Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

Oh man, Anne Hathaway....what a performance!

She definitely made me eat my words come movie time. I had been critical of her casting up until then. Not that I didn’t think she was talented as an actress, but for some reason I just didn’t ‘see it’. I imagined Kate Beckinsale or some other action heroine in that part.

Just a few minutes before I went into the theater for The Dark Knight Rises, a stray thought crossed my mind. I had been skeptical of Heath Ledger playing the Joker. And look how that turned out, right?

Roughly three hours later, I was floored by what I had seen. I mean, she had such RANGE in that part! I couldn’t have asked for someone better to bring that character to life.

I think most people will give her credit as having given a stellar performance. But I worry they won’t realize just HOW good it was.

Consider this: a lot of comic book films are kind of amalgams of different storylines and eras of a character’s development. Batman Begins draws a bit from Batman: Year One. I think there are actually bits and pieces from Batman: The Long Halloween in The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises is really an incredible homage to The Dark Knight Returns and Knightfall, among others.

Like a lot of iconic DC characters, Selina Kyle has been given the revamp and the makeover more often than not in the last seventy years. If you didn’t know her origin story going into the movie, don’t be too surprised…there’s a lot of conflicting ‘takes’ on Selina out there.

What blows me away about Hathaway’s performance is that she portrays the character at so many different points in Catwoman’s evolution and she stays convincing every step of the way. Actually, if you’re really paying attention you actually WATCH seventy years’ worth of character development happen over the course of the movie. But it doesn’t feel forced or unnatural. It feels like everything you see is just different facets of the same character.

At different times in comic book history (and in the film itself), Catwoman has been:

1. A jewel thief who relies on feminine charm, natural agility, and guile to get what she wants- mostly from men.

2. A ‘hooker with a heart of gold.' Her criminal upbringing and lifestyle kind of puts her at natural odds with Batman, but she’s really just doing what she has to to survive. This is all Frank Miller’s doing.

If you ask me, that guy with the knife outside of Selina’s apartment, demanding his money seems very pimpish to me. I like to think that this version of Selina looks out for number one but has a soft spot for the underdogs and those who have been taken advantage of.

3. A hardcore anti-hero. Eventually, Catowman started to star in her own solo books independent of Batman. She’s on the wrong side of the law, but it’s all been more of a mistake than her choice. Selina is in deep and looking for a way out, but she isn’t going to just turn herself over to the cops either.

She’s tough and she doesn’t rely on anyone--not even Batman--to ‘fix’ things for her. Her ethics are a bit flexible, but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad person. She’s just willing to do bad things because, hey, life’s tough.

4. A wild card that Batman can never trust (completely). Sometimes, Selina’s best trick has been to make it SEEM like she was Batman’s ally when, in fact, she’s been plotting his downfall. Their relationship is fraught with mutual animosity.

Selina knows things about the criminal underworld Batman needs to know, and this buys here a bit of amnesty. But Selina knows the Dark Knight could put her behind bars and might just let Batman trip himself up if he isn’t careful…

5. A jaded, but loyal, ally. She doesn’t always see eye to eye with Batman and has a much more pessimistic view of the world than him, but at the end of the day, Selina Kyle has done a lot more good than bad and has actually saved the caped crusader’s life on a few occasions. In fact, getting on board with the Batman program might just save Selina’s soul.

6. Bruce Wayne’s lover. And, strangely, maybe the best match for him. She’s an orphan who knows quite a few things about committing, and stopping, crime. She might be one of the only women who really understand him.

I’m not saying any one of these facets of Miss Kyle is more ‘right’ than any other. In fact, I think one of Catwoman’s appeals as a character is that you never quite KNOW where she’s coming from and why she’s doing what she’s doing. She’s a bit of a perpetual mystery and that’s what Catwoman and Batman fans love about her.

My point is just this. Doesn’t Hathaway do every version of Catwoman in there, somewhere? And did you even stop to consider it? It all seemed seamless. I have to say I’m really impressed.

She’s outdone herself here and really brought a timeless character into action. Given the somewhat fractured nature of DC’s timelines, that was probably harder work than we know, but she made it look so easy.