The first trailer for Cats — the first film adaption of the long-running, record-breaking Broadway musical — has arrived, and it’s an intensely surreal experience. As promised in a behind-the-scenes video released yesterday, the film consists of live human actors singing and dancing on oversized sets, meant to make them appear about the comparative size of actual housecats. And rather than using Broadway’s elaborate fur costumes, director Tom Hooper (Les Misérables, The King’s Speech) chose to use motion capture and CGI to give the performers sleek, fuzzy pelts. It’s visually startling, especially when you recognize the actors under these very expensive, high-tech versions of Instagram filters.
Much like Hooper’s Les Misérables, his Cats is full of stars that film fans might not immediately associate with big spectacle musicals, including Dame Judy Dench, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen, Ray Winstone, and Rebel Wilson. They’re playing opposite legitimate music stars like Taylor Swift, Jason Derulo, and Jennifer Hudson, plus James Corden, who may not qualify as a music star per se, but certainly does a lot of singing on Carpool Karaoke and The Late Late Show with James Corden.
And they’re also wearing CGI reskins that come complete with big pointy ears, whiskers, and tails, which make them all look a bit like their faces have been punched up and pasted onto someone’s erotic anthro art. As with any dance-heavy Broadway musical, there’s an emphasis here on acts of athleticism and physical control, and again, the combination of lean, seemingly naked bodies and the evocation of cute house pets is pretty startling. This one’s going to be divisive until people get used to the film’s distinctive look.
Cats will be in theaters on December 20th, 2019.