Image courtesy of indiewire.com
Cats released on 20th December 2019 and the world was not ready for the atrocities contained within it. So far it has made approximately £46.5 million worldwide, and had a budget just under £72.5m yet is due to lose a minimum of £54m. When I first discovered the 1998 film as a child, I watched it every single day after school to dance and sing along to, trying to embody my adored pet cats. The new film, however, is something else entirely.
It is not just bad because of the magical computer-fur and general bizarre nature, but genuinely terrible in virtually all other respects as well, including blasphemy against the masterpiece that is the musical. The three main features which have always made me adore Cats are the music, choreography and the overall spectacle of the sets and costumes. The film failed to deliver on all three of these. In the stage show, the music flows beautifully and the catchy tunes stick in your head for days afterwards, which did not happen once I left the cinema. The singing was not up to scratch (except for the merely acceptable vocal performances of Francesca Hayward and Taylor Swift) and the music was left broken up to make room for clarity in the plot which did not work anyway. It is a travesty for me as a musical-lover that the film audiences were not introduced to fantastic tunes such as Mr Mistoffelees and The Rum Tum Tugger. The casting of Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella was not ideal; she is a powerful singer, but she did not embody the character, and they should have cast an older woman who could relate to her more. additionally, they do not move like cats; they move like people badly imitating them. The choreography was originally produced by the talented late Gillian Lynne, whose work was central to the storytelling and cat-human balance of the musical. The movements she compiled tell us a lot about each character, through small background details in the relationships between the different cats. It is details like this which make the musical a theatrical masterpiece, as with T. S. Eliot's poems upon which the original musical itself was based on, it is wide open for interpretation. The complete disregard for the original choreography was a mistake, and if they weren't capable of improving it then they should have just used what was already provided to them. They even neglected to include one of the most impressive moves of the entire musical during Mungojerrie and Rumpelteazer, the technical double-cartwheel. As for the sets and costumes... well, what costumes? The CGI is horrific, as has been noted by many, the main problems being the lack of cat-like feet, noses and hands. One wonders whether the people making this have seen a real-life cat. The musical has neat solutions for all of these problems - use real costumes and hire skilled make-up artists. The horrific sight of their human feet made me physically recoil, but the musical performers wear elegant ballet shoes which merge with their fluffy leg warmers; allowing them to look like cats without being downright weird. And don't get me started on the jarring sight of Les Twins as cats in high-top trainers! This entire disaster would have been avoided if they had just filmed the Broadway production with bigger sets and better-quality cameras than the ones used for the original 1998 film. Director Tom Hooper's downfall was his ambition to create something different and memorable, which he did achieve, but at the cost of the sanity of all those who witnessed this abomination.