In Catwoman: Hunted, Catwoman's attempt to steal a priceless jewel called the Cat's Eye is anything but routine and she becomes embroiled in the center of an international struggle between law enforcement agency Interpol and the villainous consortium Leviathan. Under the guise of agreeing to cooperate in exchange for having all warrants erased, Catwoman still has her eyes on the jewel for a surprising reason and all she has to do is stay alive and cross the finish line. As of the publishing of this review, it has not been revealed when the movie will stream on HBO Max but it is now out on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, and Digital since February 8, 2022, Catwoman: Hunted boasts a creative crew of director Shinsuke Terasawa, writer Greg Weisman, and producer Ethan Spaulding.
Catwoman: Hunted excels in that it doesn't lean into the usual super hero story of solving some mystery or saving the world, rather shifting into the heist movie genre that takes much influence and inspiration from classic anime like the action/comedy styling from carefree master thief Lupin III, the female-led classics from Hayao Miyazaki, Tsukasa Hojo Cat's Eye, and maybe even a little Cowboy Bebop. The title sequence, a jazz-centric score, and on the nose dialogue and acting all hearken back to a golden age of manga and anime. Rather than a nigh stakes comic book movie, Catwoman: Hunted entertains as a fun, light-hearted romp through the DC Universe.
Those in the know about Catwoman can instantly relate to the story opening on Selina Kyle infiltrating a swanky locale, getting into the vault, slipping past the impenetrable security grid, and nabbing a priceless jewel with a cat motif. However, the perfect crime is interrupted by a Batarang that sets off the alarms and Catwoman has to fight her way through a party made up of criminal guests of the super villain collective Leviathan. Catwoman comes to on one of Penguin's confiscated jets and to her chagrin, she's not alone. Batwoman and Interpol's Julia Pennyworth and King Faraday have an offer. Serve as a worm on a hook and give them an opening to take down Leviathan and all the various warrants on her across the planet go away. The conflict shifts from Spain to Shanghai to Paris. Naturally, Catwoman manages to survive every attempt on her life despite a lot of heavy hitters being thrown at her like Cheshire and Solomon Grundy and a surprise transformation from Lady Minerva. And crafty as ever, Catwoman manages to abscond with the Cat's Eye. Although the twist is Catwoman's goals were altruistic and plans to use the profits from her thefts to help a group of woman who were being trafficked by Leviathan start a new life.
The movie's run time is 79 minutes and it doesn't waste any real estate. Even the opening title sequence does more than its primary function, it introduces the music, tone, and theme of the movie as well as setting up the premise of Catwoman's arc. And if you somehow don't know much about Catwoman, her entrance to the costume party quickly sets things up for the audience without taking your hand and going step by step with you about who she is. While the heist story is a very small component of the movie, much like Lupin III and The Castle of Cogliostro, Catwoman: Hunted takes an interesting look at how Catwoman functions when she's thrust into something bigger than herself and the realization we had very little to worry about with our protagonist who ends up outsmarting everyone despite sometimes lacking the brawn and the resources that our antagonists have in spades. The pacing is never an issue. Act 1 is the heist, Act 2 is the operation, and Act 3 is revenge and the transitions are seamless. The ending leaves you wanting more and here's hoping Warner Bros. Animation has a sequel in their cross-hairs. Leaving more of the work with OLM in Japan, Catwoman: Hunted turned out to be a surprise love letter to classic anime thanks to the many individuals working under people like director Shinsuke Terasawa and composer Yutaka Yamada yet with some modern flourishes. Catwoman: Hunted's and its overall tone is a welcome breath of fresh air after a series of heavy stories like Injustice, Batman: The Long Halloween, and Justice Society: World War II. It is with hope that Warner Bros. Animation commits to more movies of Catwoman: Hunted's caliber that breaks away from the tried and true mold of stern and sternum.
The cast was an impressive gathering of who's who in Hollywood and yet they all click with each other like they've been doing this for years. Elizabeth Gillies is another in a long line of brilliant castings for the role of Catwoman. I admit I was coming off of the two part The Long Halloween and loving the late Naya Rivera's portrayal and wasn't ready to accept another actor's voice in that role. But as stubborn as I was about it, as soon as the movie played, Gillies instantly won me over. Hat tip to whoever thought of casting her in the role. Stephanie Beatriz playing the straight-laced foil in Batwoman fit like a glove if you have watched her past work on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And shame on me, but I knew she is British beforehand but after hearing Lauren Cohan playing American characters for the past couple years, I was still surprised in a good way to hear a more British sounding Julia Pennyworth. It was a bit of a shame we didn't get more scenes with Pennyworth and Jonathan Frakes's Faraday. It was also fun to hear some actors who have worked on Greg Weisman-led titles before like Keith David as Tobias Whale and Kelly Hu as Cheshire. Kirby Howell-Baptiste turned in a very unique and different take on Barbara Minerva, the big bad of this movie. One could even argue she is a bit of an amalgam of Minerva and the other Cheetah in the comics, Priscilla Rich. One thing that I really appreciated with this cast was how well they did banter with each other, despite what I assume were solo recordings in studio and at home.
The special features for the movie are sparse. If you are a long time fan of the DC animated movie lines, this wouldn't exactly come off as a revelation but unfortunately expected. "When The Hunter Becomes The Hunted" runs at 18 minutes and 57 seconds. After a brief overview of Catwoman, the real meat of the featurette are producer Ethan Spaulding and writer Greg Weisman's breakdown and analysis of Catwoman: Hunted. It's a sampling of what could have been an informative and illuminating commentary track for the entire movie. "Catwoman: The Feline Femme Fatale" runs at 39 minutes and 52 seconds and takes a selective look at Catwoman's history from her debut in comics to teasing her role in the upcoming live action movie "The Batman." The featurette is more for the indoctrinated who knew little to nothing about Catwoman, assuming such people exist. It is narrated by voice actor and actress Tara Strong and shifts between archival and new interviews with those who have portrayed Catwoman over the decades such as Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eartha Kitt, Anne Hathaway, and Zoe Kravitz, comic book creatives like Frank Miller, Jeph Loeb, Dan Didio, and Bob Kane, and production creatives like Bruce Timm and Christopher Nolan. The white elephant in the room when it comes to the special features is the absence of any behind the scenes making of the movie from the OLM animation crew in Japan or the making of the soundtrack with Yutaka Yamada.
"Catwoman: Hunted" is a highly recommended purchase. Despite a bare-bones offering of special features, the movie is a perfect love letter to Catwoman, anime from legends like Monkey Punch and Hayao Miyazaki, and the heist gone wrong genre, and is an exciting and refreshing new direction for the animated DC direct-to-video movie line.
Main Feature: 4 out of 5
Special Features: 2 out of 5
Overall Rating: 3 out of 5