The Egregious Error In Cats Everyone Is Laughing About

Cats is being marketed as a fantasy musical, but it's starting to look more like a comedy of errors.

The movie, which had drawn fire for its unsettling visual effects long before its release thanks to its insane trailers, is continuing to do so for the fact that it was apparently shipped to theaters with those effects unfinished, and one egregious example of this in particular has turned some heads.

As if the mistake weren't obvious enough, it was pointed out to the entire world by Jenelle Riley, an editor at venerable trade publication Variety. Riley took to Twitter to post the following screenshot after taking in the flick:

About this image, Riley had this to say: "This isn't a joke: CATS was rushed into theaters before being finished so a new version is being sent to theaters with updated effects. How do you know if you have the old version? Look for Judi Dench's human hand, wedding ring and all."

For the sake of clarification, a couple things: yes, that monstrosity she is referring to is in fact Dame Judi Dench, who deigned to participate in this movie along with a bevy of very talented people. The cast of Cats also includes Taylor Swift, Ian McKellen, Rebel Wilson, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, and Idris Elba; we must not hold this against them, because it's pretty safe to say they didn't know exactly what the heck they were getting into.

Also: Riley's tweet is accurate. Cats was indeed updated with a new version which theaters could download from Universal Pictures' proprietary server the Sunday after its release, as if it were not a $100 million dollar holiday picture, but a buggy video game pushed out to market before it was ready by a rushed studio. Universal notified venues of the change nearly immediately after the film's release, and reportedly implored them to swap out the unfinished version for the new one as quickly as possible. (via Yahoo! Entertainment)

It shouldn't have to be said, but this is unprecedented. Pushing a film that relies so incredibly heavily on its visual effects onto the big screen before said effects are finished is something that should never, ever happen, and in the case of Cats — the trailers for which sent the entire internet screaming headlong into the Uncanny Valley — it made an already bad situation immeasurably worse.

If you're thinking that the entire endeavor might have gone off a touch more successfully if director Tom Hooper had used stage makeup and prosthetics — like the original Broadway production — instead of CGI, well, you're far from the only one to have that thought. In a recent conversation with The Atlanticthe director attempted to explain the thought process behind his decision.

"With full-face prosthetics you lost too much performance, and your ears still don't move so you [still] have to go full CGI for the ears," he said. "What's fascinating is, three years ago, the best visual-effects guys in the business were like, 'What you want to do cannot be done'... In their world, it's easy to just replace the face, rebuild it in a computer, and then animate the face. But why on Earth would I ever want to replace Ian McKellen's face and try and animate a proxy face? That'd be insane."

Yes, Mr. Hooper, just insane. Creating the most horrifying spectacle to ever masquerade as lighthearted whimsy was obviously the more reasonable choice, and going full steam ahead with the theatrical release of an unfinished film also makes perfect sense.

How has Hollywood reacted to Cats?

If it seems like we're being a little harsh, let us assure you that we're handling Cats with kid gloves compared to critics, audiences, Hollywood luminaries, and even the movie's own cast. Take Taylor Swift, who appeared in the flick as Bombalurina (not a typo), and waxed philosophical about her experience shortly before the film's release. Read between these lines, and see if your eyes don't start burning: "Regardless of what the end result is, there's just never been a movie made like this, which is why it was so fun to be a part of... You have to dislocate the end result with your experience, and you have to commit to doing it only based on what you think the experience will be and if [it] will teach you things that enrich your life." (via Variety)

We've had a few experiences which we would like to dislocate the end results of, and those results weren't good ones. Next, consider the reaction of Frozen 2 actress Evan Rachel Wood, who was once engaged to Marilyn Manson and therefore should have a pretty high tolerance for the bizarre and unsettling. Wood went on an absolutely scathing Twitter tear about the film, including a video review that consisted almost entirely of the phrase "What the f**k," repeated over and over; in response to a fan who tweeted that he felt like he was on drugs while watching the film, she replied, "Totally! Like my life is not in danger, but I feel like I'm going to die." (via Buzzfeed)

Then, there are the critics, who have collectively slapped the film with a dismal 18% Rotten Tomatoes score. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about the film is that it prompted some absolutely majestic takedowns from said critics, such as this one from Film Ireland's Cian Geoghegan: "It instills a Lovecraftian madness in the viewer, the silver screen becomes a billowing veil of darkness. The woeful parasitic melodies enveloping them from all angles. A colossal beast beyond human comprehension stares back from the deep beyond, from a world where mercy and virtue have long since perished."

No mere bad film could inspire such prose, and Cats is, at the very least, something completely unique in the world of cinema. Sure, it will flop hard enough to make the Earth shake, but just wait until its home release; this movie is destined to become a legend, the kind which people will speak of in hushed tones for decades to come. In fact, we're going to predict right now that the initial, unfinished version will be its very own legend, and that bootlegs of it will forever be coveted by those who treasure cinematic "curiosities" of the type that human eyes were simply never meant to see.