Sunday, March 27, 2016

Catwoman (2004)

Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice came out this week.  The two biggest heroes in DC Comics history were put into the same movie, along with Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Cyborg and The Flash.  There are other DC characters that didn’t make it into the movie.  They are minor characters for each of the heroes involved.  Just look at Batman’s villains.  There are so many of them that tossing them all into one movie would feel more like a list than an actual story.  That’s why we don’t get to see the likes of Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, or Catwoman.

This week’s movie ties into the whole superhero theme, specifically the DC Comics side of things.  If I want to tie it in even more, I could say that this week’s movie is related to Batman.  The movie is Catwoman, that 2004 Halle Berry movie where she wasn’t Selena Kyle, but was still Catwoman.

Catwoman was suggested to me on Twitter, but it wasn’t until the perfect combination of events happened that I decided to include it in the schedule.  It was a suggestion so that’s already a point in its favour.  Batman v Superman was coming out and it was related to a new release.  That’s another point.  Then someone I know handed me a copy and told me to watch it.  So, let’s recap.  I had a copy, had been told to watch it multiple times, and had the perfect time to write about it.  That’s how this came about.

My initial idea was to watch Catwoman once a month for seven months.  I’m sadistic like that.  That didn’t happen.  I watched it once in September and didn’t watch it again until recently.  I have a bunch of notes from the first time I watched it.  Most of that is play by play of the movie with me questioning what was happening.  I want to incorporate that into this post.

What I’m going to do is take those notes and expand on them with this newer viewing.  I’m going to clean up what was already there.  This might end up being a terrible post, but I won’t know until I’ve tried this idea.  Why don’t you come along for the ride with me?  We’ll see how this whole thing works out.

When I turned on the movie for the first time, I was surprised by the opening credits.  “The opening credits of Catwoman show a history of cats.  That’s an interesting concept … since Catwoman is supposed to be a cat burglar and not a reincarnation of an Egyptian cat.”  The movie would later delve into the Egyptian lore as a background for the concept of Catwoman.  This was an interesting idea for the background, but changes the character of Catwoman.  There have apparently been many Catwomen through the years, dating back to ancient Egypt.

Another big change in the main character was her name.  Selina Kyle is the name normally associated with Catwoman.  In this movie, “Halle Berry’s name is Patience Phillips.”  I caught that quickly.  This renders the credit of the movie being based on characters by Bob Kane meaningless.  This was not his character.  This was a rip-off.

One of my early notes was “Hoobastank.  I hear Hoobastank.  Remember Hoobastank?”  This was in reference to one of their songs, Same Direction, playing near the start of the movie.  Nowadays, if they are included in a soundtrack it is for nostalgic or ironic reasons.  It is never because the filmmakers think that it is a fitting choice for the action.  Back in 2004, when Catwoman was made, all superhero movies had music like this.  Spider-Man and Daredevil featured Nickelback or members of Nickelback.  Spider-Man 2 featured Dashboard Confessional.  Fantastic Four had Velvet Revolver.  It was a time of mainstream rock that nobody really cares about now.

Introductions are very important.  If a character is crucial to the story, their introduction sets them up.  You learn their name, personality traits, and a little bit of their background.  One thing that I never caught the first time through Catwoman was the name of Benjamin Bratt’s character.  “She’s now playing against Benjamin Bratt …” “… Mr. Benjamin Bratt Detective …” “Benjamin Bratt Detective figured it out!”  “If Benjamin Bratt Detective and Patience were to have sex, would it count as necrophilia?” It is Tom Loan (Lone? Lown? Loane?).  That weird necrophilia question is related to the voiceover that Patience had at the beginning of the film.

I did not like the voiceover.  “Halle Berry’s voiceover sounds like a whisper while she’s falling asleep, and she is being drowned out by the music playing in the movie.” “All I caught is that the day she died was the day she started to live.  That’s a dumb line in a movie that isn’t about ghosts.”  The voiceover was way too laid back.  There should be energy in it because the movie should be energetic.

There was a little more energy to Patience’s friend Sally.  Sally, played by Alex Borstein, ends up in the hospital due to migraines.  “The hospital stuff pays off with the reveal that Sally is getting sick from the makeup that Patience used to advertise.”  This was a very important plot point as the makeup was the crux of the movie’s conflict.  The reason that Patience was killed and turned into Catwoman was because she discovered the problem with the makeup.  The villain’s motivation was to release the makeup to the public.  The rest of the hospital stuff was standard buddy comedy that didn’t work.  “Sally is sitting at the nurses’ desk, talking on the phone to Patience … Then Sally hangs up to hit on the doctor.”

Another thing that didn’t work was the CGI throughout Catwoman.  During both watches, I had issues with the computer generated stuff.  “That was one terrible looking CG cat that the camera just moved onto.”  It was the cat that primarily bothered me.  Instead of using a real cat, many of the scenes in Catwoman resorted to a poorly rendered computer animated feline.  “Bad CG cat just meowed in Patience’s face and she came back to life.”  The movie didn’t stop with the cat.  The main character was frequently poorly animated as well.  “Oh, now we’ve got bad CG Halle Berry.”  The effects were just plain bad.

