and sleeping on the rafters in her apartment instead of her bed, and when she falls, she lands on her feet.

The difference between Catwoman and other comic superhero’s is that she walks the line between good and evil. The myth has us believe that this is inherent in catwomen, a duality of nature, a docility, and assertiveness that can exist in one creature. Certainly, other superhero’s are not nearly as set in gender stereotypes as Catwoman.

On the otherhand, Halle Berry’s transformation from meek and mild, to fiery roaring Catwoman set on avenging her death, is appealing. This Catwoman is her own woman, and not the Catwoman of marvel comic fame. Sexy and self assured, Berry plays the dichotomy of a catwalking, ass kickin leather wearing cat, and a shy and sweet artist splendidly. The implication would be offensive if this wasn’t such a fun, popcorn poppin film.

The villain exists as the weakest point in the film. Laurel Hedare, played by Sharon Stone, is the aging face of her beauty company. And her face really is her "superpower." Laurels use of her own products has made her skin the consistency of marble, making her unable to be hurt.

Pitof’s reinvention of Catwoman creates a mythological and gendered twist on the typical superhero film. Yet for all the effort to create a believable mythology, Sharon Stone’s Laurel Hedare’s only visible strength is skin the consistency of steal. Without the ability to fight, or any additional "super powers" the fights are too contrived and unbelievable. Especially when Stone must go toe to toe with a superhero. The film is missing is a truly evil villain or for that matter anything out of the ordinary to match an extraordinary Catwoman. The biggest twist in the film is that cats, and hence catwomen, are not simply good or evil, but are much more complex than all that. So ensues the struggle and plot.

First time feature film director Pitof’s style becomes evident early on. He is fond of movement and time is viewed in warp speed. We are cognizant of the magnified reflexes of catwoman as she notices insects, or hears sounds in the distance. The director also creates drama with sets filled with alleycats, towering buildings, rooftops, and reflecting club floors. Fight scenes are tightly focused, as though the audience is an inch away and images blur then come to a halting stop.

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