Be advised that this discussion of Selina Kyle includes spoilers from The Dark Knight Rises.
There’s no such thing as the purrrrfect Catwoman. The character’s background, dating back to her origins on television on the 1960s series Batman as well as her appearances in the comics run the gamut from wiley adversary to a whiney ex-lover who calls Bruce Wayne just to say “Bruce, I’m lonely” in Frank Miller’s Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. There’s not one perfect rendition to aim for. But Anne Hathaway’s complex cat burglar in Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman film The Dark Knight Rises may be the closest thing we’ve seen to a perfect rendition of the infamous and beguiling Selina Kyle.
The first part of her success comes purely from Nolan’s decision to leave off the Catwoman moniker. If anything, we can assume those Gothamites who’d witnessed her work might whisper the name jokingly, but for the entirety of the film, she is solidly Selina Kyle, professional cat burglar and not some acrobatic she-villain in a spray-on leather suit (though her suit of choice is rather curve-hugging). The removal of her alias lends gravity to a character whose past iterations have been largely defined by the necessarily catty costume. Even Hathaway’s “cat ears” are merely a wink at Kyle’s cartoonish villain name. Instead of putting Hathaway in a dinky pair of pin-on faux-ears, we merely think we see the signature cat profile, when in reality, it’s the shape of her tactical spy-goggles perched atop her level head. We know she’s Catwoman, but she doesn’t have to become some flag-waving obtuse version of the conflicted character to tell us that.
But it’s not just the costume. Hathaway’s Kyle is not a criminal born out of the usual Catwoman origin. The first film iteration with a significant background is the very memorable performance from Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (before that, fabulous Catwoman portrayers like Eartha Kitt and Julie Newmar were simply perfectly executed bad, bad kitties). Pfeiffer's Kyle is a downtrodden, mousy woman, fed up with the way men and the world stomped all over her. And one night, in the privacy of her sad, cat-filled apartment, she gets angry enough to sew together a patent leather catsuit, get her groove back and strike out at Gotham City with all her pent-up womanly rage. Her assault on the city and her partnering with the Penguin are petty and driven by a sense of selfish injustice. She’d been personally wronged, ignored, mistreated, and as such, everyone else is going to suffer her wrath. (Halle Berry’s Stretch Armstrong of a Catwoman suffered from a similarly unflattering origin story.) Even when she sacrifices herself to kill Shreck (Christopher Walken) at the end of the film, she does so in a way most people would file in the looney bin. Pfeiffer’s Catwoman is entertaining, and even sexy at times, but she is not a woman for modern viewers to relate to. If anything, she’s the depiction of women most modern ladies are trying to quiet. Let's just say there's a reason that as even as a child and major fan of Batman Returns I chose to imitate the caped crusader, gender be damned, and not his confuddled could-be sidekick with the long, pointy nails.
Still, Hathaway’s Kyle is no picnic. And she’s certainly no role model. She is, however, a woman that most contemporary audiences can truly relate to and understand. On one hand, she spends her time using men as playthings in her scheme to better her life. But on the other, she sees her role as almost modern day, feminist Robin Hood. She comes from nothing and she sees her “career” and her eventual involvement with Bane’s “impending storm” as methods of leveling the playing field between the haves and the have-nots, as evidenced by a scene in which she whispers “You’re going to wonder how you lived so large for so long and didn’t leave enough for the rest of us” in Bruce Wayne's million-dollar ear as a pudgy, stodgy man in a suit gluttonously cracks open a juicy lobster, allowing chunks of the precious meat topple onto the floor. It’s this gross inequality that drives her, but only so far as her own want for self-preservation will allow. The way Kyle sees it, she’s part of the solution, and she’s not approaching it with the feverish, knee-jerk reaction of so many Catwomen before her.
And then there’s her status as Batman/Bruce Wayne’s perfect match. Throughout the history of Batman, Catwoman/Selina Kyle has been a conflicting presence for Bruce. She’s always been on the wrong side of the law, but their attraction has been unavoidable. There’s something about her confusing morals that give him something he can relate to. She’s ultimately coming from a similar place of wanting to make the world better, but she’s unsure how to do that without causing evil. Still, Nolan's Kyle understand the mistakes she's made, something we can surmise by her remorse in one the final scenes in TDKR when she sees the result of helping Bane turn Gotham into a state of anarchy and stares with regret at one family’s shattered portraits. Her struggle is not unlike the moral struggle that Batman has faced time and again, including in Nolan’s The Dark Knight.
But what makes her such a perfect match is not that she’s able to tease him like no other woman, as past iterations of the character have displayed. It’s not the mystery or the sexy exterior that draws Wayne in (besides, he's had his hands on plenty of sexy ladies in his time). It’s her vulnerability and her ability to truly challenge him. She’s not an inferior fighter. She’s not a little green or a damsel in distress. She’s been surviving on her own, and even when he comes to her aid, it’s just that: aid. He’s not her Dark Knight in shining armor. He doesn't set her straight. He’s her challenge. She wins him over not because she’s trapped him or enticed him with her barely-there catsuit. They wind up together because they are actually matched. They are equals.
