Saturday, January 15, 2011

Catwoman - supernatural?

Tim Burton: "The ambiguous nature of the Catwoman. You start out when you see the creation with the cats coming around and it's not supernatural but we feed into the mythology of cats and 9 lives and all of that sort of thing, so in the same way with Batman, wanting to keep him sort of mysterious, we sort of treated the same idea with Catwoman a little bit and not come right out with it. It's not supernatural." (BR audio commentary)

Some fans are still under impression that Catwoman was a supernatural character which really had 9 lives and was passed superpowers by cats, however, that does not appear to be true. Let's take a look

Selina Kyle was knocked out of the 6th floor from a building (not a skyscraper or a 20 floor building as some suggest) ... 

The building had 6 floors

...but her fall was significantly slowed down four times, greatly reducing the impact. If you watch the scene carefully, her fall is so reduced that her head doesn't hit the ground with any force, and seems to be just dropping from a sitting position.

The scene were the cats "examin" the unconscious Selina is a homage to the identical scene in the comics when Selina the prostitute was beat up to unconsciousness and thrown out to the alley in the winter.

It's also nothing unusual for cats to feed on human bodies when starving.

Catwoman's origin in Batman Returns harks to her original Golden Age origin from Batman #62 (December 1949/January 1950) in which she was introverted, then survived a crash, but suffered from amnesia. There after she became Catwoman by releasing her formerly repressed inner-self, and all her inhibitions. The version of Catwoman's origin involving a crash (a death and resurrection motif) and amnesia has the most depth psychologically. This origin suggests that Selina Kyle had a dual personality, and that her amnesia released her dark side, leading her not only to turn criminal, but liberate her formerly inhibited sexuality.

Also, one must have in mind that Selina never really dies, yet she counts her lives down after each fall or injury. Its just playing it close but surely nothing supernatural and Burton even says so black on white. Let's see:
She counted those lives down , saying that she died, yet she only fell into the sand...

...and then into the garden located on the rooftop above which she dropped from (and yet again, the fall was slowed down by the glass and the height wasn't that great)

As far as the bullets go, it's the same thing as with falling - it may appear like she's bulletproof, but if one takes a closer look, she never gets hit in a spot that would cause a fatal wound, only arms and thighs. Shreck also missed twice and she managed to avoid 2 bullets, yet she was counting down her lives counting fired shots and counting her non fatal shot wounds as deaths. The script also notes that she gets shot in her arm and leg:

He fires a shot, that rips into her arm. And another,
that smashes into her leg. Still coming, she pulls off
her hood.
Four, five. Still alive.
Max shoots her other leg and the hand  

Note no wounds on the torso whatsoever. They're all on the sides of her legs and there's one wound on her shoulder

The comic book adaptation makes it even clearer

The movie begins around the Christmas time and the last scene is implied to be taken place during Christmas Eve, so it must have been significantly less than a month in between Catwoman's suppose demise and the last scene in the movie. Considering how well Catwoman handled the physical pain, it's no stretch to assume that she took care of and recovered from the shot wounds. She is also seen prancing in the alleys, not on rooftops, suggesting that she may not have been fully recovered yet.

One will naturally point out the last shot in the movie where she's clearly on top of the building, but that shot was added after the movie was already shot and finished, and it wasn't scripted, therefore wasn't a part of the original and complete story. It was there for both a better closure and to make it clear that she did indeed survive. The shot wasn't anything more than a visual message, after all, as the filmmakers point out, the panning shot shows that there's nothing for her to stand on, and it would've been impossible to climb so fast so high.

