The best Batman villain in the movies isn’t Joker, it’s Catwoman

The best Batman villain in the movies isn’t Joker, it’s Catwoman

Every cinematic incarnation of Batman seems to agree on one thing: The Caped Crusader’s most significant and friendly adversary is the Joker. Various Batman-related films have expressed this in different ways over the years. 1989s Batman immediately cast megastar Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Christopher Nolan Batman Begins as well as The Dark Knight use the Joker as the film’s final teaser in preparation for the highly anticipated sequel. 2016 Suicide Squad gives him a demo cameo to lure viewers into another subseries. And 2019 Joker gives it its own autonomous, continuous function. Even when the character is not in the spotlight, he seems big. In 2022 BatmanThe Riddler leans heavily on the Joker play, even though the film hints that the original maniac may be biding his time for a sequel.

But even how Batman Another Joker appears running around Gotham, this helps to find a completely different member of Batman’s gallery of rogues. In fact, when director Matt Reeves lets fans indulge a bit with the Joker, he only makes it clear that the weird man in the other costume is actually more vital to these films. This is Catwoman.


Fans who primarily know Catwoman from the movies may not even consider her a villain. (Or as Catwoman. Only 1992s Batman Returns and 2004 Catwoman do call her by her famous nickname. In most Batman films, she plays her alter ego, Selina Kyle.) Batman completes the gradual progress that Selina has followed onscreen from the unpredictable, sometimes Penguin-allied version of Michelle Pfeiffer to returns to a self-serving, briefly associated with Bane version of Anne Hathaway in 2012 Rise of the dark knight and finally Zoë Kravitz’s secret avenger Batman, where she is as vengeful as the Bat, who warns her of the moral quagmire of dispensing fatal justice. In the newest movie, she looks more like a wild card than a bad guy. All the people she wants to rob are worse rascals than she is, and they probably deserve more than what they get from her.

This evolution didn’t follow the same version of Selina Kyle, and the development of the character over time doesn’t necessarily mean that Kravitz’s version is better than the ones that came before. But Batman goes on to prove that Catwoman completes and complicates Batman’s character in a way that the Joker doesn’t always manage to do.

Batman was a big-budget series

It’s been that way for almost as long as Batman was a big-budget series. 1989 Tim Burton blockbuster. Batman was traded for his big showdown between Jack Nicholson’s Joker and upstart Michael Keaton playing the endearingly weird, low-key Batman. It’s a Batman movie where the guy playing the Joker gets more money than Batman. However, perhaps because the film messes with the origins of both characters, their symbiosis seems far-fetched. In pre-clown days, the Joker “created” Batman by killing Bruce Wayne’s parents. (Why did the dapper young career criminal quickly attack the robbers? But the Joker claims that Batman “created” him by letting him fall into a vat of chemicals during a fight. (Only the Joker was already a random killer, and the acid apparently just added to his personal recipe a bit of maniacal self-pity and nihilism.)

Catwoman, however, does a much more convincing portrayal of Batman in Burton’s sequel. Batman Returns. The entire film is a more successful house of cracked mirrors: Oswald Cobblepot/Penguin (Danny DeVito) is a rich kid, like Bruce Wayne, separated from his parents because of their cruelty, not the cruelty of fate. Meanwhile, Selina (Michelle Pfeiffer) belongs to an oppressed underclass, works for wealthy industrialist Max Schreck (Christopher Walken), and is so meek that her self-loathing shows through when she calls herself “doggy”. (She can’t even muster the courage to swear to herself.) She mirrors Bruce Wayne/Batman through her newfound Catwoman persona, which she uses to escape instead of restoring order to the city. While the Penguin is a memorable Wayne-esque grotesque version of the offspring, it’s Catwoman who brings out the turmoil that Batman has inside.


Pfeiffer game like Heath Ledger’s The Dark Knight trilogy, goes beyond its talented counterparts, and sometimes beyond what was available in the pages of the comics. One of her best scenes is itself a mirror: after Burton shows Selina doing her lonely evening routine, he repeats the scene after she “dies” and “is resurrected”. (The details of this remain remarkably, impressionistically obscure.) After her transformation, Selina instinctively returns to her apartment and attempts her usual movements, then breaks free and destroys what is in front of her. In the heat that gets the better of her, she turns an old vinyl jacket into a second skin and is reborn as Catwoman.

It’s a more harrowing piece of operatic anguish than almost anything else in a superhero movie, and it echoes in the background of subsequent scenes where Pfeiffer jokes and quips. Despite Selina’s amazing sewing skills, the jagged seams of her psyche continue to tear, which Burton visualizes at the film’s climax when both she and Bruce Wayne are half out of their costumes, wanting to open up if that means getting what they want. want.


