There is a good reason why I titled this heroine with her real name and not with “Catwoman”. But let’s start with the movie. Or movies in this case.
I don’t like the Dark Knight trilogy, for a couple of reasons. That doesn’t mean that I think that the movies are necessarily bad, they just don’t strike the right cord with me. Mostly because they are melodramas. Outside of gracious gore and offensive humour there is nothing which puts me off a movie faster than the feeling that it tries to manipulate me. Naturally every movie tries to manipulate the feeling of the audience, but melodramas tend to take it up a notch and therefore tend to take me out of the experience. All those speeches in The Dark Knight about which mask Batman is wearing or what kind of hero Gotham needs, they just make me wonder what they are even suppose to mean. They sound good, but for one, no-one talks this way (so much for the movies being more grounded) and if you really think about it the only thing Gotham deserves is to get burned down to the ground. How anyone can survive in this city is beyond me.
But I think what really kills it for me is the third movie, mostly because it feels like it doesn’t belong. This is just a suspicion of mine, but to me it feels like Nolan had a concept of two movies in which the story he wanted to tell would come to a full circle, with Batman concluding his journey to being the lonely and hunted crusader at the end of it. But then the studio really wanted to make it a trilogy, so The Dark Knight rises was tacked on. Nothing in this movie holds up for me, with one exception, and that is their version of Catwoman.
First of all, I think that Anne Hathaway is a great actress. I never understood the hatred she gets from certain corners of the internet. Granted, her choices of roles were not always the best, but acting-wise she always delivers. And what I can see from her public personality, I see no reason to threw dirt at her. What is the problem? That she is too nice?
In any case, knowing what great actress she is I was totally behind her being casted, just like I was behind Heath Ledger being casted for the Joker one movie earlier. And we all know how that turned out. If you ask me, there is exactly one element which make The Dark Knight a great movie and that is the villain. The story doesn’t really hold up all that way, but Heath Ledger’s performance is so memorable that it is easy to forgive the weaknesses of the movie.
I think too many people make the mistake to assume that just because an actor or actress is exceptionally good-looking and therefore cast in certain roles early in his or her career, that’s the only thing he or her can play. With some of them that is true, but as someone who followed the career of Heath Ledger closely I knew he had range (thought as much as I was a fan of his, I still can’t help wondering if he had gotten the academy award for his role as Joker if not for the tragedy. I don’t doubt that he would have won at the very least one at some point, though) and I knew enough about Anne Hathaway that I was sure that she would be able to deliver.
She killed it.
Her performance is not as memorable and ground-breaking as Heath Ledger’s, but she managed something I never really expected to happen. After all those years in which Newmar seemed untouchable for me, Hathaway delivered a performance which I like nearly as much. It’s a very different take, though. In 1966 Catwoman was just Catwoman with no secret identity in the mix. In 2012 the character went to the other extreme, being mostly the thief Selina Kyle with a few hints to her alternate identity thrown in. Some might see it as a weakness, but it makes her more of a person which might not important for a villain, but is vital for a potential love interest.
I think no Catwoman beforehand managed to balance the criminal and the “good” side of the character that perfectly. Selina Kyle is a thief because she grew up in poverty. But she is nevertheless still a caring person. She tries to limit the damage during her heists, but she is not above using all her advantages and plays dirty if she has to. And she actually got some character development during the movie (yeah, I was shocked too, as bad as Marvel often is with female characters, DC tends to treat them like some sort of foreign species) when she decides to do the heroic thing instead of rescuing her own skin.
What I especially like is that her deciding to team up with Batman is not really motivated by her loving him. Which is especially a good thing because the romance is easily the weakest part of her arc. For once you get a sense that Selina Kyle’s decisions are not solely motivated by Batman but the result of her being a survivor. She has survived being a criminal for a long time but she is also smart enough to grab the chance for a way out of a life which puts her in constant danger. For her it is one last big risk which will allow her to start new.
The writing is mostly okayish, but Anne Hathaway manages to give it nuances due to her performance. Like Newmar she never comes off as a vamp. Unlike her she doesn’t exactly ooze sexuality, but she shows the same level of confidence with a hint of vulnerability mixed in. And just like the only reason to watch The Dark Knight is for me Heath Ledger, the reason The Dark Knight rises is watchable for me is Anne Hathaway.
Quote: “Look, you wouldn’t beat up a woman any more than I would beat up a cripple. [she kicks Bruce’s cane and he falls]. Of course, sometimes exceptions have to be made.”
In this case, I don’t recommend the movie. I really don’t. I think that the third movie is an incoherent mess which adds nothing to the story and should have never been made. What I do recommend is this version of the character, though. So if you are a Catwoman fan, it pays off to watch the movie, even if she is not as much in it as she probably should. Otherwise it is better to just ignore the movie.
Next week I’ll conclude my series of female comic book characters in the media for this year, but don’t worry, if there is enough interest, I’ll do a second run next year. The good news is that you are allowed to pick what I should do next. Your choices are:
- I go back to my usual schedule
- I do a series about the Harry Potter females
- I do a special about female characters in children literature
Let me know in the comments.