When it comes to the electrocution, there was none. The scene is quite different then how it was written in the script, so the script can't be a guideline in this case (in the script she jams her hand into a fusion box, really getting electrocuted). The movie makes it more clear that the Catwoman doesn't get electrocuted. She never touches the generator, and instead, grabs an isolated cable from above to which he holds on to. As oppose to the popular belief and how it was presented in the screenplay, Catwoman doesn't put the stun gun in hers and his mouths and instead actually kisses Max...

while holding the gun to his neck

Some may be wondering about Catwoman's sudden aerobic skills, but it's all very much exaggerated. The cats did not pass any superpowers to her because as we already seen in the movie, she never really dies and doesn't really have 9 lives. Also, Catwoman never has any really special or inhuman skills, and the only thing she really does is backflips which aren't really anything extraordinary. There's a simple explanation behind this:
Selina already knew how to do backflips before, which is confirmed by the script. According to the script she already had the skills and training but was to shy and introverted to use them until the crash released her formerly repressed inner-self, and all her inhibitions. In the Batman Returns script it is explained that she took karate lessons.

I won some karate
lessons. Radio thing. I'd been
calling for Grateful Dead tix...
anyway, I take the course. I was
a most serious failure. The
instructor kept chanting "Your
mind isn't clear, your mind
It is now...

Doing backflips and karate is no superpower and no superhero skill. If she had any special skills passed by cats, she would certainly do better in crawling on the roofs which she could not do (she almost fell of it once) and seemed to struggle while climbing the building. No cat powers then.

Catwoman climbing awkwardly and struggling...

...and falling off the rooftop, fighting to climb

It was toying with the idea, but clearly nothing supernatural. If she was supernatural, she would simply fell of the window without slowing down. She would really take fatal injuries every time she counted her lives down and she would've gotten hit in her chest with the gun. The Cat instincts and persona was much more to do with the female prowess, agility, good shape and seductive skills, rather than being literal.

As already mentioned numerous times throughout the blog, Bob Kane worked on Batman and Batman Returns, and Burton's movies faithfully reflect Kane's early vision more so then not. Not only the origins go all the way back, but also the whole ambiguity with Catwoman was there in the Golden Age comic books as well

Panels taken from Batman #35 


The fact remains that Catwoman did not have any inhuman, super skills, did not have any feline characteristics and never really cheated death, therefore, no supernaturality


  1. I know for a fact that Selina Kyle is just an ordinary human with athletic skills. I remember watching that movie as a kid and thinking, "What's going on? Did those cats just lick her back to life?" How else can a woman who fell so many stories live after being licked by a bunch of alleycats?

    I would argue that surviving the assaults she suffered at the hands of Batman and The Penguin could be attributed to luck, but the finale with Max Shreck, where he shot her four times at close range, and she shook it off like she was Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees was the clincher. The biggest kill that she survives is the electric kiss as we see her on the streets later that night.

    Before the electric kiss, one can argue that it was her will to live and to finally kill Max was what drove her to keep living, but the movie clearly points to the supernatural. Once again, she survives that electrical kiss. There's no way in hell she should have survived that if there was no supernatural element after chris walken became a charred corpse.

    I think this is what irked many fans...

  2. Well as far as the shooting goes, Max misses 2 times and hits her once in the arm and once in her thigh.

    The electrocution is indeed a tricky thing, but I do have an explanation for that, but I wont post it until I'll find some backing behind it

  3. With all due respect to Tim Burton, the Catwoman character could only be supernatural given the injuries she sustained, and was still able to prowl the rooftops of Gotham as normal at the end of the movie.

    Even if I believed that Max Schreck was the worst shot in the world, and incapable to landing four bullets on no vital body parts to a person standing right in front of him, which I don't, the injuries sustained from taking four bullets to the arms or legs or where ever would incapacitate any person for weeks or even months. Selina would be in no condition to be prowling the night as Catwoman shortly after. We know it was very shortly after because the scratches she inflicted on Bruce's face were still fresh.

  4. I did acknowledge that little time has passed since the final confrontation and the last scene, but then again, she was only shot in a thigh and shoulder

  5. Brilliant post, GothamStreets!

  6. Even if she was supernatural, so what. How about Ras al Ghul, Kadaver, Solomon Grundy, Amygdala or the Monk among many others. And villains in all Batman movies are very changed, except for Jack's Joker

  7. Some of you guys are ignoring whats written in the article. Selina's fall was nominal. 6th floor fall slowed down 4 times isnt fatal by any stretch. And it does say that when she hits the ground the impact is nominal. It also says that Selina was only shot in her thigh and shoulder and I checked that scene and its true. Max misses at least once and he hits her shoulder the first time, then misses, then hits her leg which she then grabs in pain, and then misses again.