For Selina, this is revenge. For Bruce, it’s Selina. Two characters meet during Batman Returns, both are unaware of each other’s costumes for most of the film. The intertwining of their stories never reduces Selina to a mere love interest, it only makes her bad behavior as Catwoman personal and inseparable from Batman’s life, which was never the case in the Batman/Joker melodrama of the earlier film. Jack Nicholson’s Joker does “unpredictable” things that basically read like an actor’s gimmick: fun without the complexity of his best work. Pfeiffer, so funny, brash and full of pain, keeps Batman (and viewers) guessing until the very end.

Selina Kyle can’t take on the Joker so neatly in a Christopher Nolan movie. The Dark Knight trilogy. The Heath Ledger version of the character became the final cut of the film for good reason. This is amazing work. However, Anne Hathaway’s role as Selina Kyle is arguably just as important in the trilogy’s overall arc, if not more so. Rise of the dark knightthe part of the trilogy in which she is featured is the only Batman sequel to date to offer a meaningful and satisfying conclusion to her, and the tentative relationship she shares with Christian Bale’s Bruce Wayne is a big part of pitching for a touching landing. .


Unlike the Joker, Nolan’s Catwoman is not about chaos. Unlike various mafiosi or members of the League of Shadows, she does not pursue power. This Catwoman steals as part of an exit strategy, which Bruce doesn’t have, and stubbornly refuses to develop throughout the film. (Even though he starts it off as basically a retired recluse.) Selina has a better understanding of the frustrations about inequality in Gotham and how it will continue to fuel unrest even as the crime rate drops. She also, ironically, tells Bruce Wayne that he doesn’t owe his city anything.

While the movie may not agree that her points are the same – at least Nolan may feel that Bruce can give the city a little more, whether he owes him something or not – Gotham City can’t rely on the actions of one person. And this man needs an escape plan, especially if he wants other people to continue his work someday. This is in stark contrast to the trilogy’s version of the Joker, who is last seen musing about how he thinks his conflict with Batman is destined to continue “forever”. This idea of ​​their eternal struggle fits the comics. But was it caused by Ledger’s death or was Nolan just interpreting Batman’s fate differently, The Dark Knight Rises gives up Bruce’s future with the Joker in favor of his future with Selina.

Selina Hathaway

Selina Hathaway seems more selfish than truly evil, but she does sell out Batman to Bane. On the other hand, almost everything Selina Kravitz does in Batman pretty cute. Her “crimes” include investigating the disappearance of her friend (or girlfriend?), seeking revenge on her murderous father, and stealing from the mob. It’s fair to say that this Catwoman doesn’t belong to the same police force as the Penguin or the Riddler.

But that moral ambiguity – gray and black shadows where costumed vigilantes hang out – will probably always be a part of modern Batman stories, so it makes sense not to focus on Catwoman as a hardened criminal. (A similar change worked for Harley Quinn, who has also been a more interesting movie character over the past decade than the Joker.) can break that barrier, and Kravitz’s screen heat with the new Batman Robert Pattinson does just that, if only briefly. In the film, where Alfred is sidelined and James Gordon continues to refer to his troublesome ally as a “man”, Selina Kyle demonstrates several important moments of genuine emotional intimacy while humanizing a particularly grim Batman. If the continuation is not called Bat and catas the movie itself practically suggests, something went wrong.


This newest Catwoman also comes at a time when many of Marvel’s biggest superhero movies seem more reluctant than ever to portray romantic relationships or even sensual chemistry. Marvel executives are afraid of alienating international audiences and younger viewers or giving rise to accusations of sexism. The masculine nature of so many superhero stories often means that the cinematic Catwomen (sometimes the only main female characters in the respective films) must fulfill multiple roles simultaneously: part femme fatale, part genuine love interest, part friend. But it also gives Catwoman a dimension that her more virtuous or more manic counterparts don’t often get.

Catwoman certainly doesn’t need to be defined by her relationships with the various Batmans. She could easily support a solo film, and in 2004 Catwoman with Halle Berry (playing a character named Patience Phillips, not Selina Kyle) seems to be the exception that proves the rule. It has almost nothing to do with Batman on a narrative level, but its main problem is that it is a simultaneous fake of the entire previous series of Batman films: this Catwoman has a chemically close origin (like the Joker in Batman), animated by cats (like Selina in Batman Returns), and populates a world of cartoonish brilliance and crazy angles (like in Joel Schumacher’s Batman films).

Todd Phillips

Keep in mind, however, that Todd Phillips in 2019 Joker equally thieving: it’s just more pretentious to rip off much better films like King of Comedy as well as Taxi driver. Joker ends up leading the Wayne family to their demise, indirectly resurrecting the same clumsy symbiosis as in 1989. Batman. The Joker is a great villain, but from a cinematic standpoint, has he really come up with a real surprise since then? The Dark Knight? For all it takes for Catwoman to be a villain who isn’t all that bad, play a love interest for a character who can’t fully commit to love, fight equally with and against Batman to parallel his journey. heroes. and offer him another path – she keeps finding ways to sneak into these Batman movies and steal them. Rococo psychos come and go, but Catwoman is irreplaceable.

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