Catwoman is a 2004 American superhero film loosely based on the DC Comics character of the same name. The film is directed by Pitof with a screenplay by John Rogers, John Brancato and Michael Ferris from a story by Theresa Rebeck, Brancato and Ferris with music by Klaus Badelt. The film stars Halle Berry in the title role, Benjamin Bratt, Lambert Wilson, Frances Conroy, Alex Borstein, and Sharon Stone in their supporting roles. The film centers on Patience Phillips, a meek designer who discovers a conspiracy within the cosmetics company she works for that involves a dangerous product which could cause widespread health problems. After being discovered and murdered by the conspirators, she is revived by Egyptian cats that grant her superhuman cat-like abilities, allowing her to become the crime-fighting anti-heroine Catwoman, while also romancing a detective who pursues her.
Produced by Village Roadshow Pictures and Denise Di Novi's Di Novi Pictures, Catwoman was released theatrically on July 23, 2004 by Warner Bros. Pictures and was a critical and commercial failure, grossing $82 million against a budget of $100 million. The film received seven Golden Raspberry Award nominations and won in the categories of Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay; many critics consider it to be one of the worst films of all time, where it was criticized for Berry’s performance and perceived lack of connection with Batman. Despite the reviews and ratings, Catwoman was the highest grossing female-led superhero film until the release of Wonder Woman in 2017.
Artist and graphics designer Patience Phillips is a meek people-pleaser whose main support is her best friend Sally. She works for a cosmetics company called Hedare Beauty which is ready to ship a new skin cream called Beau-line that is able to reverse the effects of aging. However, when Patience visits the R&D laboratory facility to deliver a redone ad design, she overhears a discussion between the scientist Dr. Ivan Slavicky and Laurel Hedare, the wife of company-owner George Hedare, about the dangerous side effects from continued use of the product. Laurel's guards discover Patience and are ordered to dispose of her. Patience tries to escape using a conduit pipe, but the minions have it sealed and flush her out of it, drowning her. Washed up on shore, Patience is mysteriously revived by an Egyptian Mau cat which had appeared at her apartment earlier; from that moment on, she develops cat-like abilities.
From Mau's owner eccentric researcher Ophelia Powers, Patience learns that Egyptian Mau cats serve as messengers of the goddess Bast. Patience realizes that she is now a "catwoman," reborn with abilities that are both a blessing and a curse. Disguised as a mysterious vigilante named Catwoman to hide her identity, Patience, under cover of darkness, searches for answers as to who killed her and why. Eventually, her search (which includes finding Slavicky's body, and later being accused of his murder) leads her to Laurel. She asks Laurel to keep an eye on George, to which Laurel agrees. However, when Patience confronts George (who is attending an opera with another woman) as Catwoman, he reveals he knows nothing about the side effects. The police, led by Patience's love interest Detective Tom Lone, arrive and Catwoman escapes. Later on, Laurel murders her husband for his infidelity and admits to having Dr. Slavicky killed because he wanted to cancel the product's release. She contacts Catwoman and frames her for the murder. Catwoman is then taken into custody by Tom, but not before Laurel reveals the side-effects of the product: discontinuing its use makes the skin disintegrate, while continuing its use makes the skin as hard as marble. She also plans to release Beau-line to the public the following day.
Patience slips out of her cell and confronts Laurel in her office, rescuing Tom, who came to question Laurel after second thoughts about Patience's guilt in the process, and revealing that Laurel is the one responsible for her death. During the fight, she scratches Laurel's face multiple times, causing Laurel to fall out of a window and grab onto a pipe. Laurel sees her face in a window's reflection and horrified by her skin's rapid disintegration (as a result of the scratches and her own use of Beau-line for years), fails to grab hold of Patience's outstretched arm and falls to her death. Though Patience is cleared of any charges made against her regarding the deaths of Dr. Slavicky and the Hedares, she decides to end things with Tom by choosing to continue living outside the law and enjoying her newfound freedom as the mysterious Catwoman.
- Halle Berry as Patience Phillips / Catwoman
- Benjamin Bratt as Detective Tom Lone
- Sharon Stone as Laurel Hedare
- Lambert Wilson as George Hedare
- Frances Conroy as Ophelia Powers
- Alex Borstein as Sally
- Michael Massee as Armando
- Byron Mann as Wesley
- Alex Cooper as Gloria Ojeda
- Kim Smith as Drina
- Peter Wingfield as Dr. Ivan Slavicky
- Berend McKenzie as Lance
Missy Peregrym appears uncredited as the Hedare factory computer monitor image (Beau-line graphics model), depicting the bad effects of the beauty product. A photograph of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman in Batman Returns can be seen among the pictures that Ophelia shows to Patience.
