Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. is the biggest American film and television production company. They produce huge amounts of movies in all genres with big budgets. The company had reached big successes since its founding year in 1903. In the past more than a hundred year its productions received many awards from different foundations. However the award received contains not only positive recognitions but also negative ones.
How is it possible that a huge company like this makes mistakes that can lead to a bad reputation? What can be the mistakes they make? How do these mistakes affect the future of the staff of the company, the directors, the actors and the company itself?
I would like to find the answers for these questions through a movie failure that was the biggest flop in the decade. I will examine as many aspects as possible that can lead a movie that is so eagerly awaited to a huge failure. To examine the aspects I will introduce you to the unsuccessful story of the 2004 movie ‘Catwoman’.
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2. Who is the Catwoman?
Catwoman, namely Selina Kyle has been described as the ultimate fantasy character who is a defender of the underdog who is not above the law when it comes to her own desires. She is not an ordinary woman due to her powerful strength. She is sleek, mysterious and thanks to the leather-clad, whip-wielding costume, ultra sexy. (Bowes, 2004)
2.1 History of catwoman
There are many versions of the origin of Catwoman and back-story seen in comic books over the decades but it can primary be attached to the to the Batman Universe series as the most popular female character of the story.
Batman’s creator, Bob Kane was a great movie fan and his love for film provided the impetus for several Batman characters, among them, Catwoman. He wanted to attach a female character into the comic books to give them a sex appeal and someone who could appeal to female readers as a female Batman.
“I felt that women were feline creatures and men were more like dogs. While dogs are faithful and friendly, cats are cool, detached, and unreliable. I felt much warmer with dogs around me-cats are as hard to understand as women are. Men feel surer of themselves with a male friend than a woman. You always need to keep women at arm’s length. We don’t want anyone taking over our souls, and women have a habit of doing that. So there’s a love-resentment thing with women. I guess women will feel that I’m being chauvinistic to speak this way, but I do feel that I’ve had better relationships with male friends than women. With women, once the romance is over, somehow they never remain my friends.”
Kane 1989, pp. 107-108
That catwoman character appeared in huge numbers of cartoons over the decades. After it became very popular in this kind of media, others started to use it as their superhero. In 1966 catwoman appeared in the Batman television series then more than twenty years later in the success movie Batman Returns.
In Batman Returns Selina Kyle is played by Michelle Pfeiffer. Here she is depicted as the lonely, frustrated, yet dutiful and efficient secretary of corrupt tycoon Max Shreck. After she accidentally discovers his plot to build a power plant that would steal Gotham’s electricity, Shreck pushes her out the window of his top story office. Selina is resurrected by a group of cats after her death and she is given powerful strength and characteristics of cats. She goes home and makes her cat costume herself and goes after her murderer. She also starts a romance with Batman and joins him in the chase of the evil head of the company. (IMDb)
Batman Returns was first showed in 1992 and it received 6.9/10 stars with 80,751 votes on IMDb international movie database. This means that the movie was mainly liked by the public and critics. On its opening day on June 19 the movie earned $45.69 million which was the highest opening weekend of any movie released up to that point. The movie went to total of $266.83 million all together. It was the third highest grossing film in America of 1992 and the sixth worldwide. It received 14 nominations and 2 winner awards from 7 different institutions including the award by Golden Raspberry for Danny DeVito as worst supporting actor nominee.
In 2004 another movie was released. This was the first catwoman release which stars the catwoman character as the main character which the movie is about.