  8. She didnt get electrocuted. As far as I remember she grabbed an isolated cable so she wouldnt touch anything that will transmit electricuty and then just put that shocker in Shreck's mouth who was leaning against some power booth. She was safe

  9. But the thing is we don't see her move away from the generator after she gave Chris Walken the death kiss..

  10. If it happens as described in the anon's post then theres nothing to electrocute her if shes not touching either Shreck or the generator and if shes only holding to the isolated cable

  11. Its very hard to decode it. In the case of electrocution, the script has a slightly different chain of events so it cant be a guideline. First of all, theres a question of what sparked the generator's explosion. Secondly, she does touch Shreck but I dont think that would get her electrocuted at all. Third, its only him twitching which is very important because it indicates that hes the only one whose getting some volts going through him

  12. Updated with the whole electrocution thing

  13. I did not like this movie. While it is well-made and has a fascinating villian, Catwoman, it feels like it just stepped out of a Halloween costume catalog. The movie is so dark and weird that it comes across as fake. Plus, the movie feels so hopeless and is so full of despair that all the fun has been sucked out of the Batman franchise. Penguin was gross and despicable, not the gentleman of crime like he was in the comics and the lack of the Iceberg Lounge nightclub business that provides a cover for more low-key criminal activity.

    Catwoman was interesting but the movie wasn't really about her. I have to give it credit for being well made, but Batman Returns was overly dark, overly stylish, and no fun whatsoever. This is the darkest, stupidest superhero movie I have ever seen. There is shooting, punching, killing, and a wicked mass murdering plot. The violence is not worth the movie. It was sloppy and could have been better.

  14. I like what they did here with catwoman. It seems so much like shes supernatural at first glance that it leaves you sure that she is, and then when you really look at it shes not supernatural at all. Burton did a great job with this ambiguity

  15. this entire article is a fail and an excuse maker at its extreme

    make the arguments for Penguin

    this catwoman is supernatural

  16. The director said its not supernatural, None of her falls is fatal or from any fatal heights, the script and the movie shows that she was shot only in legs and arms and the whole idea was to present this ambiguity like in the Golded Age story "9 lives" due to Bob Kane's work on the movie who did the story back in the 40's. How is the article making excuses? I would be delighted to have an intelligent debate and exchange of contrarguments with evidences from scripts, interviews and movies.

    What about Penguin thought? He was deformed, not supernatural

    Not like anyone would mind having supernatural in the Batman movies, after all, supernatural has always been present in Batman comics since his inception throughout his entire history

  17. True GA, Im a bit dissapointed that Catwoman isnt supernatural. I think they wasted opportunity a little. This Batman was a fantasy take, so having supernatural would be "natural". The thing about Catwoman would be perfect, but cant argue the director and the script

  18. "It was toying with the idea, but clearly nothing supernatural. If she was supernatural, she would simply fell of the window without slowing down. She would really take fatal injuries every time she counted her lives down and she would've gotten hit in her chest with the gun"

    All that needs to be said

  19. I never thought she was supernatural, not even when I watched it twice in a row in theaters when I was 12 in 1992. I always understood everything exactly the way it has been explained here, I had never thought about a supernatural Catwoman in this movie until I read it in the internets a couple of years ago and I thought that some people just didn't understand the movie, because everything explained here is pretty obvious in the movie.

  20. I actually always thought it was a very subtle brush with supernaturality. Once I heard Burton saying that she was in fact NOT supernatural, I went back and took a closer look at the movie and then the script and well, he was right of course. "Cant argue the director and the script" as someone said above

  21. 6 floor building = quite high. Not as high as a skyscraper of course but lets just say you wouldn't want to be falling out of one. My school building is 3 and if I were to throw my self out of the window I would be street pizza.

