Between 1989 and 1997, Warner Bros. Pictures produced four live-action Batman movies: Batman (1989), Batman Returns (1992), Batman Forever (1995) and Batman & Robin (1997). The first two movies in the series were directed by Tim Burton, while the last two were directed by Joel Schumacher.
Sometimes referred to as the Burtonverse (named after Tim Burton), sometimes the Burton/Schumacher movies, the films are more commonly known as the Batman Anthology. The general understanding is that there are four films in this anthology and when it comes to home video, they are often packaged up together.
But are these four films the only entries in the Batman Anthology? What about the 2004 movie, Catwoman?
Catwoman is often seen as a standalone tale, but is it connected to the other films? Is Catwoman connected to the Batman Anthology?
Is Catwoman connected to Batman Returns?
Although it was released in 2004, the live-action Catwoman movie was originally conceived as a spin-off of Batman Returns. The project was initially designed as a solo movie for Michelle Pfeiffer, who played the role of Selina Kyle/Catwoman in Batman Returns.
When it was initially conceived, Tim Burton showed some interest in the project, as did Michelle Pfeiffer, and Batman Returns writer Daniel Waters worked on a script. The plan was to turn Catwoman into a side story – but it didn’t pan out as planned.
Waters’ script was handed in on the day that Batman Forever opened in cinemas and it proved to be a case of bad timing. Batman Forever took the Batman movie series in a new direction and the Catwoman script didn’t quite match up to what Warner Bros. Pictures now wanted from a Catwoman movie.
The film entered development hell and over the course of time, Burton dropped out of the project along with Pfeiffer. Without a director and star, the movie remained in development hell for over a decade, with Warner Bros. unsure of what to do about the picture.
Over the years, the script went through various rewrites, while replacement actresses came and went. Finally, a director was found in the shape of Pitof, and Halle Berry was cast as the title character, allowing the project to move forward.
When Catwoman finally went into production, it was no longer the Batman Returns spin-off that had been envisioned. The movie was radically different from its original idea and featured a completely different protagonist – Patience Phillips was now the alter-ego of Catwoman instead of Selina Kyle.
Not only was Selina Kyle no longer the Catwoman of the movie, but neither Bruce Wayne nor Batman were to be seen or mentioned in the film either. The same went for Gotham City, which was not referenced or referred to in the picture.
To the casual viewer, when Catwoman opened in cinemas in 2004 there was no link between the movie and Batman Returns. The film was about a completely different character, in a different location, with a story that made no reference to the Caped Crusader or any of the events of Batman Returns or even Batman.
So, on this basis Catwoman is not part of the Batman Anthology, right?
Well, here is where things fall into a grey area. There are some loose connections which suggest it could be linked.
While Catwoman and Batman Returns feature different Catwomen, both Selina Kyle and Patience Phillips receive their abilities in a similar way.
In Batman Returns, Selina Kyle is pushed out of a window and left for dead, only for a collection of alley cats to revive her and through supernatural means transform her into Catwoman.
In Catwoman, Patience Phillips is drowned and left for dead, only for an Egyptian cat to revive her and through supernatural means transform her into Catwoman.
Similar origins, with a few tweaks.
Prior to Selina Kyle’s transformation into Catwoman, the character is a meek individual, who is subservient to her tyrannical boss. Post transformation, Kyle becomes more body confident (wearing a figure-hugging outfit in the process), and seeks revenge on her boss.
Prior to Phillips’ transformation, the character is meek, and also works for a tyrannical boss. Post transformation, Phillips becomes more body confident and she seeks justice from her boss.
The characteristics between the two Catwomen are very similar. Not the same, but similar.
Both the supernatural rebirth and the pre/post-transformation characteristics suggest that the two Catwomen do have a connection of sorts. This is further explored in Catwoman when it is established that Patience Phillips is part of a long-line of ‘cat women’.
In a blink-and-you’ll-miss it moment, one of the Catwomen that Phillips is linked to (spiritually) is seen to be Selina Kyle. A photograph of Kyle is featured in the movie as a nod to her character and it can be taken that she lives in the same timeline.
So, if Selina Kyle is included in Catwoman, surely this means Catwoman is part of the Batman Anthology, right?
Yes and no.
Kyle’s inclusion can be taken one of two ways. On the one hand it can be a clear indication that the film is linked to a wider world of Batman movies, while on the other it can be viewed simply as an in-joke to the audience – a sort of ‘tip of the hat’ to Pfeiffer’s iconic character.
Ultimately, it is up to the audience to decide where Catwoman sits in the pantheon of DC/Batman movies. Warner Bros. Pictures has never made a specific comment to make it clear if the movie is part of the Batman Anthology or its own separate universe, and that means the audience is left to decide.
If you want to watch the Batman Anthology and include Catwoman as part of the same universe, then that is fine. Should you prefer to exclude it and see the Batman Anthology as four movies only, then that is also fine. The choice is yours.