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)