Out this month from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Catwoman: Hunted is far from Selina Kyle’s first solo foray into cinema. Halle Berry’s much-maligned turn as Catwoman, albeit under the guise of Patience Phillips, remains one of the most rejected entries into contemporary superhero canon. It’s good to report, then, that Catwoman’s latest solo adventure, a straight-to-video title in DC’s extensive animated output, is definitely a means for redemption for Catwoman.
Set outside of the continuity established by recent DC animated movies, Catwoman: Hunted follows Selina Kyle (excellently voiced by Elizabeth Gillies) as she works alongside Batwoman (a stone-voiced Stephanie Beatriz) and Interpol to take down the criminal syndicate Leviathan. The reward for her involvement, the promise of a ‘clean slate’. It’s not a groundbreaking concept by any means — Catwoman’s motivation is identical to that seen in The Dark Knight Rises — but it’s more than enough to give these characters room to breathe.
What’s more striking than the admittedly shallow plot, though, is Catwoman: Hunted‘s bold animation style. Rather than something akin to a Saturday-morning cartoon, this film adopts an anime style that’s completely loyal to its Japanese roots, no doubt aided by industry vet Shinsuke Terasawa in the director’s chair. The animation is at times stunning, with so much detail in closeups and some impressive 3D renders of car chases and other set pieces, but it’s oddly inconsistent. We’ll go from a closeup showing the glimmer in Kyle’s eye to a mid-range shot that’s much choppier, which is hard to justify. For a film clearly boasting a higher production budget than a lot of straight-to-DVD animation, the least you’d expect is for the lead character to be well drawn at all times.
Luckily, there’s enough going on to make sure Catwoman: Hunted still earns its place within DC animated canon. The roster of characters is so refreshing, with side-villains like Black Mask and Cheetah getting a more pronounced role than usual. There are some really deep cuts here too: a particular favourite is Nosferata, a vampire goon who adds some versatility to battles, and a Voltron-like mech. The film certainly embraces the liberation of the animated medium, using it to show off villains and scenarios that a live-action Catwoman movie simply couldn’t justify.
But at its core, the two female leads are what holds Catwoman: Hunted together. Both Cat and Bat women bounce off each other so well, with some hints at LGBTQ+ representation cleverly forecasted by screenwriter Greg Weisman. Catwoman’s the kind of loveable rogue willing to tempt and tease anybody to get what she wants, and Batwoman is no exception. Not only is their back-and-forth engaging, but when they fight alongside each other, it makes for some of the film’s most imaginatively choreographed and entertaining moments. It’s just a shame that our protagonist, as a character, is rather weakly established: we know the basics, but never learn her real motivations until the very end, in what feels like an afterthought.
Overall, Catwoman: Hunted is the first step on the path to redemption for a character whose cinematic history is patchy, to say the least. It proves that Selina Kyle can hold her own in a film, bouncing off other fan favourites and reinforcing the undeniable anti-heroic charm that has made her a mainstay in DC Comics. It’s not perfect, as she’s underwritten as a protagonist in a plot that’s equally a little weak, but it’s proof enough that Catwoman isn’t down for the count. With The Batman just around the corner, this could just be Catwoman’s best year yet.
Catwoman: Hunted is out on digital, DVD, and Blu-Ray on February 7, 2022.