Actors James Corden and Rebel Wilson have come under fire from the Visual Effects’ Society after making fun of the graphic work on the film Cats. Presenting the award for Visual Effects (an irony that was a little too on the nose), Corden and Wilson stated that “nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects” while in costumes of their characters. The audience erupted into laughter, but many Effects artists see this as an entitled comment and a way of scapegoating them for a poorly conceived film.
Two months after its initial release, no one can deny that Cats is one of the most infamous movie flops of all time. It was critically panned (with some publications giving it zero stars) and IMDB user reviews place it as one of the lowest scoring films of all time. In terms of commercial grosses, the film was also a failure. After a disappointing run at the US domestic box office, Variety reported that the film was projected to suffer $100 million worth of losses, and subsequent weeks did not see a rise in ticket sales from curious movie goers. The film was persona non grata, and those involved want nothing more than to separate themselves from the failed project.
One of the most panned elements of the film was the admittedly abysmal visual effects. From the very first trailer, audiences protested the creepy feline designs that dipped a little too far into the uncanny valley and lost the magic of the original Broadway costumes. Once the film was released, many mocked the half-human half-cat design even more, picking up small details like Judi Dench’s hand being completely human-like and even still having her wedding ring on in some scenes.
The effects were rushed and haphazard to say the least, and it’s understandable that they would form the centre of much of the criticism that the film was been met with. Studio Universal definitely thought so, as after the initial reception, they supplied theatres with a re-edit, one defined by supposedly improved Visual Effects.
But it can’t be forgotten in this discussion that Cats’ abysmal reviews are not solely a product of its aesthetics. Besides, Tom Hooper and the studio will have been instrumental in designing the look of the film. The effects artists themselves would have simply been following instructions for the most part. The film is also too long, generally poorly performed and anchored around its hit songs with few innovations to the original production. Corden and Wilson themselves were hardly giving masterful performances that were unjustly hindered by the graphics. The whole product was a mess, and one branch should not be blamed. The Visual Effects’ Society said it best: “The best visual effects in the world will not compensate for a story told badly”.
Yves McCrae caused a particular stir on Twitter after claiming that he worked 80 hour weeks on the movie before being laid off, and that the jokes made by Corden and Wilson at his expense exposes the elitism of the Hollywood A-List. On a night that highlighted the lack of recognition for women, people of colour, stunt people as well as others, this further highlighted a sense that the industry is still defined by a hierarchy of privilege.
Yves McCrae can be found on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/YvesTM/status/1227092859565641728
Link to the Variety article: https://www.businessinsider.com/the-major-reasons-why-cats-flopped-at-the-box-office-2019-12?r=US&IR=T