Release Date(s)2022 (February 8, 2022)
Studio(s)Warner Bros Animation/DC Entertainment (Warner Home Video)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: B+
Catwoman: Hunted is the latest direct-to-video film in the DC Animated Universe. While the actual animation in the DCAU has been farmed out overseas ever since Batman: The Animated Series, Catwoman: Hunted is one of a handful of their productions that openly embraces the style of Japanese animation. With its abundant energy, irreverent attitude, and jazzy score, it feels like a riff on Cowboy Bebop, minus the deeper mythology that lay beneath the surface of that show. Catwoman: Hunted is mostly about those surface textures, so it’s still entertaining, if a bit less consequential.
The script from Greg Weisman has Catwoman (Elizabeth Gillies) trying to steal the Cat’s Eye Emerald during a party hosted by Barbara Minerva (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), which puts her in the firing line of the shadowy Leviathan organization. It also puts her in the path of Interpol as well as Batwoman (Stephanie Beatriz), who coerce her into working for them to stop Leviathan. Along the way, she has to fight off a gauntlet that includes Black Mask (Jonathan Banks), Tobias Whale (Keith David), Cheshire (Kelly Hu), and Solomon Grundy (Steve Blum), along with an unsurprising appearance by Minerva’s alter ego Cheetah. Yet there’s more to Leviathan than meets the eye, and needless to say, Catwoman has a few tricks of her own up her sleeves.
The story is primarily an excuse to string together a series of action scenes, and also some non-stop quips from Catwoman. Those action scenes are reasonably well-staged by veteran anime director Shinsuke Terasawa, and Gillies gives a suitably sultry vocal performance. Stephanie Beatriz can be a bit off-putting as Batwoman, but the rest of the cast is more suitable for their respective roles—it’s always impossible to find fault with Keith David as pretty much anything. Like most DCAU productions, Catwoman: Hunted runs a breezy 79 minutes, so it never has a chance to wear out its welcome. It may be shallow, but it’s fun, and sometimes that’s enough.
Catwoman: Hunted was rendered digitally at 2K resolution using a combination of 2D and 3D animation (with the latter being used primarily for vehicles and backgrounds) at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. For this Ultra HD release, the 2K DI was upscaled to 4K and graded for HDR (only HDR10 is included on the disc). While there aren’t any real improvements in the fine detail compared to the Blu-ray, the UHD format’s increased bit rate and 10-bit color space means that there are less artifacts like banding in the image—something that has plagued many DCAU Blu-rays. The bit rate isn’t maxed out, but it does run high enough to reduce theses issues. The HDR grade offers a bit more refined color with subtler gradations, but this wasn’t designed to be a bright and vivid film. The HDR doesn’t expand the contrast range significantly, as much of the film was given a deliberately diffuse lighting style that flattens the contrast and adds a subtle glow (think Geoffrey Unsworth’s cinematography for Superman: The Movie). While this UHD isn’t a dramatic upgrade over the Blu-ray, it still offers a few advantages.
Audio is offered in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and French & Spanish Dolby Digital, with optional English SDH, French, and Spanish subtitles. The 5.1 mix isn’t particularly aggressive, though there are some directionalized effects during the action scenes. The real winner is the superb score by Yutaka Yamada, which is the engine that drives the film more than any amount of sound effects possibly could. His music gives the film a propulsive energy even when the visuals are relatively static.
The Warner Bros 4K Ultra HD release of Catwoman: Hunted is a 2-Disc set that includes a Blu-ray copy of the film, a slipcover, and a Digital code on a paper insert. The extras are available on the Blu-ray only, both in HD:
- When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted (18:57)
- Catwoman: The Feline Femme Fatale (39:52)
When the Hunter Becomes the Hunted briefly examines what sets Catwoman apart from the rest of Batman’s rogue gallery, featuring interviews with writer/artists Jeph Loeb, James Tynion IV, and Joelle Jones, before settling into Catwoman: Hunted. Writer Greg Weisman, producers Michael Uslan & Ethan Spaulding, and casting/voice director Jamie Thomason discuss how the character is presented in the film, and also explain the ways that anime influenced the design work. Catwoman: The Feline Femme Fatale is a comprehensive look at the history of the character, tracing the parallel development of the comic book and onscreen versions. It features new and archival interviews with a variety of writers, directors, and creators such as Bob Kane, Alex Ross, Frank Miller, Bruce Timm, Paul Dini, Tim Burton, Daniel Waters, Christopher Nolan, Matt Reeves, and many, many more. It also features interviews with a wide selection of actors who have played the part, including Julie Newmar, Lee Meriwether, Eartha Kitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, Adrienne Barbeau, Halle Berry, Anne Hathaway, Camren Bicondova, and Zoe Kravitz. It’s narrated by veteran voice actor Tara Strong, who has spent her own share of time in the DCAU voicing characters like Barbara Gordon/Batgirl.
Both of these featurettes were directed by Constantine Nasr, and he offers a good reminder of why quality often triumphs over quantity. Better to have only a few thoughtful extras like these instead of hours of unedited static “talking head” interviews. Catwoman: Hunted is enjoyable enough on its own, but the addition of an extra like The Feline Femme Fatale makes it an easy recommendation for both fans of DC in general, and the DCAU in particular.
- Stephen Bjork