Movie News: Selina’s Big Score (Thoughts on the Catwoman costume in The Dark Knight Rises…)

Anne Hathaway The Dark Knight Rises Selina Kyle Christopher Nolan 2011 Batman

Ah, the predictability of Comics Fans – they complain bitterly if a comic or a character remains the same for too long, and then they complain even more bitterly when someone comes along and does something different. I’ve been largely away from the internets for the last week, but it’s safe to say that there’s been a certain sense of “Huh?” in reaction to the first officially released picture of Anne Hathaway in the role of Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, from Christopher Nolan’s upcoming ludicrously anticipated third Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. It’s no surprise to find some people are going “I don’t like it!” and “It looks cheap!” and “Betrayal!” amongst many other reactions – and I have to admit, my first reaction to the picture was (a) good lord, Anne Hathaway looks wonderfully bad-ass in that shot, and (b) It doesn’t look tremendously Catwoman-y, does it?

After all, this is Catwoman we’re talking about – a pretty-much iconic role, one of the major parts of the Batman mythos and a character who’s been the subject of more absurdly sexy and over-the-top comic book art than the brain can comfortably encompass. From the moment it was announced that Selina Kyle was going to be appearing in The Dark Knight Rises, there’s been massive speculation about what sort of look they’d go for, with most people expecting something along the lines of the relatively recent costume redesign courtesy of artist Darwyn Cooke:

Darwyn Cooke Catwoman Art

It’s a look that’s much more practical than the original skin-tight Catwoman suit (and which the Hathaway look actually sticks relatively close to, apart from the fetishy helmet with the cat-ears); it’s a look that’s stuck in the comic books ever since, and is also strongly featured in the upcoming Batman computer game Arkham City (along with a truly insane amount of cleavage). There’s also the jaw-dropping and iconic art from comic artist Adam Hughes, that’s pretty much cemented the idea of what Catwoman’s supposed to look like – (in short, Audrey Hepburn with bigger cleavage):

Catwoman Cover Art Adam Hughes Issue 46 DC Comics

And that’s the version of Catwoman everybody’s used to – confidant, daring, riding the line between heroic and ever-so-slightly-amoral, and unashamed about using her sexuality to get what she wants. A woman who can get away with wearing a catsuit complete with tail and ears, because she’s so goddamed sexy she can get away with it. A woman who’s so cool, that instead of trying to defeat or arrest her, Batman ends up dating her. An icon.

I can understand people looking at the Hathaway photo and being disappointed. I can understand that Catwoman is one of those iconic characters who audiences have major, major expectations for, and if their expectations aren’t met, there’s going to be trouble. And yet, I like the photo. I like the look. I’m still just as excited about The Dark Knight Rises as I was before, and it’s partly because we’re not getting the version of Catwoman we were expecting.

And really, when you stop and think about it, why is anyone surprised by this? The ‘classic’ version of Catwoman is a ridiculously distinctive character, but she’s also very definitely the kind of character who fits best in a comic book universe. In a world where people like Superman, Green Lantern and the Martian Manhunter, it doesn’t seem too unconvincing that a girl might dress up as a cat to aid her life of crime. The most recent version of Catwoman’s origin has her as a prostitute who turned to a life as a costumed criminal to claw her way out of a life she hated, and eventually got herself into the world of the super-rich. She’s even, of course, been a mousy secretary brought back to life by cats and turned into a demented vigilante, in the frankly rather bonkers Batman Returns. And let’s not even talk about the insanely awful horror that was the 2004 Catwoman movie…

But I don’t think any of these iterations of the character would work work comfortably if you just dropped them down in the middle of Christopher Nolan’s version of the Batman mythos. Love them or loathe them (and I know there are plenty who don’t care for Nolan’s Batman movies), both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight give us a rigorously thought out and incredibly grounded version of Batman, to the extent that The Dark Knight frequently feels like a Michael Mann crime thriller where Batman keeps wandering into shot. There’s a deliberate attempt to keep things as real and believable as is possible, and not to throw chunks of the mythology and iconography of the comics in just to please the fans. From the way the Batman costume is introduced to the use of the Joker in The Dark Knight, these are films that are going about their business in a real and serious way – the kookier members of Batman’s rogue’s gallery were automatically out of bounds (Could anyone really see the Mad Hatter or the Riddler making an appearence?), and even the familiar ones were going to be reinterpreted (It’s worth remembering that Heath Ledger’s scar-faced Joker is a bit of a leap from the way the character is normally portrayed).