3. Catwoman 2004: The Movie
Catwoman is the story of shy, sensitive artist Patience Philips (Halle Berry), a woman who can’t seem to stop apologizing for her own existence. She works as a graphic designer for Hedare Beauty, a mammoth cosmetics company on the verge of releasing a revolutionary anti-aging product. When Patience inadvertently happens upon a dark secret her employer is hiding, she finds herself in the middle of a corporate conspiracy. What happens next changes Patience forever. In a mystical twist of fate, she is transformed into a woman with the strength, speed, agility and ultra-keen senses of a cat. With her newfound prowess and feline intuition, Patience becomes Catwoman, a sleek and stealthy creature balancing on the thin line between good and bad. Like any wildcat, she’s dangerous, elusive and untamed. (IMDb) She opens a box from her closet with an ultra tight skin showing leather costume. Her adventures are complicated by a burgeoning relationship with Tom Lone, a cop who has fallen for Patience but cannot shake his fascination with the mysterious Catwoman. The things around catwoman do not go easy as she is attached to many crimes happening in the city. However the only crime she is guilty of is breaking into a jewelry store and stealing jewels. Later she returns these and says sorry. Unfortunately, the city believes that this new creature is evil and causes most of the crimes happening in their city lately. Tom Lone tries to stop her but he does not know that Patience who he is already starting a relationship with is the same lady who he is trying to put behind bars.
Reading the plots of Batman Returns and Catwoman a lot of similarities can be noticed. Actually the both stories of becoming catwomen are perfectly same as both ladies die by an evil company president and are resurrected as catwomen after their deaths. Selina is more focused on saving the innocent but Patience is not still clear about her purpose and she some bad things before realizing her real purpose. Still the biggest difference is the stories are the importance of the characters. Patience is the only main character who is the whole story about while Batman and Selina are sharing this spot.
The movie was release on 23 July, 2004 in the United States but not even the Oscar-winner Halle Berry warmed the critics to the film. It was released some weeks after Spider-Man 2, Catwoman paled in comparison with that comic book adventure, which broke box office records. It is difficult to watch Catwoman prowling over city roofs without thinking Spiderman did the same trick with so much energy some weeks before. (Bowes, 2004)
This was just one of the critics the movie received out of many after the release. There were many complaints regarding almost all aspects that can be examined in a movie.
3.1 Comparing Catwoman with the original character of the Batman movies
When Box Office came up with the idea of creating a whole new movie about the so successful catwoman character of the Batman movies the biggest question was that can the new movie be accepted by the fans of Batman. How the changes in the story and the actors will affect the outcome of the movie? Who would be the best director, actors and actresses to choose to make a huge success? And there were so many questions could be raised and even Warner Bros. tried to make good choices for these questions it happened that they could not. They probably did not consider many aspects carefully enough and fell in a very embarrassing situation when the movie came out.
Jean-Christophe “Pitof” Comar is a French film and visual effect director primary known about the movies Vidocq and Catwoman. Pitof had never created a big budget American movie film before Catwoman. The only one movie he directed before was the French speaking Vidocq which received 6.5/10 rating on IMDb. Viewing his first movie as a success Warner Bros were brave enough to hire him for the direction for Catwoman. Probably that was the first and biggest mistake they made. (IMDb)
Warner Bros probably chose him because of his good reputation of visual effects and they knew that the new movie will need to contain a whole bunch of these. Still it is very hard to image how could they chose and trust someone with $100 million who made only one movie before and that one was not even American.
According critical reviews about the movie Pitof had made almost all the mistakes that can be made while creating a movie. This includes badly chosen actors and actresses, screen writings, time management, dialogues, framing, costumes. (Rotten Tomatoes, 2004-2005)
One of the questions that was raised when Halle Berry was chosen as Catwoman was that can she match for the legendary performances of Eartha Kitt in 1960s Batman series or of Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman returns? According to reviews the answer was ‘not even’.
There are many complaints with the choice of Halle Berry. According to critics her acting was over exaggerated while trying to be a cat. The character of Patience is no longer a human. Her inclination to hiss at dogs and devour canned fish, as well as her urge to bury her face in catnip, eventually convince her that something is going on. Unfortunately, the feline personality traits emerge in a rather clumsy fashion. “You almost expect the character to seek out a litter tray or a scratch pole, just to prove the point of being a cat.” (Bowes, 2004)
Other complaints were about the color of the chosen actress. A critic commented on movie review site Rotten Tomatoes that “It is like James Bond being black.” It might sound very racist but if we think deeply into this statement it might be very abusing for fans that their favorite character is played by a so different actress than before. They expected Seline who is now Patinece to be similar as she was before but they received something else.
