New In Review: Catwoman: Hunted

Catwoman: Hunted is DC’s latest direct-to-video movie, written by Greg Weisman and directed by  Shinsuke Terasawa, it stars Elizabeth Gilles as Catwoman and Stephanie Beatriz as Batwoman. Rounding out the cast is Jonathan Banks, Keith David, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Lauren Cohen, Zerah Fazal, Kelly Hu, Steve Blum, Jaqueline Obradors, Andrew Kishino, Eric Lopez, Ron Yuan and Jonathan Frakes.

After stealing a priceless jewel, Selina Kyle a.k.a. Catwoman, finds herself on the hit list of a conglomerate of crime bosses known as “Leviathan.” Having been forced to team up with Kate Kane a.k.a. Batwoman and Interpol agents Julia Pennyworth (Cohen) and King Faraday (Frakes), Catwoman now has to help take down this cadre if she wants to avoid prison or death.

Catwoman: Hunted is unique, and not just because of its anime style in terms of animation and dialogue, but in its premise itself. Despite being one of the most renowned thieves in the DC Universe, Catwoman is generally tied solely to Gotham City and by extension, Batman. But neither the city nor the hero show up in this film, and why? Well as writer Greg Weisman put it:

“Well what we decided first of all, and we all agreed on this, was that we didn’t want Batman in the movie. He looms, as Batman is won’t to do, as a presence in everyone’s mind. But we thought that if we include Batman, it almost instantly stops being a Catwoman movie and becomes a Batman movie where she’s his foil or his opponent or his love interest or something like that, and we didn’t want that. We wanted this to be her movie. So decision #1 was he’s out.”

And that is a bold decision considering how close the two of them usually are, but I think this decision allows the movie to be more daring in its story approach. Without being tied down to one city or one guy, Catwoman is allowed to visit exotic locals like Paris or Shanghai and thus expand the world beyond the grit and grime of Gotham. And what we have is plenty of globetrotting action that wouldn’t feel out of place in the likes of Lupin III or Cowboy Bebop (the snazzy, jazz score by Yutaka Yamada helping in that regard).

Voice wise, Elizabeth Gilles gives a fine performance as Catwoman as every word is dripping with sensuality and playfulness. Even during the less stellar moments such as when Catwoman is narrating to herself or quipping to no one in particular, she still sounds like she’s having the time of her life. Stephanie Beatriz is a bit more stilted in her delivery as Batwoman but it works better when the character attempts to banter with Catwoman. As for the rest of the cast, Jonathan Banks does well as the gangster Black Mask and Kirby Howell-Baptiste brings plenty of menace as Barbara Minerva. The others are filled with plenty of mainstays from Greg’s other projects like Young Justice and even Gargoyles and all of them breezing through their roles with ease. The only sore spot would be Jonathan Frakes as King Faraday. Ordinarily a more grizzle veteran, here the character is designed as a younger, downright pretty boy agent and Frakes’ gravelly tones just don’t match.

Unfortunately, the film also loses a lot due to its shorter runtime of 75 minutes, there’s plenty of action but a little more time could’ve helped flesh out both the secondary protagonists and the main villains. But this sort of thing is sadly common with most of DC’s animated films.

In conclusion, while not perfect the film does offer plenty for DC fans. Both action and acting are solid and the story’s decision to step away from DC’s Holy Trinity of Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman makes this movie a flawed jewel among the pebbles.

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