Basically, I think it was pretty damn unlikely that the wildly sexy, ‘look at me, I’m dressed as a Cat and making sexy cat-noises and I JUST DON’T CARE’ version of Catwoman was ever going to turn up in a Christopher Nolan movie. For better or worse, this is going to be a realer take on the character – it may not be as attention-grabbing or iconic, but it’s what happens when you build a costume to fit the character, rather than moulding a character in order to fit a costume. Plus, it’s what happens when you drop a character like this into a world that’s already strongly laid down after two films – sometimes, the character has to be shaped to fit the world. Another thing that’s important thing to remember – we still have absolutely no idea what kind of Catwoman character we’re actually getting in The Dark Knight Rises, and from the look of this they’re deliberately avoiding the attention-grabbing sexiness, and instead going for what they think a supercool female thief would wear for practical gear (the fact that, as confirmed in other paparazzi-taken photos of a stunt double, she’s wearing flat boots rather than stilleto heels is a very good thing). I’d hazzard a guess that we won’t hear Anne Hathaway say the word “Meow” once. My own personal speculation on this is that this may even be a version of Catwoman who doesn’t even call herself Catwoman – she’s a female cat burglar in a city where a bloke dresses up as a bat; I think it’s perfectly possible a tabloid Gotham newspaper could run a very grainy picture of her crawling across a rooftop with the headline ‘CATWOMAN!’ (A theory I expect to be completely wrong, of course). The point is, anything goes. And they wouldn’t have gone with that costume if there wasn’t a specific reason for it.

Is it as sexy or iconic as the classic Catwoman costume? No it isn’t. But I suspect it’s going to work brilliantly for the character that we are getting in The Dark Knight Rises. Honestly, my first reaction to the costume was similar to my first reaction to Matt Smith’s costume as the Eleventh Doctor Who (a guarded ‘oh’ and a ‘Hmmm… maybe it’ll work’), a look that grew on me to the extent that I now can’t imagine the Eleventh Doctor any other way. Comic fans are a little too used to the ‘But it’s got to look EXACTLY like the printed page otherwise it isn’t real!’ approach – I’ve noticed a similar level of grumbling relating to the new Judge Dredd movie adaptation and its costume redesign, with fans complaining “The helmet looks too big!” and “Hmm, I’ve seen better cosplay costumes”, when Dredd is a $20-30 million indie-produced movie that’s going for a grungier, looser visual adaptation, and simply doesn’t have the budget to make the entire film look exactly like a 2000AD strip. It’s also worth remembering that slavishly following the comic is an approach that doesn’t always work (most recently, in the case of the rather ridiculous Green Lantern costume). Nolan and co are doing something different – and whether or not it works in the final movie, the fact that they’re being daring enough to steer away from the iconic look of a character like Catwoman is something I think should be applauded.

And, finally,┬áthere’s two other things to bear in mind:

1: Anne Hathaway still looks damn cool in that picture.

and

2: It could be worse. It could be this:

Catwoman Halle Berry 2004 Movie

*shudder*

News: The Bat, The Cat and the… Bane?

Dark Knight Poster Batman

No longer do we have to make completely random and ill-structured guesses about the third Batman film based on vague rumours and hints. Now we can make our random and ill-structured guesses with information that’s rock solid!

Of course, today’s the day that we’ve found out official casting on Christopher Nolan’s simmering third Batman film, now titled The Dark Knight Rises. Aside from Christian Bale (and the presumed presence of Michael Caine, who’s ended up even more of a Nolan fixture than Bale has), the only confirmed name we had was Inception and Bronson star Tom Hardy:

Tom Hardy Inception

(Yes, he also played Picard clone Shinzon in the diabolically awful Star Trek: Nemesis, but I’m willing to forgive and forget). I was happy when I heard about this – Hardy is continuing to impress, and was one of the best things about Inception (managing to make the fact that Eames the Forger really wasn’t much of a role seem completely irrelevant, and being hugely engaging as well). And we didn’t even know who he was playing.