    While her fall is slowed down this probably wouldn't do much good anyway. If by some miracle it does then she would have least had some kind or fracture or internal bleeding. But no she gets up (after only a few seconds) and WALKS home. When she gets home she barely has a scratch on her.

    If she wasn't dead the cats to begin with wouldn't have gone near her.

    While The fall into the "kitty litter" possibly wouldn't have killed her, it would have led to broken bones (which she recovers from rather quickly).
    The fall into the glass (that's GLASS. GLASS PEOPLE) would have teared her apart. Flowers do not have enough buoyancy to break a fall.

    And did you know that there are several arteries in the arms, shoulders and legs which, if shot, could kill a person or severely disable them (so her moving towards him like it was nothing is a load of cack. she would have been floored).

    I don't know what angle you were looking at but she quite obviously puts the taser in his mouth. Even so human bodies are very good at CONDUCTING ELECTRICITY. Her kissing him would give her a bloody good roasting.

    I guess the whole gymnastics/ karate thing is OK though she is VERY good for an amateur (she only had a few lessons) in the way she can back-flip many times over, knows how to use a whip well and can hold batman in a fight

    If Burton thought that there was no "super-naturalness" involved then I guess its the classic movie conceit that the human body is invulnerable to gunshot wounds and large falls. If I were to chuck Tim Burton out of my two floor house or shoot him in the leg I seriously would doubt his prospects of living.

  22. "6 floor building = quite high. Not as high as a skyscraper of course but lets just say you wouldn't want to be falling out of one. My school building is 3 and if I were to throw my self out of the window I would be street pizza."

    Absolutely agree. But its different if the fall from the 6th floor is slowed down 4 times and you would fall into snow on top of that all. The script even specifically states that the snow is yet another thing that slows it down and saves her

    I agree with the other points. In real life, that wouldnt work for the reasons you mentioned, but Burton specifically mentions in the audio commentary that while he wanted to keep it more or less real, in this movie he was using what he called a "heighten reality", so for example, Selina's costume would get cut and she would be slowed down by the glass but she didnt get one cut from it on her body and didnt break an ankle and didnt get any damage from the fall to the sand. Within the context and the nature of the movie it gets the point across though, and again, it was certainly a goal for both Burton and Waters NOT to have her supernatural if we look at the script and listen to Burton

  23. Irregardless of his intention, what Burton presented in the movie was a supernatural woman.

  24. I think it's like saying that Kane and Finger presented her as supernatural regardless their intention (some panels are shown in the article). They wanted it to be ambiguous, and so did Burton and Waters. The difference was that comics being comics were more obvious and literally explained how she survived the point blank shots and the fall from the zeppelin, while the movie doesnt stop the viewer and explain how was all that possible. But as the article hopefully shows, once you find out that it was suppose to be what that Golden Age story was, you look back at the movie, script and comic book adaptation and see that indeed everything has an explanation. Some stretched out, sure, but this is a n expressionist tale and a Tim Burton movie, where reality is never important and is always heightened and exaggerated, sometimes more, sometimes less. Although I would personally prefer Catwoman to really BE supernatural, it wouldve work for the story much more and her reveal at the end would be more of a shock and twist ending

  25. Michelle is overrated. She didn't feel like Catwoman. She felt like a psychotic woman on a revenge spree, who was capable of cheating death. This Catwoman would be put in Arkham.

  26. This Catwoman might not have acted like the comic book version, but that in no way means her character wasnt fascinating. She was insanely sexy and crazy in the most interesting way, and for me personally much more interesting than her comic counterpart. As for seemingly being able to cheat death, thats what the Golden Age Catwoman was, as stated in the article

  27. Well the Catwoman in Returns was a loose end that was never resolved to this day... from what i know it was intended that she would be brought back in a sequel or in her own spinoff movie. Back in the day, there was a Catwoman movie planned for a 1994 release with Michelle Pfeiffer to reprise her role... Can't remember if Burton was tapped to direct or if he was just going to produce it... I wanna say he was actually going to direct it.

