Catwoman was created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger way back in 1940 as a simple jewel thief. She was later given a costume and cat-persona in the 1950′s when Batman became campier and relied on a visually striking rogue’s gallery. Selina Kyle was later revised by Frank Miller in his groundbreaking Batman: Year One series which saw the former socialite imagined as a prostitute-turned vigilante after seeing Batman in action.
In other media, she made a big splash when she appeared in the 1966 Batman TV series. Both Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether all played the purring villainess. An icon of 1960′s cool, the Catwoman was stunningly sexy and seductive, often luring Batman to her evil ways, but the hero always managed to resist her feminine wiles.
Many unfamiliar with who Catwoman was became aware of the feline character when she was featured in Batman Returns as played by Michele Pfeiffer. A distortion of the classic comic book character, this Catwoman was a frustrated secretary who was reborn through some bizarre sequence involve stray cats. Dressed in skin-tight hand-stitched PVC, this Catwoman was vicious and mentally unhinged. So great was Pfeiffer’s Catwoman that Warner Bros. saw a solo film and even rewrote the ending to establish that she had survived her cataclysmic death scene. When Catwoman finally did star in her own film, however, it was starring Halle Berry and was completely unrelated to the Batman film franchise or comic book series… and was terrible.
A recurring element of the Catwoman was that in some fashion she mirrored the Dark Knight’s moral ambiguity. As a crime-fighter, Batman operated outside of and against the law, making him no better than the crooks that he chased. Catwoman often assisted Batman on cases and had no qualms about showing her affection for the caped crusader. In fact, she and Bruce Wayne were married with a child (the Huntress) on Earth-2! This idea of Catwoman and Batman getting hitched has played out in the comics as well, such as Hush and JLA: The Nail/Another Nail. Additionally, she and Bruce were engaged in a dream world imposed upon Batman by the Mad Hatter in the animated episode ‘Perchance to Dream.’
It’s very unclear what function Selina Kyle will fill in Batman Rises. Will she be a villain, a cohort, a jewel thief, a prostitute… or something completely new? This will be the fourth Batman villain re-imagined by Chris Nolan and David Goyer. R’as Al Ghul, the Scarecrow, the Joker and Two-Face have all retained elements of their comic book versions while also introducing new elements making them brand new for both devoted fans and those who have never heard of these characters.
The announcement of Catwoman (specifically Selina Kyle) was coupled with the actress filling the role as Anne Hathaway. I’m really at a loss here as Hathaway has never really struck me as someone who has the acting chops to be in a Chris Nolan movie… or in a comic book movie… or in a Batman movie. I can’t figure what Nolan is thinking with this one as far as the actress goes, but the inclusion of the character is a no-brainer. Everyone loves Catwoman and she appeals to women and men alike for different reasons so she has cross-market potential.
Bane is known as the ‘man who broke Batman.’ Introduced in 1993 by Chuck Dixon, Doug Moench, and Denny O’Neill, Bane was created as a kind of mastermind/bruiser. Most of Batman’s villains have classically been masterminds who challenge the caped crusader’s intelligence and leave the actual fighting to their henchmen. In the case of Bane, the villain conceived a rather straightforward scheme involving the breakout of every Arkham Asylum detainee. Batman desperately attempted to hunt down each villain while combating the ensuing chaos. Tiring Batman to the point of exhaustion, Bane then confronted his foe directly and broke his back.
In many ways, Bane is the epitome of the 90′s character with his bulging muscles, third-world drug-related origin story and professional wrestler-style appearance. Some fans adore Bane while others are less than enthused to see the character return as he is a reminder of the brash decade that embodied style over substance. He has been well used in other media, most notably in the Batman Animated Series and Batman Beyond where he appeared as a shriveled old man who could barely move without shaking to pieces.
Joel Schumacher included Bane in the already crowded and infamous Batman and Robin film, but this can hardly be counted as an appearance as the character mainly roared and flexed his muscles. I often wonder if the film Bane was actually a Muppet blue-screened into the action and not an actor at all. In any case, the damage was done. Fans of Bane covered their faces in despair and even those who dislike Bane felt sorrow and pity. It was a disgrace that tainted the character.
This begs the question, ‘why is Nolan using Bane?’ Casting actor Tom Hardy (Inception) hints that there actually is a role here and therefore Bane will be the cunning criminal mastermind of the comics and not the muscle-bound bruiser. That’s good news, but this is also the last Batman film that Nolan will be directing, so… why Bane?
I’ve got nothing on this one.
The previous four-part (?) Batman film series from Batman (1989) to Batman and Robin was very villain-centric and often relied on stunt casting a la the 1966 TV series. This caused the announcement of any sequel to be followed by the press theorizing who the bad guy would be and what high profile actor/actress would be in it. The long wait between Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises has seen the press jump at the same questions, which misses the point. To date, Nolan’s films have been very heavy on story with the villains serving a vital role to support the themes explored therein. For that reason, I’m not really all that bothered on who is in this film or what parts they are playing but more interested in what it could mean regarding the plot and direction of the next movie.
The Batman Dark Knight film ended with our hero on the run, a self-proclaimed fugitive from the law in order to save the memory of Harvey Dent. The next film’s title hints at the character obtaining a heroic stature after vanquishing some evil-doer or other. I can only hope that the scheme dreamed up by Nolan, Goyer and Bane measures up to the strength of the previous two installments. The Nolan Batman films so far have been a marvelous modernization of the comic book character in film, embodying the ideas first put forth by Denny O’Neill, Frank Miller and Ed Brubaker (to name just a few). There has yet to be a comic book movie series to produce three solid films, which is one reason why I figured Nolan had no interest in ever making another Batman movie… I have high hopes that this will break the ‘third-film dud’ curse.