Why ‘Cats’ the Movie Fails So Flamboyantly

I can’t seem to get into superhero movies. The non-stop CGI onslaught just leaves me cold.

As an English professor who teaches classes like Shakespeare in Context and World Drama, I do a lot of reading and see a lot of local theatre.

But I’m hardly a media snob. For relaxation, I often put on an audiobook and fiddle with the computer graphics modeling package Blender3D. I also enjoy Skyrim, the Portal / Half-Life games, and other titles that focus on exploring an environment (Beyond Eyes, Untitled Goose Game, Monument Valley).

I had to delete Star Trek Timelines and Sim City from my iPad last year because the timed events started to feel way too much like work.

I don’t mind animation. I really enjoy watching a Pixar or Anime film that explores the storytelling possibilities of animation.

But I’ve just never gotten into superhero movies.

This passage from a review of the “Cats” movie nails what bothered me about the previews I saw.

Universal Studios/The Really Useful Group Ltd./Perfect Universe Investment Inc. Naoimh Morgan as Rumpleteazer, Francesca Hayward as Victoria, and Danny Collins as Mungojerrie in Tom Hooper’s Cats, 2019

Curious, then, that in lieu of costumes the filmmakers would choose to drape the performers’ bodies in layers of unsightly and expensive motion-capture computer graphics. But where Marvel movies, for instance, are fundamentally uninterested in the human body and what it can do, this attention is central to Cats, which is at heart a talent show. Forcing the literal-minded heaviness of the Hollywood special-effects machine onto the earnest, put-on-a-show spirit of the musical is like asking the glee club to use auto-tune. Why would you saddle a principal from the Royal Ballet with the camouflage of digital fur? Committed to spending nearly $100 million on what was already a successful property, the studio and the director, Tom Hooper, decided that it was not sufficient to hire a troupe of talented artists and point a camera at them; Hooper seems to have concluded that cinema is an art made in postproduction and that only the application of money and CGI could effectively convey the story of Bustopher Jones. (The story is that he is fat and wears white spats.) —Daniel Drake, “The Slog Comes in on Little Cat Feet” (NY Review of Books)

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