The long-awaited film adaptation and the first trailer for the Tony Award-winning musical “Cats” have debuted and it is quite the conversation piece this side of the cinema world.
Earlier this week, distributor Universal Pictures released a featurette showing its star-studded cast, craftspeople, and director Tom Hooper (“The King’s Speech”) talking about the challenges and enjoyment of bringing this beloved stage show to the big screen, partnered with a talk about the new technology that was emerging. Hooper calling it “digital fur,” it seemed as the production and marketing teams were trying to lay the groundwork for what was naturally going to be a polarizing response to the film’s interpreted adaptation.
The trailer is set against the backdrop of the musical number “Memory,” as performed and sang by Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson (“Dreamgirls”) in the role of “Grizabella.” The viewer also gets our first glances at recent Emmy nominee James Corden (“The Late Late Show with James Corden”), Oscar winner Judi Dench (“Shakespeare in Love”), two-time Oscar nominee Ian McKellen (“The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” and “Gods and Monsters”), 10-time Grammy winner Taylor Swift, SAG winner Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”), comedian Rebel Wilson (“Pitch Perfect”), music and pop sensation Jason Derulo, and newcomer and acclaimed ballet dancer Francesca Hayward.
Looking at the first look through the lens of awards coverage, it’s hard to not feel the film would find itself in serious contention in some of the technical races, most particularly production design and sound mixing. Based on the initial reactions on social media, the look of the film will be difficult for critics and general audiences to swallow. Already proving to be a divisive director, Tom Hooper’s name attached gave “#filmtwitter” enough gas to write this off early. Hooper is often brought up in conversations regarding “Oscar-winning blunders.” This refers to his film “The King’s Speech” winning four Oscars in 2010 including Best Picture and Director over more “popular” films like “The Social Network” from David Fincher and “Black Swan” from Darren Aronofsky.
The same crowd came out again in 2012 when he adapted the Tony-winning “Les Misérables,” which was met with good reviews but had its staunch haters. The film went on to be nominated for eight Oscars including Best Picture, winning three including a Best Supporting Actress trophy for Anne Hathaway.
Looking ahead, it’s safe to say that not many Hooper haters will turn based on the look and feel of the film. If anything, we are in store for a lot of internet discussions on what they did “right” or “wrong” with this big-screen musical.
There’s a lot of awards magnets attached to nearly every aspect of the picture. Along with directing duties, Hooper co-writes the film with Oscar-nominee Lee Hall (“Billy Elliot”), who penned the controversial and critically-mixed “Rocket Man” earlier this year. Legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is serving as the film’s composer and may be able to keep the source material more honest for the die-hard fans.
Christopher Ross is serving as the cinematographer, who’s filmography includes Lenny Abramson’s “Room” and Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” while the movie will be edited by Melanie Oliver, whose worked with Hooper on his last two projects including “The Danish Girl.”
As mentioned earlier, four-time Oscar-nominee Eve Stewart (“Topsy Turvy”) is handling the production design and could have herself positioned for her overdue statuette. Partnered with set decorations by Rebecca Pilkington, the pairing may be difficult to beat. Although costumes are being handled by the great Paco Delgado (“The Danish Girl”), whose netted two Oscar nominations himself over the past six years, an overabundance of visuals may overshadow his work.