Cats, the other thing we worried about last December

Yes folks, it’s day 973 of quarantine, and here at The Solid Signal Blog we’re pulling out all the stops to try to give you something fun to look at this Friday.

This week’s entry comes to you thanks to the people from Screen Junkies, whose massively popular “Honest Trailers” series really does capture the essence of what makes films work or not work. This time they turn their acid-tipped senses of humor on last year’s flop, Cats.

I knew it would be a train wreck

When the first trailer dropped back in early 2019, I immediately knew there was a problem. Here it is, in case you’ve forgotten:

I seriously don’t know how anyone thought that was going to work out. Now, it’s true that of all the supposedly “unfilmable” musicals, it was always going to be a challenge to film Cats. More a musical revue and spectacle than a play, Cats was never designed with mass appeal. It was envisioned, presumably in a drug-fueled 1970s haze, as a way to put obscure poems from the early 20th century to rock and roll music. Right there you have to wonder how it got any further.

But the stage show was a surprising hit. In my opinion that had to do with the fact that it’s fun to look at and you couldn’t possibly understand the words without multiple viewings. It was a fun night out, at a time when people needed one.

So who thought this would work as a movie?

Even more inexplicably, how did anyone think that turning actors into some sort of odd human-cat hybrid would be anything but terrifying?

But I admit I haven’t seen it.

Yes, it doesn’t seem terribly fair that I am so harsh toward a film that I haven’t seen. Yet, I feel like I’ve seen enough. I saw enough in the first trailer. It seems like that first trailer should have been the warning sign. The studio could have put a halt to the whole enterprise.

Several reliable outlets reported that the film had nowhere enough time to execute the thousands of special effects shots, leading to a number of messed up shots. The story that Dame Judy Dench’s hand appeared, furless and with a wedding ring, circulated quickly. Yet the actual execution of the effects wasn’t really the problem. There’s been enough written about how the CGI artists were overworked and harassed, given confusing directives and unfairly blamed for a failure of vision.

And now some tech blogger is beating up the film even though he hasn’t even seen it. Will the indignities never end?

Cats is a metaphor for everything that’s come since.

Cats emerged onto the world in December, 2019. The world wasn’t spared from it. No one acted soon enough. Cats is a phenomenon that terrified the globe, it couldn’t be contained. It was an unholy mix of DNA from other species that infected humanity. Although locking yourself in your home could prevent direct contact with it, it was impossible to really avoid.

And while it might seem quaint to think of the days when a bad movie was the worst thing on out minds, it seems like Cats really did portend the next several months.

The good news for Cats is although it did lose money, it didn’t sink Universal, the studio that released it. In fact, the initally toxic response to the film mellowed quickly to curiosity and a mild discomfort when in its presence. Let us hope as well that the other plague from last December goes the same way.

But before you go, get ready to laugh

I promised you the honest trailer for Cats, and like a vaccine, it’s a deadened version of the film. Given in a small dose, it almost has the effect of numbing the viewer to the horror of the movie. It took a little while for it to reach the public. It still came to us in record time. like I said, let’s hope we get that same luck with other stuff.


About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.