Now, with that in mind, the depiction of Hathaway’s Kyle certainly doesn’t elevate her to that level in terms of screen time. The cat burglar’s story is always secondary to Batman’s, but that’s not because her character, in the universe created by the film, is lesser. It’s simply because her name is not in the title of the film. This is not the Selina Kyle story. This is a story about Batman. Sure, in the end, that may leave us wishing we’d enjoyed more of Hathaway’s progressive Kyle, but it doesn’t diminish Nolan’s rendition of the character.
The real victory is in how real the character feels. Hathaway’s Selina is someone we understand. We could see ourselves driven to similar lengths and reacting with similar levels of remorse when the consequences were more dire than we anticipated. What makes this Catwoman superior to past renditions is that we’d be willing to put ourselves in her razor-edged stiletto boots. And we feel like we understand how it would feel.
Rather than feeling like we're watching the Catwoman sideshow in the big Batman movie, we experience the character Hathaway and Nolan have created so deeply that we walk away with a giant compliment in the form of a complaint: We want and need more Selina Kyle. It’s the highest compliment we could pay Hathaway’s excellent supporting character, and that level of elusiveness is actually the perfect way for the wily femme fatale to leave her adoring fans. She wouldn't want us thinking she was that easy to catch, now would she?
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
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The former ER star, who played Nurse Malik McGrath of the hit medical drama, had his aorta replaced and a leaking heart valve fixed in a gruelling six-hour operation last week (14Jul09).
The actor - real name Dearon Thompson - has now been released to continue recuperating at home and he is thankful to his former TV co-stars and fans for lending their support in his time of need.
He tells RadarOnline.com, "Most of the cast from ER supported me - Eriq La Salle, Noah Wiley were at my bedside before and after my surgery. Shi McBride came and stayed with me and supported me.
And Thompson admits his health scare has strengthened his belief in a higher power.
He adds: "Thanks for all the prayers and love, the entire experience made God more tangible in my life. I just can't explain in words what I felt.".
Built from comic book auteur Frank Miller’s (Sin City) rock solid foundations 300 is based on his vision on the 1962 film The 300 Spartans filtered through the same tough-as-nails pulp sensibility that populates most of his comics work. Leaving such leaden wannabe sword-and-sandal epics like Troy and Alexander in the historical dust 300 reworks the real-life legendary tale of the Battle of Thermopylae in which a battalion of 300 elite Spartan soldiers heroically hold the line to protect ancient Greece from the invading Persian hordes. The story focuses on the Spartan King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) who must not only lead his small cadre of troops--each one honored since childhood into a razor-sharp battle-relishing warrior—into a battle they are unlikely to survive but he must also fight for the fate of Greece and its democratic ideals. As the bizarre seemingly endless marauding legions of the tyrant Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) descend upon the Hot Gates—a narrow passageway into Greece that Leonidas’ miniscule band can most ably defend—the soldiers take up arms without the usual post-modern anti-war hand-wringing that most war epics indulge in. These soldiers are both bred for battle and fighting a good fight and the film focuses squarely on the highly charged action. Meanwhile in a new plotline created specifically for the movie his equally noble and faithful queen Gorgo (Lena Headey) takes up arms in a more symbolic way as she also tries to keep democracy alive by taking on the political warlords of Sparta to secure relief for her husband’s troops. Butler has become a familiar and welcome on-screen presence in such films as The Phantom of the Opera and Reign of Fire but there has been little on his mainstream movie resume to suggest the kind of bravura fire he brings to the role of Leonidas. This is the stuff of an actor announcing himself to the audience in a major way akin to Daniel Craig’s star-making turn as James Bond. In a big bold performance that could have gone awry in any number of ways Butler plays even the highest pitched notes like a concerto perfectly capturing the king’s bravado bombast cunning compassion and passion each step of the way. Headey is his ideal match imbuing the queen with more steel and nobility in a handful of scenes than most actresses can summon to carry entire films. Fans of Lost and Brazilian cinema will be hard-pressed to even recognize Santoro whose earnest pretty handsomeness is radically transformed into Xerxes’ exotic borderline freakish form personifying a terrifying yet seductive force of corruption and evil that spreads like a cancer across the earth. And don’t forget to add in the most impressive array of rock-hard abs on cinematic display since well ever (think Brad Pitt in Troy times 300). Even bolstered by canny casting choices and their washboard stomachs helmer Zack Snyder (Dawn of the Dead) is the true undisputable star of 300 establishing himself firmly as a director whose work demands to be watched. With a kinetic sensibility that’s akin to Quentin Tarantino and John Woo and using CGI technology to its utmost effects both subtle and dynamic Snyder creates a compelling fully formed world that the audience is eager to explore. Snyder doesn’t literally match Miller’s signature artwork as meticulously as director Robert Rodriguez did with Sin City. Instead Snyder captures Miller’s essence be it raw brutality majestic size and scope the exotic and otherworldly carnal physicality or hideous deformity--even seemingly antiquated and potentially off-putting techniques like the repeated use of slow-motion are put to fresh effect making every blow and cut seem crucial. Yet even in the visual glorification of some of the most bloody and violent conflicts ever put to film Snyder infuses the tale—which ultimately is one big glorious testosterone-soaked fight sequence—with the sense of honor and sacrifice which characterizes the most noble of war efforts. Yes war can be hell but this is a case where some like it hot.