With Warner Bros. moving on development for Batman Forever in June 1993, a Catwoman spin-off film was announced. Michelle Pfeiffer was set to reprise her role from Batman Returns while Tim Burton became attached as director and producer Denise Di Novi and writer Daniel Waters also returned. In January 1994, Burton was unsure of his plans to direct Catwoman or an adaptation of "The Fall of the House of Usher". On June 16, 1995, Waters turned in his Catwoman script to Warner Bros., the same day Batman Forever was released. Burton was still being courted to direct. Waters joked, "turning it in the day Batman Forever opened may not have been my best logistical move, in that it's the celebration of the fun-for-the-whole-family Batman. Catwoman is definitely not a fun-for-the-whole-family script." In an August 1995 interview, Pfeiffer re-iterated her interest in the spin-off but explained her priorities would be challenged as a mother and commitments to other projects.
The film labored in development hell for years with Ashley Judd set to star as the lead as far back as 2001, but eventually dropped out of the role. Nicole Kidman was also considered for the role after Judd stepped out of the project. When Warner Bros. canceled a Batman vs. Superman film scheduled for 2004, the studio decided to quickly produce Catwoman as replacement, starring Halle Berry.
The catsuit was designed by Academy Award-winning costume designer Angus Strathie together with Berry, director Pitof and producers Di Novi and McDonnell. Strathie explained, "We wanted a very reality-based wardrobe to show the progression from demure, repressed Patience to the sensual awakening of a sexy warrior goddess."
Choreography and training
Berry started intensive fitness training with Harley Pasternak in June 2003. Berry was given instruction in cat-like movement by choreographer Anne Fletcher, who also oversaw Berry's training in the Brazilian martial art style Capoeira. Berry was trained to crack a whip by coach Alex Green.
Principal photography began late September 2003. Shooting took place on 4th Street in downtown Los Angeles, California and Winnipeg, Manitoba, as well as Lions Gate Film Studios, Vancouver, British Columbia, and Warner Bros. Burbank Studios, 4000 Warner Boulevard, Burbank, California. Most of the cats cast in the film came from animal shelters throughout California. Filming finished on February 20, 2004.
The film was originally given an IMAX release coinciding with the general release as evidenced by a poster with the tagline "CATch Her in IMAX", but it was cancelled because Warner Bros. decided that the delays on the visual effects did not give IMAX enough time to remaster the film in time for its release. The decision to cancel the IMAX release was announced on June 30, 2004.
Catwoman was released on VHS and DVD on January 18, 2005, and on Blu-ray on September 8, 2009.
Catwoman earned a gross of $40,202,379 in North America and $41,900,000 in other territories for a worldwide total of $82,102,379 against a production budget of $100 million.
The film grossed $16,728,411 in its opening weekend playing in 3,117 theaters, with a $5,366 per-theatre average and ranking #3 alongside The Bourne Supremacy and I, Robot. The biggest market in other territories being France, Spain, Japan and Mexico where the film grossed $5.2 million, $4.05 million, $3.05 million and $2.9 million, while topping the Bulgarian weekend listing.
Catwoman was universally panned by critics, including Berry's performance. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 9% based on 197 reviews, with an average rating of 3.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Halle Berry is the lone bright spot, but even she can't save this laughable action thriller." On Metacritic the film has a score of 27 out of 100 based on 35 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.
The film appeared on the list of Roger Ebert's most hated films. He criticized the filmmakers for giving little thought to providing Berry "with a strong character, story, supporting characters or action sequences", but his primary criticism came from the failure of the film to give the audience a sense of what her character experienced as she was transformed into Catwoman. He rather referred to it as being a movie "about Halle Berry's beauty, sex appeal, figure, eyes, lips and costume design. It gets those right". In their onscreen review, Ebert and his former co-host Richard Roeper both gave the film a "thumbs down". Heldman et al said that as the film ends with Catwoman choosing "a solo existence as her sexualized body slinks into the full moon; even this otherwise agentic act is constructed for the consumption of the male gaze that follows her. The film presents her agency, power, and freedom as derivative of her hypersexualization." Bill Muller of The Arizona Republic stated that Berry should possibly give back her 2001 Academy Award as a penalty for the film.
Berry arrived at the ceremony to accept her Razzie in person with her Best Actress Oscar: "It was just what my career needed."
A video game based on the film was published by Electronic Arts UK and Argonaut Games. Featuring the voice talents of Jennifer Hale, the game varied from the film's plot and received negative reviews much like the film.
Cancelled animated direct-to-video film
In 2003, Warner Bros. approached Boyd Kirkland to write a script for a Catwoman direct-to-video animated feature film to tie-in with the film's release. Although the script was written, the project was discarded due to the film's critical and box office failure.