Man of the Moment

Sean William Scott

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Sunday, July 25, 2004


Just a note in advance, updates may be sporadic for the next week, as I'm going to be house-sitting again and my Mom only has a dial-up connection and an older, slower computer. Which makes using the internet very, very frustrating. But anyway...

Pete and I went to see Catwoman last night. And perhaps I'm just being needlessly contrarian, but I rather liked it. That doesn't mean it was a good movie. Oh, not at all. But the reasons it was bad have nothing to do with the reasons you're likely to hear from fanboys or the general public.

First off, what I liked. Halle Berry as Patience, aka Catwoman, has a slinky appeal that is quite fun. The movie doesn't intend to take itself seriously. It's deliberate kitsch. And the rampant hyped up sexualization of the character plays into that.

The supporting cast was well-played as well. Benjamin Bratt is charming as the cop smitten with Patience, and Alex Borstein as the best friend gets a couple of nice moments and decent laughs. Sharon Stone as the ageing head of an evil cosmetics company has an icy aura of villainy, and although she hams it up just a little, so does Berry, so they balance each other out. I've noticed before in films of this nature that the actors who seem the most clued-in to the kinds of movies they're making often give the performances that are the most fun to watch. Stone and Berry know they're in a less-than-stellar film and they play up the absurdity of the film and their roles with abandon.

The story is slight, barely worth mentioning. Evil cosmetics corporation releases skin-creme that turns people into nigh-invulnerable psychotics with bad skin and kills anyone who finds out about it, including the mousey graphics desigener who turns out to be the chosen of Bast who then decides to taker her revenge on the aforementioned evil cosmetics corporation. There are some jibes thrown in on how society devalues older women, but they're clearly sops thrown out to the critics to make it appear that the film has some subtext that it doesn't really have. The true point of the film is to have Halle Berry dress up in a dominatrix out-fit and beat men up. I've got no problem with that, and frankly any attempt at "plot" just gets in the way of that.

The reasons the film are bad have to do entirely with the direction. This person, Pitof, has no business being allowed anywhere near a camera. Quick cuts, rapid camera movements, and very odd choices for camera angles make many of the scenes at the very least difficult to watch, and at worst impossible to see what is actually happening. It's self-defeating, and I hate this approach to filming as it's ruined many a film that would otherwise be enjoyable, but until someone with some actual talent as a director or cinematographer comes up with a new way to film action scenes for Hollywood to duplicate in all their movies, it's a technique we're probably going to be seeing for some time.

Oh, and the CGI was cheesy and silly and very obviously bad CGI. But I've theorized before that the reason we see so much really bad CGI in movies is because the audience apparently wants their CGI effects to be amateurish and bad, so again, we may as well get used to it being that way for quite some time.

The reasons you're going to hear the film are bad are two-fold. One, is that costume. Yeah, it's cheesy, and Berry actually wears an outfit earlier in the film that's much more attractive and bears a passing resemblence to the current comics version of her outfit. If it were my film, I'd have kept her in that outfit. But there's a certain thematic logic to the one she does end up in. At least part of the point of the film is to show as much of Berry as possible, so in that sense it works.

You're also going to hear a lot about how the character isn't true to the comic. Well, of course it's not. To be true to the comics you'd have to bring in Batman and all that rubbish, which would invariably reduce the character to a supporting role. No, if you're going to give Catwoman her own movie, best to just get her as far from the comics milieu as possible. True, making her the chosen one of the Egyptian cat goddess Bast is somewhat far-fetched as an origin. But if people can happily swallow the notion that getting bitten by a radioactive spider gives you spider-like powers instead of causing a nasty allergic reaction and cancer, I can believe this film's mystical origin. But apart from the change in the origin, the film is true to the character's personality. She's not exactly a bad guy, but she's not a good guy either. She's an empowered, sexualized woman with a cat fetish and ambiguous ethics. Sounds like the comic book character to me.

So, to reiterate, no, this wasn't a good movie, but it wasn't the death of cinema or of comic-book based movies. If you can get into the film's spirit, and you don't mind kitsch, camp and knowing winks to the audience that "yes, we know this is a terrible movie, but you're having fun, right?" than you'd probably enjoy it too.


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