Well, now we do. The guesses flying around the internet said ‘Hugo Strange’ (a psychological lesser-known Batman villain, obsessed with the Dark Knight to the extent of actually wanting to be him), but it turns out Strange is in the new Batman: Arkham City game that’s on its way soon. Instead, and rather surprisingly, he’s playing this character:

Bane - Batman art page

Bane – who didn’t feature in any guesses, simply because you don’t instinctively look at Tom Hardy and think “There lies a man who’ll look fantastic in spandex and a Luchadore mask”. He’s a Latin American criminal genius who used to be fuelled by a highly addictive super-strength inducing drug called Venom, and is probably best known for being responsible for crippling Batman during the epic ‘Knightfall’ comic saga back in the mid-Nineties. Since then, he’s had a fairly complex history, and now regularly appears in Gail Simone’s highly acclaimed comic title Secret Six. No, the costume isn’t ideal, and neither is the fact that Bane has actually appeared onscreen before, in the hypnotically awful Batman and Robin in 1997, when he looked like this:

Bane - Movie Costume

I don’t think we need to start worrying, though – Bane wasn’t the first potential villain that leapt to mind, but dodgy costume aside (and Nolan’s films have happily redesigned costumes and looks – just look at the Joker…) I can see a tweaked version of him fitting into Nolan’s universe. In fact, I’d lay bets that they may be using ‘Knightfall’ as one of their loose starting points (In the same way that Batman Begins played with some aspects of Batman: Year One, and The Dark Knight echoed both Batman: The Long Halloween and Batman: The Killing Joke without being actual adaptations). It’s a story I enjoyed the hell out of back in 1994 – not without its problems, but it was a damn sight more exciting than any Batman films we’d had recently (especially after the headache-inducing Batman Forever). The setup is that Bane, hungry to take control of Gotham, targets Batman as a ‘fitting adversary’, works out that he’s Bruce Wayne and then sets about systematically destroying his life, culminating in a brutal fight in the Batcave where he breaks Batman’s back. I don’t expect to see any of that directly in the film, but considering that the Nolan version of Batman is already an official fugitive from justice and being directly hunted by police, echoes of ‘Knightfall’ could potentially play very nicely.

Catwoman Adam Hughes

We also got the not-very-surprising revelation that Catwoman is in – considering she’s about one of the only remaining members of Batman’s gallery of villains who’d fit smoothly into Nolan’s steely take on the Dark Knight mythos, it really wasn’t a case of if they were going to announce it, but when. Again, it’ll fit the Batman-on-the-run vibe, probably throwing the two of them together on the wrong side of the law. And we’ve got an actress cast:

Anne Hathaway

Anne Hathaway, the one thing that prevented me from trying to claw my own eyes out while having to review the grotesquely horrible live action Shrek wannabe Ella Enchanted (for SFX, many moons ago…). Hathaway is a really good actress – she was one of only a couple of names on the ‘shortlist’ flying around on the internet a while back who I looked at and thought “Yes, that’ll work”. While she has appeared in her fair share of souffle-light chick flicks and she’s not exactly a physical chameleon (Let’s just say – her attempt to look plain in the early scenes of The Devil Wears Prada weren’t going to nab her any Oscars), she’s an extremely good actress, and I’d offer up Rachel Getting Married as proof.

She’s really, really good in the film, carrying off a chain-smoking ex-junkie in a note-perfect and brilliantly emotional turn, and I think there’s the potential for a really interesting take on Catwoman from her. It’s one of those roles that everybody has a view on, and there’ll be tons of debate on her suitability over the next eighteen months until the movie opens, but considering how different and daring and yet utterly true to the character The Dark Knight’s take on the Joker was, I think we can safely rely on Nolan throwing a few curveballs in and not giving us a replay of Michelle Pfieffer in Batman Returns (not that many would complain about that), or a safe, watered down version of Catwoman. And whatever happens, whether Nolan does manage to trump The Dark Knight or not – she’s going to make a much better Catwoman than Halle Berry…

Catwoman Halle Berry

(*shiver*)