    Anyway, after the backlash from Batman Returns, the whole Catwoman movie kind of got put on hold, Burton no longer attached at all... Michelle wouldn't do it without Burton... the script went through tons of re-writes... till it finally became what we got in 2004 with Halley Berry. I think Michelle was again approached for it but she refused with out burton. And I think Ashley Judd was supposedly going to be Catwoman for a while but pulled out for some reason (maybe she finally read the script).

    Still it makes me wonder if Halle Berry was really desperate for the money when she stared in that crappy 'Catwoman' flick...

  28. A shot to the g'night can definitely kill. No matter what caliber their are several major arteries in the thigh. As for the electricution, look at it this way, if you tazer someone while hugging them, the electricity travels through both bodies. Same idea.

  29. I agree, definitely. But Tim Burton movies, and especially Returns which is in large part an expressionist film, were never about reflecting real life. Its all more symbolic, more fantastical, more heightened realism than in conventional stories

  30. excellent blog gothamstreets. i dont know why people are even debating this. if the man making the movie said the character in it doesn't have super powers then she DOESN'T end of story.all her injuries have been survived by people in the real world. there are countless stories of people being stabbed in the head or shot and not even realizing it. catwoman in this film was extremely psychotic it seemed to me that her pain receptors were severely dulled.

  31. If the movie was made ambiguous, than there is more than one way to view it and not even the director can say which way is the "right" way...

  32. Did you take the 2004 Catwoman film into consideration? It did feature a photo of Kyle.

    By the way, one wonders whe she acquired those skills in la savate.

  33. The 2004 Catwoman wasnt canon to Burton's movies, plus, I honestly and strongly believe the writers of the movie, John Brancato and Michael Ferris, are the worst writers in cinema history, not only their script and stories dont make any sense whatsoever, not only they have more plotholes than your average bad movie, and not only they never do their research on the franchise their tackling because by their own admission they dont care, but theyre also the most pompous writers Ive ever heard of

  34. In the scene where Patience looks at the pictures of different Catwomen through time [in the 2004 film], we see a glimpse of the Catwoman from Batman Returns. That strikes me as enough effort to tie the films together.

  35. I actually think Selina Kylie died from the electricity BUT some other woman decided to continue the Catwoman legacy (which explains the shot at the end).

    1. The problem with it is that her body wasnt found

    2. doesn't mean she didn't die. There was a huge pile of junk there and Bruce had to leave early. Had he found her body, the metaphor of her having 9 lives wouldn't work for her final life.

  36. If Tim Burton said that, he should've kept quiet as saying this severely undermines the entire movie.

    Sorry, but your arguments are flimsy at best, nobody can miss at that range, and Shreck clearly looks at his gun as if he's wondering if he's firing blanks or not, which he wouldn't do if he was shooting her in the arms and legs.

    She CLEARLY gets electrocuted at the end.

    She lifts a grown man with one hand out of water.

    She drags a grown woman up a set of stairs in seconds.

    The cats clearly aren't just inspecting her, and there's very little comparison between it, and the comic panel. This is one cat sitting on her, not a whole mass of cats being suddenly drawn to her, biting, licking etc.

    The comic book adaptation is meaningless. All those adaptations pretty much constantly contradicted the movies, there are loads and loads of details that have been completely changed in them to bring them more into line with normal comic Batman continuity.

    But in the end, if this was adapted from an actual comic book scene that was ambiguous in the the first place then Burton's opinion on one took place is largely irrelevant anyway, and on top of that the people who worked on it (writer, scriptwriter, and Burton) may have strictly agreed at the time to make it ambiguous, and possibly only Burton himself sees it as "not supernatural"

    I think the easiest reading of that movie is a fantasy one, ie cats have nine live, cats passed on 1 of their nine lives each to Selina, she revives with 8 lives etc.