HEAT VISION

'The Batman' and the Potential of Catwoman

No big-screen star has had the chance to complete a multifilm arc with the character, so could Zoe Kravitz be the first?
Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images; Joelle Jones/DC
No big-screen star has had the chance to complete a multifilm arc with the character, so could Zoe Kravitz be the first?

Batman won't be traversing the rooftops of Gotham City alone. Tuesday we learned that Zoe Kravitz has joined the cast of Matt Reeves' The Batman as Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman.

Kravitz joins the previously reported Robert Pattinson and Jeffrey Wright in the latest Batman reboot that will focus on the Dark Knight's detective skills as he's caught in a mystery involving a variety of his rogues gallery. While Reeves has been tight-lipped about his vision so far, the emphasis he's placed on The Batman as a grounded, noir-inspired, multicharacter mystery recalls Jeph Loeb's famed Batman storylines, The Long Halloween (1996), Dark Victory (1999) and Hush (2002), all of which prominently featured Catwoman. Following in the footsteps of the previous cinematic portrayals of Selina Kyle by Lee Meriwether, Michelle Pfeiffer and Anne Hathaway, Kravitz stands to bring something new to Batman's feline fiend and frequent love interest.

When it comes to Batman characters, Catwoman's history is as storied as the Caped Crusader himself. From her role in Batman-centric comics beginning with Batman No. 1 (1940), her own self-titled series, and as a member of the Gotham City Sirens, we've seen her undergo a variety of incarnations and straddle the lines of the law as adversary, antihero and Justice League-affiliated superhero, all of which have strengthened her connection to Batman as a mirror image within his long list of relationships.

And like Batman, there have been no shortage of excellent cinematic portrayals of the character in both television and film. Beyond the aforementioned cinematic ones, Batman's Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt, and Gotham's Camren Bicondova have all offered live-action portrayals of Selina, while Adrienne Barbeau, Gina Gershon, Eliza Dushku and Kravitz have all lent their voices to the character's numerous animated depictions.

Kravitz's position may seem like a challenge given all the various media portrayals, but much like Batman himself, Catwoman is greater than any one depiction. As popular as Catwoman is, no actress has ever had a chance to explore her role across multiple entries, something Kravitz will hopefully be able to do should The Batman lead to a new franchise.

So what is it that I hope to see from this new Catwoman, given the likelihood of her arc being spread across multiple films? Given The Batman will feature Bruce Wayne a few years into his career as Batman, it would make sense for Selina to be in the same position. We don't need an origin story. Instead it would be more interesting for Batman and Catwoman to already have a history, and the scars to show it.

One of the things that stands out about Kravitz's casting is that there is a worldliness to her, a sense of life experience without a shade of naivete. It's easy to imagine her Catwoman as well acquainted with the ins and outs of Gotham, with her own ties to the criminals like the Penguin and the Riddler. If Pfeiffer's Catwoman in Batman Returns (1992) was the supernatural seductress and Hathaway's in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) was the classic Hollywood femme fatale, Kravitz's casting suggests something more modern, closer to Hathaway's Selina but with an agenda far greater than clearing her criminal record and getting wealthy.

Returning to the Batman comics of Loeb, one of the most interesting aspects of his depiction of Catwoman is her tangled family history. While origins have been retconned and rewritten several times over, the one that would arguably be most fascinating to see on film is the one in which she is the illegitimate daughter of mob boss Carmine Falcone. Falcone, who previously showed up in Batman Begins (2005) where he was portrayed by Tom Wilkinson, could theoretically have a role in The Batman.

So how would the confirmed characters of Riddler and Penguin connect to the rumored Falcone and recently cast Catwoman? When it comes to Gotham's transition from organized crime to freaks and supervillains, the beginnings of which was explored in Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli's Batman: Year One (1987), Penguin is often utilized as that bridge. Knowing that he's going to be in the movie, it wouldn't be surprising if the character makes a play for Falcone's territory and employs Catwoman to help him by letting her in on her secret parentage, information obtained by the Riddler. While this plot wouldn't be a direct adaptation of any of Loeb's work, the bones and inspiration for such a story exist in The Long Halloween, Dark Victory and the bridging comic series Catwoman: When in Rome (2004), all of which Loeb did with artist Tim Sale. And Riddler's arc across these stories set him on the path to discovering Batman's identity, right after it was revealed to Catwoman in Loeb and Jim Lee's Batman: Hush, which feels tailor-made for an eventual big-screen adaptation.

Should the familial ties of Loeb's depiction of Catwoman make their way into The Batman, there's also room for Catwoman's role to grow beyond that of vigilante cat-burglar. In the yearlong maxiseries Batman Eternal (2014), headed by Scott Snyder, Selina was given another shift in her origin when it was revealed she was not the daughter of Carmine Falcone but his mafia predecessor and rival, Rex Calabrese. With her newfound namesake, Selina took over the remnants of the Calabrese crime family and became a new power in Gotham City's underworld. The Batman could easily simplify this storyline with Selina being the daughter of Falcone and double-crossing Penguin to assert herself as leader of a new criminal empire.

With characters like Catwoman, who's been around for so long, there is always a desire to bring something new to the table. We've seen Batman and Catwoman chasing each other across rooftops before. It's iconic and a good start. But Kravitz has it in her to play on more than familiar beats, and her casting suggests something other than the traditional route. To see Selina's transition from Catwoman to crime boss would allow a new avenue of Bat and Cat's relationship to be explored onscreen, and would ensure that Kravitz's Catwoman could sustain an arc as lengthy and memorable as Batman himself.

  • Richard Newby
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