Frances Conroy plays a reclusive cat lady, Ophelia who becomes the mentor of Patience. Her role is to explain what is pretty obvious already that the young woman had turned into a cat. Unfortunately Ophelia looks like she walked out of an episode of a funeral parlour drama and seems to be yearning for a decent line or two. (Bowes, 2004)
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Another big star comes up in the movie: Sharon Stone who plays the evil character but who in the first time in her career is not icy enough. According to rumors there were some problems with the actress during the shootings as she was so displeased of her role and the whole project that she did not take the shooting as serious and she actually answered her cell phone during the filming.
This was not the only one thing that did not go easy during the filming but also Berry suffered an injury that landed her in the hospital when she crashed into a piece of equipment. These problems probably would have not happened if the planning and directing would have been more careful. Here is another point that can be written to the bill of Pitof.
3.4 Screening and dialogues
Screenings and dialogues were so bad that some scenes needed to be reshot only thirty days before its scheduled release. Critics review that even the trailer of the movie was so bad but it could not be better anyways as there were not really as many good shots in the whole movie that could be chosen for the trailer. The final trailer was redone several times. How this could happen? We can say “too many hands in the cookie jar” because as many as 28 scribers worked on the scripts which led to very bad dialogues. Only the number of writers of the movie exceeded the usual number of writers of a movie: Bob Kane, Theresa Rebeck, Michael Ferris, John D. Brancato, John Rogers. The dialogues and the scenes did not match enough with storyline and even if Berry seemed like making a decent job to play her act she had a very difficult job when she were forced to utter laughable lines like “It’s over time.” (Riemer, 2004)
In the beginning sequence of the movie contains a montage of old newspaper cutting and ancient manuscripts about the history of the cat. It seems like the director suggests a depth to the film through this sequence but later it is never comes back in the storyline. Basically they put something into the film that they never talk about later. This is totally unnecessary and it seems like it is just there to make the movie longer or create some cool beginning screen. (Bowes, 2004)
The story of the movie is even too predictable after the unlucky and ordinary lady turns into a superhero who needs to take a revenge on her murders and needs to save the poor people of the city from crime. We can say that all superhero movies are about the same topic but at the same time somehow they are created more interesting. We can also raise a question that can a lady be a successful superhero? According to statistics the answer could be that it is probably impossible since heroes were always been males. Most movies with female superheroes failed like Supergirl, Catwoman, Elektra, Street Fighter: Legend of Chun li, Blood. Why is it like that? The answer could be that the directors of these movies try to make the characters as sexy as possible instead of working more on the story and making it more interesting and exciting.
Reviews about the costume designs appearing in the film share the opinions. Movie critics dislike them opposed to male fans of the movie who think that the only one reason to watch the movie was only because of the sexy costumes.
According to the first catwoman costume that appeared in the original comic book series our superhero first wore only a cat mask which was later change to a sweater with a hood that had cat ears on the top. Later in the batman movies the costume was changed to the tight black latex suit that showed not much skin. In Pitof’s movie there is a huge impact put on the costume. It suggests that the whole movie is around showing Halle Berry’s skin and making her into a domina-like sex symbol. The members of “Gothamists” website think that Pitof is trying too hard to make the new character better than in Batman Returns by putting a bikini on Berry. “At least the costume shops will have something to profit on for Halloween.” The cat suit was always one of the most liked wear for costume events and after a new cat movie it just even going to be better.
After the movie was released the reviews were expressly negative and also Warner Bros made very bad incomes. The $100 million budget movie only made a domestic gross of $40 million and another $42 from foreign countries. This means that the movie itself did not even make as much money as it cost. Unfortunately, there are no data available about the DVD sales income. Warner Bros might have made at least as much on it as the film cost.