The final bad thing that to highlight is the terrible costume.  I understand the thinking behind making the Catwoman costume sexy.  Many men do not think of women as equals, and won’t find them believable stars in superhero movies.  Those guys are jerks who will only watch a female driven action movie if the female is sexually stimulating.  Pitof played into these sensibilities.  “Patience is wearing leather and using a whip.  This is some sort of sexual fantasy played out by director Pitof.” A superhero should not be using their suit to fulfill a sexual fantasy.  I would explain that right now, but my past-self summed it up nicely.  “The catsuit keeps getting ‘sexier.’  That’s not a good thing, since it looks plain goofy now, with less actual suit and more skin.  The suit isn’t supposed to just look good.  It’s supposed to be some form of protection as well.”  Superhero costumes are supposed to aid the superhero.  Spider-Man’s suit keeps his identity secret.  Batman’s suit has the utility belt and is also protective armor.  Iron-Man’s suit is both armor and weapon.  There is no protection in what Catwoman wears.  It’s barely clothing.

Let’s move from the bad of Catwoman to the good.  There isn’t much good that could be mined out of the movie.  It is mostly bad.  So what good did I find?  You might be asking yourself that.  Well, here it is.

There is exactly one thing in Catwoman that I would label as a good detail.  Let the me of seven months ago explain it for you.  “One thing the movie got right: after Patience Phillips is resurrected by the cats, she acts just like a cat and doesn’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks.  She does her own thing.  Just like a cat.”  Forget the jumping on random pieces of furniture.  Forget the landing on her hands and feet at all times.  The thing they got right was and having Patience get the attitude of a cat.

Before I finish with Catwoman, I want to share a few of my in the moment reactions.  In my initial writing about the movie, there were a lot of thoughts about what was happening.  That’s the stuff I have above.  But then there were things that I wrote that were just my reactions.  They were those moments that I couldn’t believe were actually happening.  So the next little bit of this post is just stuff that I wrote down in that initial notes, without any elaboration.

“’She jumps around like a cat.  We should call her Cat Chick.  No!  Cat Broad!’  No.  Just… No.  Bad dialogue.  Bad.”

“Catwoman just surfed on a guy.”

“Being like a cat can apparently make you good at basketball.  Though, Patience jumped off the wall with the ball, so that should be out of bounds.  She’s now playing against Benjamin Bratt, the police officer who was also in Miss Congeniality, while a bunch of kids watch and cheer.  This scene is edited like a bad music video.”

“There’s some cosmetics conspiracy hijinks going on now.  Halle Berry snuck into the warehouse, or factory, or something.  She is now being chased by men with guns.  I’m not entirely sure what’s happening in this movie right now.  She went in a waste pipe now, and they’re about to kill her with waste.  So, yeah.  This is a thing that happened in a movie one time.”

“So, Patience is breaking into a house.  The music makes it sound like she’s got a pizza and there’s a college girl waiting for the big sausage.  Bow chicka wow wow.”

“What if this movie was about Catwoman doing heists until her body decayed because she died?”

“Catwoman does a lot of dodging bullets.  She’s like that kid you would play with as a child, where you’d be imagining a fight and you’d say ‘I’m going to punch you in the face’ and his only reply to anything was ‘I’ll dodge it.’”

So there you have it.  A post using things I had written in that initial rough set of notes seven months ago.  It turned out better than I thought it would, but it’s not as great as I hoped.  Oh well.  Live and learn.  This experience will only help me to put out something better next time.

Catwoman was not a good movie.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  There were very few redeemable things in it, so much so that I could only find one thing to praise.  For a movie produced in the studio system, it was an astonishing work of incompetency.  There had to have been better ideas for this movie.  We’ll never know.  This was what we got, and it was a disaster.
Less of a disaster are my notes:

  • Catwoman was suggested for the Sunday “Bad” Movies by @ER_NotR.  He also suggested Birdemic and Steel.
  • I mentioned the 2004 version of Fantastic Four in the post.  I have covered the 2015 version, Fant4stic.
  • The star of Catwoman, Halle Berry, has already been featured in the Sunday “Bad” Movies twice.  She was in both New Year's Eve and Die Another Day.
  • Another third timer is Ona Grauer who has been in House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark.
  • Dagmar Midcap and Peter Wingfield are both making their second Sunday “Bad” Movies appearances after being in Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.
  • Catwoman also sees the return of two Stan Helsing actors, James Ashcroft and Holly Eglington.
  • John Cassini is returning to the Sunday “Bad” Movies this week.  He was previously in Repeaters.
  • Aaron Douglas has already been featured in Ghost Storm.  Now he is featured in Catwoman.
  • Finally, another Alone in the Dark alum returned this week.  Michael P. Northey was in Catwoman.
  • Have you seen Catwoman?  Is it one of the worst superhero movies you’ve ever seen?  Share your thoughts in the comments.
  • What bad movies do you know?  Do you want them featured in the Sunday “Bad” Movies?  You can use the comments to tell me what movies, or let me know on Twitter.
  • I have also been snapchatting clips from the bad movies I watch.  Feel free to check me out at jurassicgriffin on snapchat.
  • Next week, I’m actually going to be covering two movies.  I know it’s not one of the tens for the week.  It’s week 175.  The two movies aren’t a franchise, though.  The main focus of the week will be Troll 2, a classic bad film that you should know about if you’re interested in bad movies.  There’s really nothing like it.  It is perfection.  The second movie is a documentary about Troll 2 called Best Worst Movie.  So, really, the documentary is just a bonus post like that time when I wrote about the book The Disaster Artist.  I won’t be counting the documentary into statistics or anything.  It’s going to be a fun week.  I’ll see you for that double feature with two posts.

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