Halle Berry would like to set a few things straight: ''Catwoman'' has nothing to do with the ''Batman'' franchise (no Bruce Wayne, no Gotham City) and features a feline femme who bears no relation to Michelle Pfeiffer's Selina Kyle -- or, for that matter, Julie Newmar's or Eartha Kitt's. This is an entirely new legend (a shrewd business decision, since Warner Bros. is working on a separate ''Batman'' revival). ''We're not saying this is Catwoman,'' Berry explains. ''I'm my own incarnation, not to be compared to the others.'' Still, the Oscar winner and veteran comic-book heroine (she's ''X-Men'''s Storm) had misgivings about going feral. ''I was nervous [about] living up to the women who have played her before. That's what I struggled with -- if I couldn't bring anything different, then why do it?'' So what does she contribute? ''There have been other Catwomen who were real actresses, but [none with] the depth of soul and spirit that Halle has,'' says Sharon Stone, who joins the meow mix as the scheming wife of a cosmetics mogul. ''Halle doesn't do anything without giving her own pathos and meaning. She's the real deal.''
Directed by mono-monikered French newcomer Pitof, this reported $100 million ''Catwoman'' tells the tail -- er, tale -- of meek graphic designer Patience Philips (Berry), who, after tussling with her boss (''The Matrix Reloaded'''s Lambert Wilson), finds herself endowed with superkitty abilities. ''The concept is to [give] the character powers, but make her as [normal] as possible so we can relate to her,'' explains Pitof, who got his first taste of Hollywood in 1997 as visual-effects supervisor on ''Alien Resurrection.'' ''She's not [totally] superhuman. She can jump, she can see at night, she has enhanced hearing, and she's very fast.'' All of which she uses to enthrall her badge-wearing beau (Benjamin Bratt) and lick her enemies, specifically a certain blonde who is no stranger to playing the bad kitty. ''There will be a big fight between the delicious little pussycats,'' reveals Stone. And Berry's stealthy creature doesn't just claw and pounce: She practices a form of Brazilian martial arts called capoeira, and -- hold on to your hair balls -- even prances. ''It's definitely more edgy, more reflective of the times,'' promises Berry. ''We just shot a dance scene that is really exciting. She's in touch with her sexuality, thinking 'Damn! I look good! I should enjoy this!' Catwoman is all about self-empowerment.'' That, and belly-baring leather suits.