On Rotten Tomatoes it received 10% score and 3.2/10 on IMDb. On Rotten Tomatoes critics are very harsh and heavy. Even on the opening page it appears that “Halle Berry is the lone bright spot, but even she can’t save this laughable action thriller.”
The film was nominated 7 times on the Golden Raspberry or “Razzies” award. Razzies awarded for the worst movies of the year. Catwoman was nominated for worst Picture, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Couple, Director, Screenplay and with this it get in to the competition of Razzies’ “Special Worst of Our 25 Years Awards” and it won first place. This means that in the past 25 years there was no other movie made that received so many bad reviews and award as Pitof’s Catwoman. (Razzies)
How did this affect the careers of the staff? Obviously the one who came out of this the worst was Pitof who had never get another opportunity to make a movie so far.
Halle Berry wasn’t so unlucky as she got 12 acts in movies since 2004 (X-man 2006, Perfect Stranger 2007, Things We Lost in the Fire 2007, etc) Out of these 12 production 5 are under production still and are awaited to come out. Berry did not see Catwoman as something that can affect her career hard even if she has now a Golden Razzie award for worst actress next to her Oscar.
Sharon Stone also had 18 acts since Catwoman and Frances Conroy had 21. It seems like that the only one person who came out bad from this production was the director and maybe Warner Bros who did not make any money on the production.
4. Own opinion
According to the assignment to examine a huge management failure of our times I decided to choose a movie as my interest is enormous in this media. There were a lot to choose from. I was hesitating between Transformers 2: Revenge of the fallen, Land of the lost, The adventure of Pluto Nash and Catwoman. I watched all 4 movies and I did not like three of them at all. I finally chose the one I actually liked and this was Catwoman. I also made some primary research making “interviews” with friends about the movie. Without exaggerating the outcome of the research I have to say that there was no one who did not like the movie and actually have seen it.
I realized that I made a huge task for myself because I needed to watch something over and over with a very critical eye. First I did not read any of the critical reviews so I do not fall in that mistake that they change my own opinion. For fist two watches in English and Hungarian the only one aspect I did not like was the special effects. I saw them too computer like but I needed to realize that the movie was made more than 6 years ago when this technology was not as good as today. After watching it again and again I started to get nervous as there is nothing I can be critical about. So I read the reviews.
They were very critical and negative. Most of them made a big affect on me and after re-watching I could notice some of them. I was sure about the bad choice of Pitof as he had no background in American movie making.
I actually liked all of the actors in the movie but noticed sometimes weird and over exaggerated facial expressions and movement especially by Sharon Stone and Berry. These were very irritating and ridiculous.
I was not much abused by Patience’s cat costume. It was obvious that some very sexy leather piece of tiny cloth would be chosen for a 21th century superhero movie. I do not think that critics should talk too much negative things about this or they do because they probably have not seen Batman. It’s true that Batman isn’t showing much of his skin but his muscular six-pack costume was also very sexy. In my opinion this aspect of criticizing in catwoman is just an addition to the list. Due to my research most of the men I asked liked the movie because the sexy Berry and her tiny costume.
I was very worried about viewing the dialogues critically. Watching it in English with subtitles I could not really find any of these “ridiculous” lines but this can be due to my own English language skill. Probably someone whose mother language is English would have felt that something just sounds wrong. In the Hungarian version there were no mistakes but obviously the translators will not put anything wrong in their own language if they feel that it does not sound right in the original language.
Overall, after viewing the movie 5 times in two languages with two kinds of subtitles and without subtitles, reading walls of texts by critics and fans and making primary researches I can say that the movie should have come out so bad as it does. The huge money loss and the small income can be due to the very negative critics that were written fight after the release date. I know this from first hand. If I cannot decide what to watch in the cinema I go to Rotten Tomatoes and check the reviews. If they are very negative then I will never go and pay money for it. The only way to might watch it is to download it later.
Doing this examination of failure the biggest thing I have learned was that how much the internet and someone who is call a movie critic can affect the outcome of a new movie release.
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