Now that we know some early details about the film, fanboy chatter regarding Chris Nolan’s final chapter to his Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, is in full swing. The most recent news about TDKR has actors Tom Hardy and Anne Hathaway playing Bane and Selina Kyle – though what the plot of the film will entail is still largely a mystery.
Our own Rob Frappier posted a great article about how Bane will fit into Nolan’s Batman universe, and today we’re following that post up by addressing how the character of Selina Kyle might be presented in the Nolan Batverse – and whether or not we’ll actually see her as Catwoman, a conclusion that many have (perhaps prematurely) jumped to.
Selina Kyle’s inclusion in Dark Knight Rises is hardly a surprise – Catwoman Batman 3 casting rumors have been circling the Web for years now. Chris Nolan has been continuously criticized in his career for creating female characters who are either one-dimensional, totally peripheral, or are otherwise flat and weak. This has certainly been true of Nolan’s Batman movies, where the one major female character, Rachel Dawes, has been labeled as the major weak point of both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight – despite the fact that two different actress tried to pump life into the role. It’s rare that you see people walk away from the death of a major character in a movie franchise happier than they are sad.
But it seems that Nolan himself is aware of the criticisms surrounding his films, and is striving to challenge himself with Batman 3 by taking on arguably the most complicated and rich female character in comic book lore. Aside from the almost-guaranteed awesomeness Nolan will bring to TDKR, it’s going to be very intriguing to see if he can truly grow as a filmmaker and deliver a version of Selina Kyle (Catwoman?) that can surpass all the “Nolan girls” who have come before. But first things first, lets talk about the character of Selina Kyle/Catwoman and what she means to the Batman mythology.
Who is Selina Kyle?
The character of Selina Kyle / Catwoman has undergone so many revisions at the hands of different creators in both the comic books and TV/film that it can be hard to keep track of who she is. Depending on which version of the character you’re familiar with, Catwoman has been depicted as all of the following:
- A master thief and criminal
- A benevolent socialite moonlighting as a thief
- A prostitute turned vigilante/thief
- A rebellious mob boss daughter who steals from daddy
- A mousy (no pun) secretary “born again” as an empowered costumed femme
- A gray area mix of thief and anti-hero
- A foil and love interest for Bruce Wayne / Batman
Actually, that breakdown is somewhat misleading: the (wonderfully) complicated thing about Selina Kyle / Catwoman is that at any given point she’s a mix of SEVERAL of the things listed above. It’s the complexity of the character that makes her a potential home run for Dark Knight Rises – especially since Rachel Dawes was little more than a backdrop for Bruce/Batman to play off of. Selina / Catwoman has the potential to be everything from the major focus of Batman’s and/or Bruce Wayne’s romantic intentions, to a cunning adversary for him to battle, to a peripheral figure who uses the Dark Knight and his struggles as a means to further her own agenda. The only question is, which version of the character does Nolan have his eye on?
Selina Kyle or Catwoman?
We have to question who it is we’re going to see in The Dark Knight Rises. As many Bat-fans who pay attention to the small print have noticed, when Hathaway was announced for TDKR, we were SPECIFICALLY told that she would be playing “Selina Kyle.” More recently, while covering the Arlington Theater tribute to Chris Nolan in Santa Barbara, SuperheroHeroHype observed how Nolan dealt directly with the question of whether or not we’re getting Catwoman in the next Batman movie:
Nolan still wouldn’t confirm whether Anne Hathaway would play Catwoman or just Selina Kyle. When asked, he smiled coyly and wouldn’t say a word.
By now we all know that Nolan is as much a trickster off-screen as he is with his movies. When dealing with a Nolan Batman film, the savvy fan knows to A) Never believe anything you hear unless it comes from the mouth of Nolan himself (see Robin Williams playing Hugo Strange or Killer Croc being the villain for examples). B) Pay attention to how Nolan words the information he does offer, because when dealing with the famed director, the devil is almost always in the details.
That said, the general assumption still remains that Nolan has included Selina Kyle in Dark Knight Rises presumably to present a female foil for our hero on both sides of the mask – i.e., a socialite who challenges Bruce Wayne’s playboy facade, and a thief/anti-hero who challenges Batman’s notions of what constitutes a criminal in Gotham City. Either one of those halves of Selina/Catwoman is complicated enough to fill a movie role, let alone the complications of including both halves while still having time to fully flesh out another complex villain character (Tom Hardy’s Bane).
Coincidentally enough, I was typing this post, our friends over at Bleeding Cool broke news from a talk with Chris Nolan’s longtime cinematographer, Wally Pfister, in which Batman 3 was discussed, including the lingering question of whether or not we’ll see “Selina Kyle” in Dark Knight Rises or “Catwoman.” Said Pfister about shooting the screen test for Anne Hathaway as “Catwoman”:
She looks phenomenal in the wardrobe.
And when Pfister was asked directly if that means “Catwoman” will be in the film:
…I’d get fired and I wouldn’t even get to shoot the picture… I can’t really say, but I definitely want to be around next year…
Now I know some people are going to read this and immediately jump to the conclusion that “Catwoman” will be in this movie – but me, I’m hedging my bets that if anything, Pfister was referring to some elaborate thief’s outfit that Hathaway will don to commit high-stakes robberies in the film. Then again, he could just as well have meant that she looks really hot in a cocktail dress and/or business suit…
So now that we’ve addressed some of the complicated questions, let’s discuss some of the possible answers: how will Selina Kyle and/or Catwoman fit into The Dark Knight Rises?
The Mob Boss’s Daughter
Our own Rob Frappier did an awesome podcast with our buddies over at Fused Film over the weekend (listen to it HERE), where he represented our Screen Rant team in the best way possible: by dropping knowledge about Catwoman’s history that would fit beautifully into Dark Knight Rises.
