When talking about the best of the most iconic musical theater productions on either side of the Atlantic and further on around the world, the musical “Cats” by Andrew Lloyd Webber is sure to be among the subjects of discussion. Its look into the lives, habits, lore and personalities among a gang of London alley cats has been told distinctly through performers dressed in skintight cat-suit costumes and choreographed to move, act and dances as feline-like as can be. The upcoming Universal film adaptation took that aesthetic to its logical conclusion by rendering its cast in CGI fur and cat-features, an approach that has turned off viewers from the trailers.
But as the movie’s cast puts it, the reactions were expected of people seeing something very new, and urge them to get past the uncanny valley to watch the film on its premiere this week anyway. As The Hollywood Reporter would have it, the stars of “Cats,” the big-budget movie version from Universal Pictures of the world-famous musical, are simply pleased that the production, especially how they were rendered in it, was generating lots of attention. They instead point out the sheer technical effort to seamlessly blend visual-effects fur on the performers as they moved about on their many scenes.
Actor Robbie Fairchild, who portrays the cat Munkustrap, remarks that the iffy reception to the CGI-makeup on the feline characters was similar to the initial reactions to the Na’vi from James Cameron’s 2009 masterpiece “Avatar.” “When you think about ‘Avatar,’ when ‘Avatar’ first came out, everyone was like, ‘Ooh, oh God!’” says Fairchild. “But I think Avatar did pretty well. So I think we’re OK.”
Further reassurances came from Danny Collins and Naoimh Morgan, who play feline partners Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer respectively. Collins thought the reactions were “amusing,” when not considering the innovation of making a performer both catlike and human. He also attributes the standoffish reception to causal moviegoers not being familiar with the musical, usually known to theatre devotees. Morgan agrees adding, “But once you see the movie, if you give it a chance and see the movie, you will forget that side of things and you will just be involved in this story and in this new world and you’ll just appreciate it for what it is.”
For his part, “Cats” director Tom Hopper prefers to see the film he made as a story with a lesson on love overcoming tribalism. “I think, in this moment, to make a film which shows that one kind act can redeem a lost soul is what I’d like to be making,” he notes. The movie had its world premiere in New York this Monday, December 16, with a general release coming this Friday, December 20.
Image courtesy of Yahoo! News