Growing up in the 2000’s and 2010’s, I lived in worship of the DC animated movies.
Superman: Doomsday, Under the Red Hood, Justice League: The New Frontier – these were all movies that I held in such high regard as a child, as did every other DC fan that I knew.
Shoutout to Green Lantern: First Flight for sparking my lifelong obsession with the character.
Well, I say “I”. I mean we. This is actually Nick talking right now. Cam’s over here.
Hey guys! As you can probably tell from the byline, I’ve been here the whole time!
Hi babe! <3
Anyway, my point is that there was a certain level of prestige around the DC animated movies – something Marvel, to my eye, has never really captured to the same degree. In the times before DC figured out how to make good live action movies, the animated films were all we had… but recent entries have been growing more and more mixed as of late.
You can read my review of *sigh* Injustice for more about that.
While recent DCU movies have endeavoured to keep a similar style, I often find the movies that break that mold to be the standouts. Catwoman: Hunted is the latest in that respect, adopting an artstyle that’s a little less “comic” and a little more “just like one of my Japanese animes”. Minor spoilers will follow.
It’s an art style that I think greatly benefits the movie, tbh. I really appreciated the amount of flash and flair that Shinsuke Terasawa was able to bring to the film. The intro alone had both of us screaming “YO IS THIS LUPIN III?”, and that’s exactly what I want from every movie I watch.
Terasawa absolutely knew what he was doing, too. For those unaware of Lupin the Third (which Terasawa worked on), you’re missing out on one of animation’s original pillars, and the key point of inspiration for this film! Lupin’s spirit is present everywhere in this film, from an opening animation littered with a fantastic jazz piece to the way protagonist Selina Kyle flirts and steals her way through every scene – Fujiko Mine if she owned fifty cats.
It’s absolutely Fujiko in a catsuit.
Selina – played by Elizabeth Gillies – joins a surprisingly rich cast of Bechdel Test-passing characters throughout the film, much unlike this review.
I think we might be the full opposite. Like a Horseshoe Theory of the Bechdel Test.
Stephanie Beatriz co-stars as Kate Kane’s Batwoman, with Lauren Cohan as Julia Pennyworth, Jonathan Banks as Black Mask and Kelly Hu as Cheetah – the leader of Leviathan, for some reason. Other characters make some pleasantly surprising appearances, and seeing the ways this movie digs into slightly more obscure characters in the DCU with equal reverence to the A-listers is a refreshing viewing experience.
Despite the absolutely stacked cast, though, I had a couple issues with their performances. Delivery is stilted sometimes, which may be the fault of the dialogue or editing, but regardless, it’s VERY hit or miss. Catwoman comes off as kind of a one-note flirt at times, to the point where things felt off when more was revealed about her motivations (more on that later), and Batwoman is… just Rosa Diaz (a more nuanced take on that later).
The acting in the dub isn’t all great – and I have mixed thoughts as to why. While some actors more used to live-action work might not be well-suited for animation, this cast has a decent level of experience in the field. As such, I think it comes down to the usual DCAU editing issues: dialogue that would be a whole lot less stilted if these films didn’t have strange, long moments of silence before characters continue their thoughts or respond to another.
Despite this, you can expect a few standout performances. Elizabeth Gillies brings a very soulful performance of Catwoman, full of the charm and seductive presence you’d expect from the character, coupled with hints of nuance that Selina allows to come to the surface every so often. Beatriz’s Batwoman voice isn’t always perfect, but when she drops the act and plays Kate Kane under the mask, you begin to understand the depth of her range – something I wish the movie touched on further. I think the best performance of the film is Kelly Hu’s Barbara Minerva, though! Hu’s accent flows like silk, and you can see the chemistry sparking out of the screen as Cheetah and Catwoman finally go claw-to-claw. She sounds like she’s having a blast with it.
Hands down Hu is the breakout star here. I do want to take a second, though, and point out some of the rougher patches of the voice acting. Gillies’ Catwoman is a constant flirt, and a damn good one at that, but throughout the film there’s very little chance for her to be anything else. Just about every line has a weird, sexy cadence to it, even when it’s not intended to be flirtatious, almost like someone was saying “do that again, but sexy!” for every single new line.