Rob F pointed out a particular version of the character that appeared in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale’s classic Batman storylines “The Long Halloween” and “Dark Victory”. In these tales, Selina Kyle is a Gotham socialite who has a brief fling with Bruce Wayne (Bruce’s Batman life ultimately kills that romance), while Catwoman is depicted as an elusive and mysterious figure, who always seems to be prowling the outskirts of Batman’s investigations.
Of course, the more important aspect of these two stories is the implication that Selina Kyle is actually the illegitimate daughter of crime boss Carmine Falcone. Her reason for becoming Catwoman is pretty much to steal from her father and his mob cronies, as a way of getting back at daddy for leaving her to fend for herself in Gotham’s seedy underbelly (as depicted in Frank Miller’s “Batman: Year One”, the prequel to “Long Halloween”), until she ultimately robbed and stole her way into high society.
Way back when we were all still wondering what Batman 3 would be about, I pointed out that Frank Miller’s “Year One” and Loeb/Sale’s “Long Halloween” have narrative threads that directly influenced Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, respectively. I said at that time that incorporating elements of “Dark Victory” (the third chapter in the “Year One” universe) into Dark Knight Rises would be a logical progression for Nolan and Co. So, having the Selina Kyle / Carmine Falcone connection in the film would be a perfect full-circle round-off for Nolan’s trilogy – especially if Tom Hardy’s Bane is presented as a protege of Ra’s al Ghul and The League of Shadows (another part of Batman’s comic book history).
Catwoman connecting to Falcone and Bane connecting to Ra’s would tie-off virtually every plot thread introduced in Batman Begins – something we know Nolan intends to do with this film. It would also be a sweetly complex situation for Bruce/Batman to face, having to question what constitutes a criminal (someone who steals from criminals?), and whether Catwoman and/or Bane are simply darker reflections of who he might have been, had he gone down a different path.
If you can’t tell, this is the version of Selina Kyle/Catwoman I hope we get in the film.
The Villain’s Henchwoman
Early on, when many were speculating that Catwoman/Selina Kyle might be a part of Nolan’s third Batman film, there was an idea introduced that the main villain might have some kind of public persona (likely a powerful businessman who moonlights as a crime boss) and that Selina Kyle would be his personal assistant by day, while Catwoman would be his thieving henchwoman by night.
This depiction of the character would be somewhat different from the comics – but by now we all know that Nolan isn’t afraid to tweak the Batman rogues to suit his own vision. While I do find this scenario to be an interesting one (would Catwoman/Kyle come around to like Batman and help save his and/or Gotham’s bacon in the end?), it is also a scenario that has one major problem: Seeing Bruce Wayne flirt with a secretary version of Selina Kyle, while battling a mischievous henchwoman version of Catwoman is WAY too reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer’s role in Batman Returns for my – and likely many fans’ – liking.
Furthermore, depicting Catwoman as some kind of sidekick or secondary character is just as reductive as portraying Bane as some sort of mindless thug. Catwoman has always been (in my opinion) one of the better female characters in the comic book world – one that actually has brains and a feisty, independent feminist spirit to anchor her impossibly supple body and ridiculously skimpy tight outfits. Losing the spirit of her character in a film translation would be the real crime and I doubt many fanboys (and girls) would walk away satisfied.
Simply Selina Kyle
Look, Nolan has already pulled some clever tricks incorporating Batman’s rogues into his cinematic universe. Ra’s al Ghul made the cut by jettisoning all that supernatural Lazarus pit resurrection crap to focus on the core spirit of the character: a calculating villain with a misguided sense of justice who is basically a dark father figure for Bruce/Batman. While “Two-Face” was featured at the end of The Dark Knight, the bulk of the character’s core elements were explored through the depiction of Harvey Dent, more so than the scarred freak he became. The Joker was transformed into a criminal sociopath in wild makeup, instead of a guy who fell in a vat of acid and somehow survived with a perma-clown face. And, in my opinion, all those “new interpretations” turned out pretty well in the end.
I say all that to say: Nolan could, and very likely might, have a way of incorporating Selina Kyle into his Batman universe that doesn’t involve S&M outfits, bullwhips, purred speech (see what I did there?), or a cat named “Isis” able to circumvent high-end security systems. In other words, he might not deliver “Catwoman” as we understand the character from her previous onscreen or comic book incarnations.
To put this another way: having “Selina Kyle” dress up in a black thief’s outfit running around Gotham stealing things is not the same as having “Catwoman” in the film. As stated, the character of Selina Kyle has a long, rich history, and in keeping with the rules and boundaries of Nolan’s Batman universe, there’s no real need for her to go all kitsch with a ridiculous costume and cat theme. Portraying her as either an influential socialite, or the heir of a crime empire, or a master thief with her own personal motivations for stealing, would each be enough for the dramatic purposes of Dark Knight Rises, and none of them require a costume and codename that would likely look ridiculous in the context of Nolan’s Gotham City.
So for all those fans saying Anne Hathaway can’t pull off Catwoman: she doesn’t have to. All she needs to do is deliver a Selina Kyle we can be proud of and root for. And that’s as far as it needs to go.
That’s it for my breakdown: what version of “Selina Kyle” do think we’ll see in Dark Knight Rises? Do you think we’ll get a traditional “Catwoman” in the film, or something like cat-burglar thief who is more suited to the Nolan Batman universe?
The Dark Knight Rises in theaters on July 20, 2012.
Image Sources: Jim Lee (header), Frank Miller (Batman: Year One Panel), Adam Hughes (Faces of Selina Kyle & Selina Kyle mug shot), Wallpaper Junkie (Batman/Catwoman Image), Peter Nguyen (Selina Kyle panel)