July 26, 2019

The ‘Cats’ trailer: actually not a-paw-ling?


‘Cats’: prowling off stage and into cinemas in December. (Wikicommons under CC BY-SA 4.0)

So, you might have heard that there’s a Cats film coming out in December? Directed by Les Miserables director Tom Hooper? Based on the long-running, wildly successful musical, which was in turn based on T.S Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats? Oh, you did hear that already? What do you mean, “check Twitter”…?


Yes, after years of speculation, the cats are out of the bag and on to the big screen, and they look like … well, they look like humans dressed as cats, doing cat stuff.

And yet the trailer, released last week, has—to put it mildly—caused a bit of a stir. Everyone from the Guardian to the Washington Post reacted almost instantly with “burning questions.” Chief among them: why does it all look so weird? The Evening Standard helpfully rounded up the social media reaction, which ranged from outraged, to puzzled, to just plain ol’ freaked out.

But is it just me struggling to think of what else the trailer conceivably could have looked like? After all, this is an adaptation of a stage show, and it’s actually pretty faithful to that: it is pleasingly theatrical on the eyes; there is a lot of what looks to be excellent choreography; the costumes and makeup aren’t hugely different to those seen in the musical*.

Judi Dench, Taylor Swift, Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, James Corden…? They all play cats, in the film, Cats. And so they wear cat costumes. Because they play cats. They walk around and dance and prance like cats. Because they play cats. I cannot emphasise how strongly they are cats in this film, and for that reason they have to have fur and ears and whatnot. Because they play cats.

Is it weird? Of course it is! It’s proud to be weird! Because it’s based on a weird show which is based on a weird book. Even T.S. Eliot’s estate released a statement to the Guardian saying the man himself would have been “pleased” by the film’s oddness. And who are we to argue?

The massed puzzlement at the Cats trailer will not, of course, stop it being one of the most talked-about—and watched—films of 2019. And it is unlikely to suffer the same fate as the Sonic remake earlier in the year. The Cats YouTube clip is already closing in on ten million views, suggesting it might even boost the film’s audience, with viewers eager to see the final result. In this case, we can confidently predict that … wait for it … curiosity will not kill the cat.



*OK, there is admittedly one bit where a full-size cat appears smaller than some cutlery. But these are minor quibbles (kibbles?) in the grand scheme of things.



Tom Clayton is publishing executive at Melville House UK.