Because of this, Catwoman can come off as very one-note, which is especially weird with the amount of depth the film (very sloppily, in my opinion) tries to tell us she has. Gillies was a fantastic choice for Selina, and she does very well, but I can’t help feeling there was some element of the voice direction that was bringing her down.
Stephanie Beatriz isn’t without fault either, though this might just be a personal gripe. Her Batwoman voice is at the bottom of her register, and you can tell. There were several points while watching where I could hear the strain being put on her voice. It’s not a BAD voice, not by any means, but it does make me wonder why Beatriz was cast. Her performance is good, and the voice fits Batwoman well enough, but it’s just… the Rosa Diaz voice from Brooklyn 99. Anyone familiar with the show won’t be able to unhear it, and there’s nothing to be done in the way of altering the voice because, well, the voice itself is an alteration. Good performance, but perhaps not the best choice.
Switching back to style for a moment, I think the decision to make the movie an “anime” was an interesting one. It’s certainly in line with Selina’s character to look and act like an anime seductress: there’s one scene in particular that made me wonder if I was watching the right film or an explicit parody, and your mileage may vary for how much you enjoy that sort of thing. Still, when DC makes animated films about Batgirl and Batman having an affair, scenes like Selina attempting to seduce Batwoman feel tame in comparison (if a little queerbaity).
I would argue that it’s more than just a little queerbaity, especially when the tension is immediately cut by Selina telling Kate not to call her Cat, because “only he can do that”, followed by her pining over Batman. There’s more than one reference to Selina being hung up on the Dark Knight as well, which is really weird, considering we never once see him. It feels more like an excuse to keep Selina out of a gay relationship more than a nod to Tom King’s run.
Batman’s absence is definitely felt throughout the film, for better or for worse – though I’d ultimately argue for better. There are a few issues with character and story that I have by the end of the film, but a big reason you would want to watch this film is for the action! There’s a lot of effort that’s been put into the fight scenes, from Catwoman leaping across chandeliers to a very creative aerial battle between four women atop a glass ceiling– ohhh, I just got that. Clever.
But yeah, I think the style of the film is absolutely incredible. The animation is top notch, all of the fight scenes are super dynamic and interesting (the best one is a little spoilery but it would have sold me on the movie so I’ll throw it in tags), and the MUSIC. Oh my GOD, the MUSIC. Jazz was 100% the move for this film. Every scene is so fun and funky that I was actively vibing the entire time (you can ask Nick).
Ninja fight on the Eiffel Tower. Yeah. I know.
Really, my main issue with the film is by the end of it, it doesn’t really go anywhere – which is quite in line with the Lupin stories it’s celebrating, so I can’t complain too much. I think my issue lies in the fact that, throughout the film, the writing plays at far more emotional stakes for Selina, only to never dive into that as deep as it could. It makes me want a sequel, sure, but it also means that the film fizzles out. Crime, flirting, crime, flirting, and this goes on for ninety or so minutes until the movie just… sort of ends.
Agreed. There’s a lot of hints of something bigger going on with Selina, but we never get into it in any meaningful capacity, to the point where I question the decision to hint at all (see: Batman, or lack thereof). There’s also the frankly weird choice to involve Leviathan as an antagonist, though it’s more akin to Intergang than Leviathan proper.
Sometimes, though, it’s about the journey rather than the destination… and all things considered, this is a very enjoyable journey.
- You want to voice your support for DC animated movies with more unique and exciting styles!
- Selina Kyle having a solo outing – without Batman whatsoever – appeals to you. She really has the time to be her own character here.
- Exaggerated action is your bread and butter: even if you can sometimes tell the crew is on a limited budget, the climax in particular has some super good stuff.
- You’re craving more Batwoman representation. The way she and Selina work together is incredibly fun, and it makes me want to see more of the two side by side!
I think under different circumstances, I’d rate this movie a little lower. With stilted editing, acting that doesn’t always hit the mark and a story that loses direction near the end, the film is by no means perfect. What it is, however, is fun! It’s a very easy watch, with an electricity to it that makes you feel as invested in the story as the characters do. It’s a great time to watch with friends, as Cam can attest to – makes a guy want to do a collaborative review again some time.
100% correct on both counts! We’ll definitely be doing this again.
Disclaimer: Batman News was provided a copy of the film by Warner Bros. for the purpose of this review.