Tuesday, March 01, 2005

She Should Be In The CNBA (That’s The NBA For Cats)

Speaking of Catwoman, for class this week we were supposed to watch the first act so that we could talk about why it doesn’t work. This was especially rough because the library doesn’t have a copy yet, so I had to pay to rent it.

Catwoman is actually pretty surprising, since it’s awful in ways you don’t even expect, indeed, awful in ways you never imagined possible. Every scene offers brand new, never-before-seen ways for movies to suck. Amazingly, the mediocre and ungracious Halle Berry is the least of the movie’s problems. Sure, she’s bad in it, but in a film this far from good, anyone would be. It’s embarrassing to watch, but she probably does about as well acting like a cat as anyone could ask. The supporting cast is far more painful, and seems to go out of its way to make her look as good as possible in comparison.

First of all, the editing: This movie looks like it was cut together by a hyperactive toddler on a sugar high having an epileptic fit. I fully expected the action scenes to be cut to incoherent tatters, as that’s standard hackwork on sub-par big-budget Hollywood action, but surprisingly, the action scenes were the only places where the editing made any sense at all. Still not totally coherent, but there was some rhythm and flow to the scenes, and all the action at least made the pace of the editing seem to fit.

The startling part is that every other scene is cut the same way. Even simple dialogue scenes don’t seem to hold a shot for more than a second at a time. We’re constantly cutting in close, then back to wide, then we’re looking at the room from the opposite direction. It keeps you feeling nauseous and unbalanced, and then when they do hold a shot for a normal length of time, you get nervous wondering how long it’ll last. When it’s not cutting, the camera’s moving, swinging around with big steadicam movements that enhance your nausea. On the upside, it does distract from the empty drama and laughable exposition, which I’m assuming was bad even though the editing was so distracting I could barely pay attention.

Overuse of CGI: Every single establishing shot in the movie utilizes a computer-generated, Spider-Man-style flyover, which quickly grows tiresome and just makes you think about how every location was rendered rather than found or built. There’s an animated cat for a shot where all it does is meow (or “mew,” if you’re Simon). Why? Just to add one more unconvincing element? Catwoman herself is also constantly changing from a real person to a cartoon, and while the transitions between them are smooth, you can always, always tell when you’re looking at a fake person.

Cat Powers: This version suggests that Catwoman is the Spider-Man of cats, i.e. she “does whatever a feline can.” So after Berry is revived by cyber-cat, she is super-coordinated and has feline grace. She also seems to have some kind of hyper-aware kitty sense, where faraway birds and skittering bugs startle her. No wonder cats are so jumpy. She eats tuna from the can, leaps up to the second floor of a building, and sleeps on a shelf. Other things cats are naturally great at apparently include: Playing basketball, cutting and styling one’s own hair, riding a motorcycle at incredible speed, and martial arts.

Cats must also like wearing leather. I didn’t watch far enough to see the hooker-dominatrix suit with the rat hat, but I did see the outfit she cuts up to make it, which looks about a million times better—in fact it’s even kind of cool, which makes it that much more painful to realize she’s going to ruin it later in the movie.


Meli said...

I really enjoy thoughtful criticism done by someone who knows what they're talking about and on a subject I am ignorant of. Reading this post made me feel smarter.

lyan! said...

Now, of course it wasn't as bad as Catwoman, but I remember watching Bad Boys 2 (at the drive in) and thinking to myself how horrible it was that the camera was constantly moving. Hell, even the one shot where they were standing still (the one shot), the camera was still circling them.
I assumed it was to make the whole thing flow like a Will Smith Music Video with Special Guest Martin Lawrence, but sadly, the video went on for 90 minutes.
But man did things get blowed up.