Available to buy on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 7th February 2022, with the digital edition available the day after, is the latest entry in the DC Universe Animated Original Movies collection. The title is Catwoman: Hunted – a comic book caper in which Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, crosses paths with a deadly crime syndicate.
In the movie, Selina gate-crashes a costume ball hosted by Barbara Minerva. The event is a fancy soirée, attended by numerous movers and shakers, including Black Mask, who Selina uses to help her gain entry.
But once inside the party, Selina has little care for canapés and conversation, as she has her eyes set on something far more appealing – a precious jewel, known as the Cat’s Eye Emerald. After locating the stone in Minerva’s mansion, she promptly steals it, incurring the wrath of the party host in the process.
A chase ensues, and although Selina manages to evade her pursuers, she doesn’t escape entirely and is captured by Batwoman. But Batwoman isn’t looking to punish Selina, she is instead keen to enlist her assistance.
Batwoman is working with Interpol agents who are attempting to bring down a crime cabal known as Leviathan. They believe that with Catwoman’s help they can get to the heart of Leviathan, which ultimately means taking out its head honcho: Barbara Minerva.
Catwoman: Hunted features the voice talents of Elizabeth Gillies, Stephanie Beatriz, Keith David, Jonathan Frakes, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, Lauren Cohan, and Jonathan Banks. The movie is directed by Shinsuke Terasawa, and is an anime-inspired feature, big on action and high on adventure.
In terms of the art style, the colour palette, and the general presentation, Catwoman: Hunted is a slick-looking movie. Just a quick glance is enough to showcase its bold character designs and fluid animation, and it is easy to see where its strengths lie.
But look beyond a passing glance, and spend some time with the feature, and its flaws begin to surface. While Catwoman: Hunted has plenty going for it, the movie doesn’t quite work the way it would like, and the whole thing feels less than the sum of its parts.
The biggest issue with Catwoman: Hunted is the film’s penchant for action over story. Action scenes are great, and every comic book movie should have them, but there needs to be a good balance.
The fight sequences in Catwoman: Hunted are relentless – exhausting in fact. As soon as one is over, another one quickly pops up, and this becomes the template for the entire picture.
These scenes are well choreographed, with Selina Kyle getting to display some fine acrobatics, but they seem to largely exist in lieu of a decent narrative. Remove these action scenes from the movie, and there is barely anything left.
Because of this desire to focus so much attention on battles and brawls, watching Catwoman: Hunted soon moves from being a joy, to becoming something of a chore. Boredom sets in, and the whole thing quickly descends into a collection of set pieces and nothing more.
The other main stumbling block that Catwoman: Hunted struggles with, is its continual use of non-essential dialogue. What I mean by this is the film seems to have an obsession with Selina constantly talking when she really doesn’t need to.
This isn’t a dig at voice actor Elizabeth Gillies, who is great in the role of Selina, it’s more the fault of the script, which is overstuffed with lines that simply aren’t required. Selina’s dialogue seems never-ending, with the character muttering to herself continually, often just for the sake of it.
Once again, the focus on dialogue comes at the expense of the story, and there seems to be this strange belief that having Selina constantly tell the audience how seductive or playful she is will make up for the paper-thin plot. For the record: It doesn’t.
Gillies must have got fairly tired reading and speaking all these lines. I certainly got tired listening to them all.
By the time the movie reached its conclusion, I just wanted a bit of peace and quiet. Although, in all honesty, I would have happily taken some of that peace and quiet twenty-minutes earlier, during another action sequence that introduced Solomon Grundy – a character who repeated the same lines over, and over again.
And yes, as a comic book nerd, I am aware that Grundy has limited dialogue in general (don’t come for me, Grundy fans), but just because a character has a minimal vocabulary, this isn’t an excuse to repeat the same sodding lines! In the words of musicians Keith Whitley, Alison Krauss, and Ronan Keating, ‘you say it best, when you say nothing at all’.
So, yes, Catwoman: Hunted has problems, and for me, these problems are enough to say this film doesn’t quite land. It certainly tries, and has its moments, but it doesn’t pull off what it is intending to do.
For a picture that is less than 80 minutes long, Catwoman: Hunted also runs out of steam far too quickly. Once again, this is largely connected to the lack of story.
But if you are willing to look past all of this, then the animation is sure to impress and the cast of characters will no doubt offer a nice alternative to the default cast seen in every other DC animated movie. For example, there is no Superman or Batman in this movie, nor is there a Joker or Harley Quinn, instead the film serves up the likes of Cheshire, Julia Pennyworth, La Dama, and Tobias Whale.
If you didn’t have to Google the names of these characters, well done. But I expect most non-comic book fans will be unfamiliar with these players, and this means that at the very least Catwoman: Hunted brings something fresh to the table.
I should also add the film has an enjoyable jazz-infused score from Yutaka Yamada, as well as a neat little title sequence, which opens the movie. Both capture the ‘60s crime caper vibe that I believe the film is aiming for, with the music in particular being a real highlight.
Overall, there are parts of Catwoman: Hunted that I like and I can see what the movie is trying to do, but it just didn’t work for me. It is watchable, even enjoyable at times, but it all feels rather hollow and it left me disinterested long before the credits rolled.
I expect this movie is most likely to appeal to a younger demographic, possibly around the 15+ mark, who watch plenty of anime. But there is much stronger anime out there, so how much traction this film gets from a younger audience is very much open for debate.
Ultimately, Catwoman: Hunted has good intentions and it isn’t terrible, it just doesn’t quite work. Fine in small doses, just don’t expect to feel satisfied by the whole thing.