When I bought issue #1 of a DC comic called Starfire back in 1976, it cost me 30 cents. Only a few days ago I stumbled upon a comics shop and noticed the price of a new comic book in 2014: $3.99. This, of course, is nerd pricing, not kid pricing. If it were just a matter of inflation, that comic book would have cost a buck twenty-five.
I don’t know what it means to our society that comic books have gone from a kid’s pastime to a nerd’s passion, but I know that any moviemaker that doesn’t understand that is just asking for trouble. The makers of Catwoman, starring Halle Berry, weren’t just clueless; they put on miniskirts and f-me shoes and went for a nighttime stroll down Rue Violeur.
You see, Catwoman isn’t about the Catwoman. Selina Kyle exists, but in the past. This Catwoman is named Patience Phillips. She doesn’t prowl the streets of Gotham, either, and Batman is never mentioned. How she becomes Catwoman — well, that rewrites 60 years of history. No longer a woman with criminal tendencies, she is a supernatural creature with spidey powers.
If you invite it, sometimes you get it. This movie got it from critics, audiences, and the box office. Before long, its name was being bandied about in the same breath as Plan 9 From Outer Space and Manos: The Hands of Fate, as one of the worst movies ever made. Nerd fury — the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse.
I saw this movie on the big screen when it first came out and I just re-watched it on TV. My opinion hasn’t changed in the last 10 years. It ain’t bad.
I admit I shouldn’t like it, but that’s due to a personal bias against obvious CGI, not because it screws with a beloved comic book character. Not that I don’t get the latter: I’ve also seen the Vampirella movie (which, evidently, this movie’s critics haven’t). But this, this isn’t a movie based on a comic book; it’s a comic book movie. It’s simple, stylized, and overwrought. Add in Halle Berry in a push-up bra and you have a movie made for the originally intended audience of comic books, and with about as much redeeming value.
But entertainment value counts, when it isn’t weighed down with a lot of pretentiousness or greed. Catwoman isn’t weighed down by much, other than the squirm-inducing inclusion of a politically correct gay character (very minor) and a basketball scene that’s about as convincing as a blue sunrise. Most of the rest floats on the screen like an empty thought balloon. The part of your brain Catwoman wants is prelingual.
What is it about? What does it matter? It’s about Catwoman. A new Catwoman, one that oddly enough won’t appeal to today’s comic book fans, but just might appeal to those of an earlier era.