Since winning her Best Actress Oscar in 2002, Halle Berry has played a Bond girl, a weather-controlling superhero, and a haunted psychiatrist. With ''Catwoman,'' she's back in superhero land -- a place she never thought she'd find herself again. ''I wasn't so much a fan of comic books growing up,'' Berry admits. ''But it's been a wonderful addition to my career, and as I've become a part of this world, I've certainly gotten more familiar [with it].''
Aside from a few peeks at Berry's belly-baring shredded-leather suit (a topic of much controversy on fansites), details on the reported $100 million production have been doled out like imported catnip. But here's what we do know: Berry plays Patience Philips, a graphic designer who tussles with her wickedly corrupt boss (Lambert Wilson) and his wife (Sharon Stone), brushes with death, and is then transformed into a superfeline femme. It all takes place sans Batman, in an unnamed 21st-century metropolis that is not Gotham City. Oh, yeah, and Benjamin Bratt plays her boyfriend.
For Berry, breaking from the DC Comics mythology (not to mention the 1960s ''Batman'' TV series and Tim Burton's 1992 ''Batman Returns'') was crucial. ''It's more 2004,'' she promises. ''More reflective of the times. And because [one-named director] Pitof comes from the world of visual effects'' -- his credits include visual-effects master on 1997's ''Alien Resurrection'' -- ''he has a stylized, sophisticated vision.'' Stone seconds the praise for the French newcomer: ''He's got a weird, impeccably executed, retro-futuristic, glamorous view,'' she says. ''The movie really looks as though you're looking through the eyes of a cat.'' In Berry's experience, that's one helluva perspective. ''When I put on that catsuit, I'm in touch with my power as a woman -- I'm reminded that I should use it more often.'' Meow!
THE GOOD NEWS A purrfectly kitty-licious flick could launch another franchise for Berry.
THE BAD NEWS Purists have already been slamming the movie's departure from traditional DC Comics story lines. And they are NOT lapping up that catsuit.