Catwoman is stunning in its badness. I had low expectations, but I didn’t expect just how bad it really was. The movie defies anything you expect from a comic book adaptation or a superhero movie or a movie with a female protagonist. It does everything wrong, looks cheap and amateurish, has a terrible script, some of the worst CGI, an annoying soundtrack and bad (over)acting. This is really, really bad, though enjoyable in its failure because you can’t stop being amazed that they this or that way.
The movie is about Catwoman, one of the most iconic female superheroes ever and it decides to not only not care about its comic book origins (by coming up with a super lame alternative), but also fuck up any feminist notion that character inherently inhabits. All the women in the movie are extremely dependent and addicted to men. When Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt) comes into the office of Patience (Halle Berry, and let’s not talk about the character names) everyone goes crazy because he’s so attractive and because that’s all anyone cares about (including the most stereotypical gay character). Her best friend Sally (Alex Borstein) is the most desperate woman you have ever seen in a movie. When she is in a hospital, because she is very sick, she hangs up the phone on her friend when a handsome doctor comes in and says “Oh, I gotta go, future father of my children is coming!” and then looks at him like a pathetic little girl. And, yes, in the end there is a scene where she actually lives with that doctor (about two weeks later).
Patience, meanwhile, transforms into Catwoman (don’t ask why, it’s just so ridiculous). She doesn’t really wonder about it, which makes sense because the movie treats it not, as you would expect, of her discovering her strong side that’s within herself, but more like she suffers from multiple personality disorder. What the movie is saying is that as a woman, you can either be clumsy, shy and clueless or tough, aggressive, hypersexual and unemotional. There is nothing in-between, you have to decide between those two sides. Oh, and if you are nice and empathic, as Patience before her transformation, you care about art, but if you are the tough girl you care about motorcycles and jewelry. That’s the female empowerment message of this movie.
And it becomes even more fucked up when Ophelia Powers (Frances Conroy, yes, that is her character name) tells her all the secret about her new Egyptian heritage: “Catwomen are not contained by the rules of society. You follow your own desires. This is both a blessing and a curse. You will often be alone and misunderstood. But you will experience a freedom other women will never know. You are a Catwoman. Every sight, every smell, every sound incredibly heightened. Fierce independence, total confidence, inhuman reflexes.” This speech is problematic all in itself (because it implies that change is a curse, basically discouraging any woman who isn’t possessed by an ancient Egyptian cat from trying to find freedom) but then is followed by Patience “embracing” her Catwoman persona by wearing an outfit that shows more skin than it is covering. The hero shot is basically nothing but T&A and, as with other female superhero costumes, there is no practicality to this at all. And it looks ridiculous.
The sanest person in this movie is maybe Tom Lone. There is a scene where he talks to a colleague because he is starting to realize that Patience might be Catwoman. And he wonders why he had to rescue her from a ledge that she was standing on to rescue a cat. So he asks the other guy: “Would your wife crawl out on a ledge of a building to rescue a stray cat?” And the guy replies: “Maybe. If the cat was carrying a pizza.” He then gets an analysis of her handwriting since she wrote Sorry to him in both of her personalities and the letter analyst explains how each handwriting shows different personalities. Apart from more of this binary belief system about women, here’s how he finishes his analysis: “If you put these two women in the same room, you gonna have one hell of a party.” Wow, for a female-centric movie it has really great ideas about women.
There is much, much more, but I guess it’s enough. You could wonder about the ending or the Sharon Stone character or the sushi eating or, well, any second in this movie and you should. It’s really one of those movies where you wonder why no one ever said “Stop! This is a disaster!” Just to give a slight sense of the insanity of this movie, I leave you with two more screenshots that I had to make right while watching it, because I was awed by their hilarity.