Tag Archives: catwoman

Dark Knights, Bad Girls, Red Lips

I’m in revisions so I’m going to skip a full review, dodge the politics, and just offer these few thoughts on Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises:

* Despite my love for all things Batman, I was dreading watching this film. The trailers made it look so unrelentingly bleak, and with a running time of almost three hours, it felt like a pretty miserable way to celebrate my friend Morgan’s birthday. Well, turns out I not only have to eat my hat but my cape and cowl as well, because I LOVED IT.

I think this is because, more than any of the Batman films, it felt most true in spirit to Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. This was the graphic novel that brought me back to superhero comics as a teen. Say what you will about Miller, but I think this book was for me what Watchmen seems to be for everybody else. It was bloody and brutal and sad and so effing human. Also, goofy 80s sunglasses.

* Bane’s accent seemed really over the top, like a punchy Sean Connery imitation. Also, when the bat symbol caught fire and he said, “Imposhible!,” did anyone else want to shout, “Inconceivable!”?

* Catwoman. When Hathaway was cast, I wrote about the Kitty Conundrum here and my response to this Catwoman is basically a good-natured shrug. I love that Hathaway played with caricatured female response and male reaction to that response. I love that Nolan made her insane heels functional if not utilitarian. I guess I just hoped that he would dirty her up a little.

Anarchy descends, yet Catwoman is still rocking a shiny blowout and a perfect red lip? I get that her glamor is basically DC canon (though Miller went to town on her in a totally depressing way), but I don’t get why everyone else gets dragged into the muck and she stays so… glossy.

There’s also nothing scary about her. If she’s meant to occupy a morally gray area and she doesn’t mind using guns or making mayhem, why doesn’t she feel like more of a threat? I suspect there’s a point to be made here about femininity, evil, and the grotesque, but for now, I’ll settle for saying that, one of these days, I’d like to see a genuinely terrifying super villainess on screen.

(Sidenote: Though she’s not strictly super, I’ll be curious to see what happens with Angelina Jolie as Maleficent. But after the whole Grendel’s Mom fiasco, I’m keeping my expectations in check.)

 

 

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The Kitty Conundrum

The news that Anne Hathaway had been cast as Catwoman prompted me to take a look at the sleek-suited supervillain’s backstory.

(I don’t have strong feelings regarding Hathaway in the role. I loved her in “Rachel Getting Married,” hated her in Tim Burton’s “Alice” and didn’t much care for her in “The Devil Wears Prada.” I think she’s a lovely girl with serious dramatic chops and iffy comic timing. Not a popular view, I know.)

I was surprised at how many different backstories Catwoman has had: She’s been a prostitute, a mousy secretary and, no lie, “an amnesiac flight attendant.” Catwoman started out as just another villain, a (sexy) thief wielding a whip and her wiles to befuddle the Big Bat. Then the writers tried to justify her badgirl ways through an escalating series of traumas. (She survived a plane crash but her brain got muddled! She had an abusive boyfriend, an abusive husband, an abusive pimp! She was stuffed into a bag and drowned– like a cat, geddit?)

Origin stories for hero and villain alike are often loaded with disaster, misery, and death. After all, something big has to prompt one to put on a costume and wreak havoc on the world or right its wrongs. (Although, once upon a time, “I must have the world’s biggest diamond!” or “That diamond doesn’t belong to you!” seemed to be motivation enough.)

I think Catwoman’s origin stories are so muddled and disparate because she really does freak us out. She isn’t just sexy like your average villainess; she’s sexy in a very specific way– in a whip-cracking, black latex, fetish-focused way. Her “look” has meaning and resonance outside of the superhero universe in a way that other villains’ costumes do not. (I mean, purple suits and and monocles are not the stuff of nightmare and fantasy… unless you have a fear of being tacky or a Mr. Peanut fetish.) All badgirls wear high heels, but Catwoman’s high heels mean something else.

Maybe because she freaks us out, we try to declaw Catwoman. We turn her into an anti-hero instead of just letting her be a villain. For once, I’d like to see a Catwoman who doesn’t just titillate but genuinely terrifies, who gets to be really and truly, and, yes, even unrepentantly bad. I don’t know what Christopher Nolan has planned or what Hathaway will bring to the role, but I hope that, this time around, we get a Catwoman that’s more crouching tiger, less wounded kitten.

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