Catwoman (1995 Script)

Posted: May 18, 2016 in Uncategorized

 **Brian C. Baer tracked down this unproduced Catwoman spin-off script from the 90’s. It certainly sounds like it would’ve been far better than the film from 2004, which is literally the faintest praise you can give anything. Enjoy this look at what could’ve been!**

The Halle Berry adaptation of Catwoman was released in 2004 to near universal distain. It was a disaster, both critically and commercially, and when she collected her Golden Raspberry award for Worst Actress that year, even Berry called it “a piece of shit, god-awful movie.”


What is largely considered the worst comic book movie was not actually as slapdash and rushed as it appears on-screen. The project had been spiraling throughout various circles of development hell for a solid decade before then. It began its life as a sequel to and spin-off of Catwoman’s appearance in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns (1992). A solo Catwoman film was first announced in 1993, with Michelle Pfeiffer returning to the title character, and with Burton set to direct. It would stand apart from the lighter cinematic Batman fare that Warner Brothers had planned for the caped crusader. However, like many Burton projects from the era, nothing much came of it.


Still, a script was completed. It was penned by Daniel Waters, best known for the very-dark-comedy Heathers (1989). Waters had previously re-written Sam Hamm’s Returns script, and was likely responsible for the quick-wit dialogue in that sequel. Water’s wit is on full display in his Catwoman script. While it is very cleverly written, it is also one of the more outlandish scripts out there; it could easily be described as a surreal, satirical, feminist farce of a superhero film. At times the title character breaks the fourth wall with Deadpoolian mirth. At others, the film flirts with the sort of sexually-charged superhero parody we’d later see in Garth Ennis’s comic The Pro. All in all, this Catwoman would’ve been strange and utterly unique.

Functioning as a direct sequel to Batman Returns, it opens with an amnesiac Selena Kyle recuperating with her mother in Oasisburg, which the script describes as a “crazed amalgamation of LA-Vegas-Palm Springs-Disneyland.” The city is much more than that, though; Oasisburg stands in for the tacky, greedy, and outrageously misogynistic consumer culture of America. It’s a parody of real life, but it’s not exaggerated by too much. Oasisburg makes 98% of its income from tourism (“And don’t ask me what’s the other two,” the mayor snaps at one point), so everything revolves around casinos and gentlemen’s clubs. The city’s ineffectual police force putts around on golf carts, like everyone else, leaving the crime to be fought by Oasisburg’s own superheroes: The Cult of Good. The super-team is made up of Mammoth, Cactus, Adonis, Spooky, and their leader, Captain God.

While these heroes seem like they only care about stopping bank robberies and selling action figures, Selena stumbles across the truth: the Cult of Good has been organizing the very crime they fight, so they get their cut while being loved by the public. They have a bigger plan in mind, one that would rob the city blind as they fake their own deaths. Just after she overhears their evil plot, her memories return and she finds her old Catwoman costume.

whipSelena publically embarrasses the heroes in a fight scene. Then, the script describes a fantastic unbroken shot following a black cat throughout the city, letting the audience overhear snippets of conversations from a dozen different lives throughout Oasisburg… there are battered wives, frightened women and their stalkers, male teachers ridiculing their young female students who have an interest in science or math, auto mechanics swindling a woman who is just trying to get her golf cart fixed… It’s not a pretty sight. That night, all of these women make their own Catwoman costumes. These Copycatwomen riot, tearing down billboards with airbrushed supermodels and making pacts to beat up each other’s husbands. Just like that, Catwoman creates a feminist movement.

Selena is eventually able to organize these women into a cohesive fighting force to stop the Cult of Good’s plan. In an over-the-top finale, she is chased through a museum by a heat-seeking rocket sent by Captain God. She is able to redirect it towards him, purring, “God is dead” just before the villain explodes. Oasisburg is transformed into a more hip, equal place, leaving little to no room for a Catwoman 2.

Much of the script is dedicated the mystery of who is inside Captain God’s helmet. It’s one of Selena’s two love interests; either millionaire architect Brock Leviathan, or star reporter Lewis Lane. This storyline takes a surprisingly long amount of time to play out, and it is actually very difficult to guess who the villain is.
Along with some wacky Burtonesque visuals and biting satire, there is some perfectly bitchy dialogue that a reader can easily imagine coming from Pfeiffer. When one Copycatwoman asks if she’s afraid of the competition, Selena rolls her eyes and says, “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had any.”

The script does have some weak spots, mostly regarding pacing and an over-stuffed second act. Successive drafts would’ve likely been called on to slim down the plot. One or two of the superhero characters could probably be jettisoned, as well. The old Mexican woman who saves Selena in the Gotham flashbacks is later killed off by the Cult of Good, but her presence is never explained. The script reads like it would make a movie over two hours long, which is long enough for its wackiness to become grating on the audience.

Another set piece could easily be removed: After the Copycatwomen riot, there is a “cat fight” where all the costumed women take out their frustrations on one another. The nun-Catwoman slut-shames the provocatively-dressed-Catwoman, the overweight-Catwoman tries to force-feed the thin-Catwoman, and so on. This sequence illuminates another issue with the script: while making positive, kick-ass female heroes, it also dabbles in the same stereotypes it’s trying to tear down. One theme of the story is how women also hold each other back. Reporter Lewis Lane even mentions this directly at one point, shaking his head about the way some women in Oasisburg have reacted negatively to Catwoman besting the Cult of Good. “What is it with women and Catwoman?” he asks. “Men have the courtesy to punish the weak, but women love punishing the strong.” While it’s an interesting concept to explore, it comes off as a bit ham-fisted and overly blunt in this draft.

campDaniel Waters turned in his Catwoman script on June 16, 1995. Interviewed about the project less than a week later, he seemed aware the project might not be going anywhere. He said, “Of course, turning it in the day Batman Forever opened may not have been my best logistical move, in that it’s the celebration of the fun-for-the-whole-family Batman and Catwoman is definitely not a fun-for-the-whole-family script.” Along with its dark, weird tone, it would hardly be the sort of movie to make action figures for. With the success of Forever, it was clear that was the direction Warner Brothers was going to take their superhero movies. Catwoman just wouldn’t fit in.

The property drifted aimlessly for years, and once Burton and Pfeiffer left the project, it lost any connection to the Batman franchise. It was eventually made to cash in on the post-Spider-Man superhero movie craze, but what made it to the screen showed no resemblance of what the film was intended to be.

2004’s Catwoman was just another forgettable, brainless superhero movie. If it had been made in the mid-90s as planned, the world of superhero movies could be vastly different by now. And if it had been as successful as most ‘90s Burton films were, it is doubtful comic book adaptations with female leads would have been quite so uncommon.


How about a spinoff now? Still no? Ok then.



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