Anne HathawaySame Bat-time; same Bat-channel; brand-new casting scoop! In case you hadn't heard, mild-mannered Anne Hathaway has landed the role of Selina Kyle (AKA the feline femme fatale, Catwoman, in the comics) in Christopher Nolan's latest opus, 'The Dark Knight Rises.'

She'll be joining Christian Bale and Moviefone's Breakout Star of 2010, Tom Hardy (who will assume the role of the musclebound convict, Bane) for the threequel, which is scheduled to open on July 20, 2012.

Hathaway is the latest in a long line of ladies to slip into Catwoman's skintight catsuit for the silver screen, and early reactions to the casting news seem decidedly mixed. How does the 'Love and Other Drugs' star measure up to her most famous movie predecessors, Michelle Pfeiffer and Halle Berry? Join us after the jump for a "catfight" of epic proportions.
While the iconic character of Catwoman has seen many iterations on both the big and small screen, (she was notably portrayed by Julie Newmar, Eartha Kitt and Lee Meriwether in the '60s 'Batman' series and its spin-offs) it is the anti-heroine's cinematic appearances that have garnered the most recognition (or in the case of Halle Berry, derision).

So how will Anne Hathaway compare when matched against the attention-grabbing performances that preceded her? Let's examine this on a case-by-case basis.

Michelle PfeifferMichelle Pfeiffer as Selina Kyle/Catwoman ('Batman Returns')

Perhaps the best-known and most beloved incarnation of the cat burglar came in 1992, when mousy secretary Selina Kyle was thrown off a building by her corrupt boss (Christopher Walken) and resuscitated by a colony of feral cats in Tim Burton's Bat-sequel, 'Batman Returns.' Fashioning herself a killer fetish-inspired catsuit thanks to some enviable sewing skills, this slinky, shamelessly seductive version of Catwoman proved to be a formidable antagonist to Batman. Lethal, lustful and unafraid to use her womanly wiles to get her way, Pfeiffer was pretty much the dream embodiment of Catwoman, although it seemed that she could never quite decide whether she wanted to kiss Batman or kill him ...

Pros: Pfeiffer practically oozed sex appeal in that skin-tight costume, wielding her whip and her wit to deadly effect and perfectly capturing the love/hate relationship with Batman that comic book fans have enjoyed for decades.

Cons: While Pfeiffer's Selina shares a name with her comic book alter-ego, that's pretty much where the similarities end -- the comic book version is generally recognized as a brunette and a former prostitute (not a secretary) who, while villainous and prone to thievery, was never quite as mentally unhinged as she was portrayed in Burton's vision.

Halle Berry as Patience Phillips/Catwoman ('Catwoman')Halle Berry

After the success of the character in 'Batman Returns,' rumors ran rampant that Pfeiffer might someday reprise the role for a spin-off movie, but it never came to pass (perhaps because she had the sense to read the script). Instead, Halle Berry took up the mantle and claws, but the film incurred fanboy wrath from the outset when it was revealed that Berry's Catwoman would bear no relation to the Selina Kyle character seen in 'Returns' and the comics -- she'd be a plain ol' hero instead of a conflicted villain, and there would be no mention of Batman. Blasphemy!

Instead, Berry played Patience Phillips, a mousy artist working for an evil cosmetics corporation in the midst of producing a line of killer face cream (no, really). She was subsequently murdered by the company's security guards when she uncovered their fiendish facial plan, and resurrected by another cadre of cats, thereby giving her superpowers to lick herself and leap tall buildings in a single bound, or something ... we kind of forget the details, we've mostly tried to erase the traumatic experience from our minds.

Pros: Um ... she looked good in the costume? (Well, except for those ears.)

Cons: Pretty much the entire concept. We're all for empowered female characters (we insist upon them, in fact) but even an Oscar-winning actress like Halle Berry is only good as her source material, and this script stunk like something left in the litter box. Disappointing treatment for such a legendary character.

Anne Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman (?) ('The Dark Knight Rises')

After Catwoman's seven-year absence from movie theaters, we're relying on Anne Hathaway to cleanse our palates with a fresh take on the beloved villainess; and if anyone can take the character back to her roots, it's Christopher Nolan. While some fans seem dubious that Hathaway can pull off the predatory sexuality that makes Catwoman such a compelling foil for our Caped Crusader, we have to remind you of Nolan's last controversial casting choice to get fans twitching: pretty-boy Heath Ledger for the role of the psychotic Joker. Nolan and Ledger got the last laugh on that one, all the way to a (sadly posthumous) Oscar win. If Nolan saw something catty in Hathaway's admittedly feline features, we trust him to deliver the goods. (It's also worth noting that Warner Bros. never actually uses the name "Catwoman" in its official press release for 'Dark Knight Rises' -- could this possibly be a version of the character that will stay firmly out of the skintight costume? More likely it's just another attempt for Nolan to keep the more fantastical elements of his universe anchored in reality -- The Wrap points out that Harvey Dent was never explicitly called "Two Face" in 'The Dark Knight,' even though he was clearly embodying the tragic villain in all but name.)

Pros: She's got the brown hair down, and she's proven that she can play poised, steely women (lest we forget 'Brokeback Mountain' and parts of 'The Devil Wears Prada') -- and perhaps Hathaway's looking for a way to break out of the cute, rom-com niche she's carved for herself. We're crossing our fingers for a magical, Ledger-esque transformation here, especially since Nolan has the opportunity to bring back the gritty, grounded elements of Selina's backstory.

Cons: The aforementioned cute, rom-com niche. Will audiences be able to buy Hathaway as a killer chick in skintight leather after such cookie-cutter roles as 'Ella Enchanted,' 'The Princess Diaries' and 'Bride Wars'? Only time will tell ...

But which Catwoman gets the cream?

As it stands, we're pronouncing Michelle Pfeiffer our pick of the litter, at least until we get more information on Nolan's vision for Hathaway's Selina. Hathaway has some big stilettos to fill if she's going to surpass Pfeiffer's memorable turn (though she's already beaten Berry's Razzie-worthy performance simply by being cast in Nolan's universe), but if Nolan stays true to the tone and attitude he's already established, we're certain that Hathaway can produce a purr-fect performance.

(We're mostly just psyched about Tom Hardy as Bane -- score!)

Who is your pick for history's most iconic Catwoman? Will it be Hathaway, Pfeiffer or Berry, or do you prefer one of the character's small screen incarnations? Sound off in the comments!

Follow Laura on Twitter: @LauinLA.
The Dark Knight Rises
PG-13 2012
Based on 45 critics

Batman re-emerges from his self-imposed exile to battle a merciless terrorist named Bane. Read More

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