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In Tim Burton's Batman Returns, Max Shreck throws Selena out a high story window where she plunges to the ground. It's not quite clear to me if she dies upon landing or just knocking at death's door.

Regardless, cats come out of nowhere and start licking her and nipping at her fingers:

Selena screen capture from Batman Returns

Next thing you know, she's more assertive, confident and has quite the spring in her step (the back-flips and whatnot).

What role did the cats play making Catwoman?

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The way I've always read that scene is that she fell, but did not die. She did however suffer severe trauma. The larger part of that trauma was to her psyche. An oft used story telling instrument in movies is the personality switching trauma. This happened to Selena when she fell, it changed her into a more assertive character. Having the cats around her when she woke up as the new Selena "impressed" on her mind a more feline personality. Not only is she more aggressive and independent, she also moves and acts more like a cat. You could say that the trauma to her head made her more than a little bit 'insane'.

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  • So OP's idea is basically Selina's interpretation of events as she wakes up; but it is not truly the case, she just thinks it is? I.e. Selina (consciously or subconciously) believes that the cats have a (potentially magical) importance; while that is not true in reality (i.e. the movie's reality).
    – Flater
    Jun 30 '17 at 7:59
  • What of her "other" lives when she fights Batman, Penguin and Max Schreck later in the movie?
    – m1gp0z
    Nov 2 '18 at 20:42
  • Indeed she does fall through several awnings which in movie land would be enough for her to survive. @m1gp0z What of her "other" lives when she fights Batman, Penguin and Max Schreck later in the movie? - in each case there is at least a little seed of doubt as to whether the result would necessarily be fatal ("Hee hee hee! Saved by kitty litter!")
    – colmde
    Jul 17 '20 at 14:04
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I have not watched Batman Returns but if it is like Catwoman; Patience (the Catwoman incarnation of this movie) died and cats make her alive again.

It is told by the old woman (who is slightly implied to be Selena Kyle) that cats have magical powers and revived her from the dead and gave her abilities.

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  • If the (implied) theory is that the old woman is Selina; then it's possible for her to come up with the explanation of magical cats because she woke up next to cats. I.e. cats aren't actually magical, but Selina believes that they are. Because she doesn't realize that she would have woken up regardless of any cat being present.
    – Flater
    Jun 30 '17 at 8:06
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Of course cats have magic!

It's funny, I saw Catwoman before this one and thought the 'licked back to life by magic cats' thing was the stupidest thing in a hilariously bad movie. Turns out that was the one thing she had in common with the actual Catwoman from the Batman movies? Mind: blown! XD

However, someone (I can't find it now) pointed out that Selina hit several things on the way down and so never fell constantly for an unsurvivable distance, and that she wasn't immediately skilled, struggling a lot at first. Maybe she wasn't 100% dead and brought back to life with superpowers by magical cats after all, but just had a personality shift via head injury like Phineas Gage.

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  • Any source to support this answer?
    – A J
    Jun 30 '17 at 5:48
  • You seem to assume that the cats must invariably have been the cause of Selina's resurrection. Why can't it just be a coincidence, i.e. Selina would have woken up regardless of any cats' presence?
    – Flater
    Jun 30 '17 at 8:03
  • I never really took it we were supposed to be sure the cats "licked her back to life". Her fall was broken by several awnings on the way down which in Hollywood physics is enough to survive the fall, then she woke up with the cats around her and attributed her survival to them.
    – colmde
    Jul 17 '20 at 11:11
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She doesn't die in Batman Returns. Nothing in the film expresses her death, which would have been a plot hole in and of itself seeing as there are no other cat magic resurrections happening anywhere else in the entire history of DC characters. Nothing about the entire movie is Paranormal in any sort of way. Hokey and unrealistic, yes, but not paranormal.

The cats play the same role for her as batman's bats did. Just the thing they needed at the time they decided to become vigilantes. An icon to fear and or respect.

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