Although it's modern day there's a distinct Raymond Chandler-esque feel to this story about a petty thief named Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) who lucks into a movie audition and finds himself heading to Hollywood. Harry is replacing Colin Farrell as a detective in a film and to get the realism of the part he's shown the detecting ropes by Det. Perry van Shrike (Val Kilmer) also known as Gay Perry--because he's gay. Then Harry runs into his old high school sweetie Harmony (Michelle Monaghan) at a Hollywood party. She believes Harry is a real detective and begs him to help her. That's when the bodies begin coming out of the woodwork. Greed torture and mayhem ensue. If there's any way to prove that Downey is back in true form this is it. He's glib charming deep and truly becomes a modern-day Chaplin in this very trampy role. Kilmer avoids some of the stereotypes of playing gay but as he points out "we're not good cop bad cop we're fag and New Yorker." Both deserve awards. Monaghan holds her own as a feisty red-head. Even Downey's real-life son Indio--who plays his character in the early flashback scenes--shows incredible promise as an actor. This is the Shane Black’s directorial debut the same guy who wrote Lethal Weapon and Long Kiss Goodnight. He knows violence that’s for sure but he also has a keen sense of humor. In Kiss Kiss he mixes them well. Black sets the mood with Downey--giving his best Bogie-like voiceover-- narrating the action along the way. This is better than Get Shorty as far as a dark look into the entertainment industry and far more entertaining. And as Harry's character promises "I've seen Lord of the Rings and we're not going to end this 17 times."
Cradle 2 the Grave isn't going to be known as one of those action flicks that thrills you but also has a surprisingly interesting story to back it up. Still Cradle has enough credible plot points to keep things moving until the next fight sequence. The action begins with Tony Fait (Earl "DMX" Simmons) and his fiercely devoted crew--including the stunning Daria (Gabrielle Union) and comic relief Tommy (Anthony Anderson)--pulling off a complex jewelry heist and snagging a valuable cache of black diamonds. These diamonds aren't what they appear to be but are actually something much more powerful--and deadly. Su (Jet Li) working for the Taiwanese government as a secret agent must retrieve them before its too late. Fait would be happy to hand over the stones for the right price but word of their value has hit the street and they are stolen by a powerful crime lord (Chi McBride). Su and the crimelord end up being the least of Fait's problems however when Su's ex-partner Ling (Mark Dacascos) now a ruthless arms dealer enters the picture. He and his treacherous woman (Kelly Hu) will stop at nothing to get those black baubles including kidnapping Fait's daughter Vanessa (Paige Hurd). OK things just got personal. Fait Su and company have to work together to fight off the onslaught of nasties exact revenge stop possible world destruction and get back the only thing Fait cares about in the world--his daughter.
Is it me or is Jet Li just too damn cool for words? The whole martial arts arena has certainly been stepped up with the Jackie Chan's and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon's of the world but Li brings back that calm yet deadly demeanor the late Bruce Lee made so popular. Granted Li hasn't had the same success in the U.S. as Chan--save for maybe his American debut performance in the smokin' Romeo Must Die. But he sure is impressive on-screen kicking the bejesus outta someone without blinking an eye no matter what the asinine plot line. Hip-hop singer DMX who also appeared in Romeo Must Die (along with Anderson) holds his own as a tough nut über-thief but he finds a little difficulty emoting when the time comes. The hilarious Anderson and the oh-so-alluring Union are quickly becoming the "It" black actors (him: Kangaroo Jack Barbershop; her: Deliver Us From Eva the upcoming Bad Boys 2) while the forever-irritating Tom Arnold pops up as a demolition surplus dealer (but make sure to stay all the way through the credits to watch a hilarious exchange between him and Anderson). Hurd does an nice turn as the feisty Vanessa who is fairly resourceful for a kidnapped 10-year-old. It's easy to see the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Enough with all the superfluous plot lines and acting analysis--let's get down to real reason the movie exists. Action. High octane fist-flyin' action and as a self-proclaimed action junkie--and newly transformed martial arts fan--Cradle certainly doesn't disappoint. Director/cinematographer Andrzej Bartkowiak who worked with Li and DMX on Romeo Must Die knows how to frame the martial arts sequences while using the pounding hip-hop soundtrack and urban locale to full effect. One of the more fast-paced sequences has Fait outrunning police cars on a three-wheel ATV eventually jumping the bike from rooftop to rooftop while Su in another location is fighting off a dozen guys in a boxing pit including an aggressive midget who would like to smash Su's face in but ends becoming a device to fend off the rest. All while DMX is belting out a jammin' song. Great stuff. Of course you wait for the ultimate showdown between Su and his nemesis Ling and when it comes it's a jaw-clencher. The film is just a purely mindless roller-coaster ride.