I finished by suggesting that their next installment in the Batman franchise should feature Catwoman, a character in desperate need of rehabilitation after the debacle of the Halle Berry film a couple of years ago. Unwittingly, the makers of that horrid film did all of us Cat-fans a favor: they did not use the name "Selina Kyle" or any other recognizable Bat-verse trappings in their stink-bomb, and that means we can cheerfully pretend the movie never existed.
If Christopher Nolan can rescue Batman from Joel Schumacher's nipple-suited incompetence, there's no reason why he can't save Catwoman from that French fashion photographer's clutches.
And here's how:
1. Catwoman is a villain. Oh, not a murderous psychopath like the Joker or most of the rest of the Bat Rogues Gallery, but a villain nonetheless. She steals stuff. Lots of stuff. Lots of pricey stuff. And while she might not be out to slaughter the populace, if you get in her way, you're in for some rough treatment. She has claws and a whip and she's not shy about using them.
I make this point first and foremost because the tendency with Catwoman for years now is to play her as some kind of wishy-washy sorta-kinda heroine. She steals things, but she also helps the downtrodden or whatever. All this has ever accomplished is to render her bland. And I can't help but think that it stems from a kind of sexism, the kind that can't fathom a woman unapologetically doing bad things for personal gain. The same writers who have no problem with male villains setting the planet on fire and cackling while it burns balk at the notion of a woman swiping some jewelry. Seems a little hypocritical.
So to do Catwoman right, you gotta do her bad.
2. Catwoman, like the Joker, is an ideal foil for Batman. You don't challenge Batman physically, because he will beat you up. You don't challenge Batman intellectually, because he will outsmart you. To be an interesting Bat-villain, you have to sidestep all that. The Joker does it by calling into question all the concepts that Bruce Wayne has devoted his life to: honor, duty, justice, order. That's what's dangerous about him; that's why he can stay in the ring with Batman longer than most.
Catwoman challenges Batman in a different but equally effective way; she challenges him emotionally. Batman devotes his life to the notion that criminals are vermin, filth preying on the innocent. Then along comes Catwoman and he sees a criminal who is attractive, smart, a match for him in every way. She makes being bad seem pretty good.
Batman has worked for years honing his body and his mind to pursue his single-minded mission, but emotionally, he has never developed past being the little boy in the alley watching his parents as they were gunned down. The bimbos that hang off Bruce Wayne's arm as he traipses about Gotham don't engage him at all; they're just another part of his secret life, like an expensive suit or a Rolex. But Catwoman is another story. She'd be intoxicating to the most well-adjusted of men. For emotionally infantile Bruce Wayne, she's like the purest heroin.
3. Catwoman enters the movie fully formed. Here, the makers of The Dark Knight should copy exactly what they did with the Joker: no origin story. Much as I loved Michelle Pfeiffer's portrayal of Selina back in Tim Burton's Batman Returns, I hated the whole cats-licked-me-back-to-life bit. Take all the supernatural gobbledygook out of it. She dresses up like a cat and steals stuff. Because she likes to. Period.
4. And speaking of dressing up, Catwoman is in serious need of an extreme makeover. Halle Berry looked great in her leathers -- her insanely aerobicized physique was the only worthwhile thing in that movie -- but the costume itself was atrocious. Michelle Pfeiffer's Bride of Frankenstein stitch job on her latex outfit was a fine representation of the state of her mind, but wouldn't really suit the decidedly sane and elegant jewel thief Catwoman is at her best.
I say, go back a little farther. Back to the character's roots. Well maybe not all the way back. In her first comics appearance, she wore a rather dull green dress. In subsequent stories, she was seen with a Halloween-style full cat head. But after Bob Kane got that nonsense out of his system, he designed a doozy for her. Take a look at this, courtesy of the late great Dave Stevens.
Elegant, sleek and glamorous. A sly feminine echo of Batman's own get-up. In the comics of late, Catwoman has gone from the ridiculous, impossibly voluptuous "Bad Girl" look that Jim Balent gave her, to her current utilitarian Darwyn Cooke-designed gear. Neither is very appealing. Neither would work well on screen.
This outfit, however -- with a tweak here and there -- would work nicely. Sexy but classy. And most important, a million miles away from Halle's travesty.
5. Finally, casting. I'm sure there are other solid candidates, but I find myself hung up on one name. Kate Beckinsale. She played Ava Gardner in The Aviator and Ava was an inspiration for Catwoman's original look (along with Hedy Lamarr). Also, her character in the Underworld movies is named "Selene."
See? She's halfway there already.
If you have a different idea for how Catwoman should be portrayed (or cast), feel free to sound off in the comments section. Let's all tell Christopher Nolan how to do his job.
Oh, and happy birthday Kate Beckinsale.