Black Widow, other Marvel and Disney movies delayed again

Black Widow is among half a dozen titles Disney has rescheduled today in the US. Australian release dates have yet to be confirmed but it’s expected it will follow suit.

The Scarlett Johansson superhero action thriller was to be released on October 29 in Australia (November 6 in the US) but has now been delayed until May 2021.

While the change may disappoint fans, who were looking forward to Johansson’s first solo outing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the decision at least reinforces Disney’s commitment to a cinema release instead of a streaming release, as it did when it shifted Mulan to Disney+.

Black Widow was originally scheduled for release in late-April this year before it was derailed by the pandemic.

Black Widow finished filming a year ago Photo: Film Frame ©Marvel Studios 2020

RELATED: Marvel reveals trippy trailer for WandaVision

Soft box office results for Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster Tenet, especially in the US, has spurred several movie studios to further push back its tentpole properties over fears the current economic climate means they won’t make their money back on expensive production budgets.

Cinemas are operating at limited capacity and audiences in key markets are reluctant to return to public spaces.

Two weeks ago, Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman 1984 was pushed from early October to the end of December.

The Black Widow move has a run-on effect for two other Marvel movies that were scheduled for 2021, with Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings now pushed from May to July and Eternals from February until November 2021.

Shang-Chi is currently filming in Sydney.

Disney has also moved Steven Spielberg’s remake of West Side Story from December 2020 to December 2021 while the Ben Affleck and Ana De Armas thriller Deep Water shifts from November to August 2021.

Death on the Nile has been pushed back to December

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Kenneth Branagh’s Death on the Nile, a follow-up to Murder on the Orient Express, moves from October to December.

Pixar movie Soul has not been moved, currently still slated for release in December in Australia.

The pandemic has wreaked havoc on the entertainment industry, disrupting release schedules and productions, which is only now starting to resume in pockets around the world.

The big-name films currently still looking to be released this year include the new Bond film, No Time To Die on November 12, Dune on December 17 and Wonder Woman 1984 on December 26.

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Dune moves release date in Australia

But, it’s good news! Dune has been moved up a week and some change, from its original Australian release date of December 26 to December 17.

The sci-fi epic, adapted by director Denis Villeneuve from Frank Herbert’s seminal novel, released its first trailer last week to wild excitement.

But when there was no release date on trailer, there was speculation the film’s release would be moved to 2021 to accommodate a potential shuffle for Wonder Woman 1984.

Wonder Woman 1984 was indeed moved to December 25 in the US, now confirmed as December 26 in Australia instead of October 1, but rather than bump Dune to next year, audiences will get to see it even sooner.

It seems that Dune will keep its original US release date of December 18. Thanks to that quirk where Australian distributors typically release new films on a Thursday and the Americans on a Friday, we will likely see it before those stateside.

Dune is now releasing on December 17 in Australia.

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Dune features an all-star cast with Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem and Jason Momoa.

The story of Dune is focused on Paul Atreides (Chalamet), the son of Duke Leto (Isaac), a nobleman who is asked to oversee Arrakis, a perilous desert planet with a precious and magical spice.

Paul is the heir to not just the Duke’s throne but also a great destiny, and Dune traffics in grand concepts including fate and power.

The movie industry has been up-ended by COVID which has seen cinemas worldwide shut down and productions halted.

Since March, movie studios have been delaying their big blockbuster releases and while some were originally rescheduled for later this year, many of them have been moved to 2021 when it’s expected audiences will be able to return to cinemas in something resembling normal capacity.

Oscar Isaac plays Duke Leto in Dune.

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet was the first high-profile movie to be released in cinemas in late August and while its $US200 million ($A275 million) global box office sounds like a lot of money, it was expected to make much more under normal circumstances.

Tenet’s depressed box office, especially in North America where many key markets such as New York and Los Angeles remain closed, has led to movie studios re-evaluating whether they persist with opening big movies this year.

One tentpole which is forging ahead is the next James Bond instalment, No Time To Die, which is due for release in Australia on November 12.

Marvel movie Black Widow is still on the books for an October 29 release but there is no guarantee that will remain the case.

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Dune 2020 trailer: Denis Villeneuve, Timothee Chalamet and cast tease epic adaptation

We’re not being hyperbolic, that’s how big a project the upcoming cinematic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune is, an iconic sci-fi tome which has not always had an easy time of it when it comes to transitioning to screen.

There have been two previous screen versions – David Lynch’s controversial 1986 film and a panned TV miniseries in 2000 – but there is much more excitement for this one.

After several aborted attempts, French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Blade Runner 2049, Sicario and Arrival) was announced as taking on the ambitious project.

The extremely stacked cast includes Timothee Chalamet, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Rebecca Ferguson, Javier Bardem, Jason Momoa, Dave Bautista, Stellan Skarsgard and Zendaya.

Due for release on Boxing Day in Australia, Warner Bros has released the first trailer overnight and it is exhilaratingly epic.

The three-minute video is full of big moments such as thrilling fights, characters being tested, and the enormous sandworms Herbert promised – plus the famous line, “fear is the mind killer”.

The production also a released an 18-minute cutdown of an hour-long virtual panel Stephen Colbert hosted with Villeneuve and the cast.

Timoth?e. Rebecca. Oscar. Josh. Zendaya. Sharon. Jason. Javier. Denis. DUNE TRAILER FIRST LOOK.

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Mulan 2020 movie review: Dazzling visuals pop on the small screen

And it would have looked spectacular because the scale of this movie can’t be overstated.

Full of sweeping wide shots of beautiful, snow-capped landscapes, the architecturally designed imperial city or military battalions decked out in scarlet red uniforms, Mulan is visually very impressive.

It never lets you forget that Disney invested $US200 million ($A275 million) into this film.

Luckily for Disney, given its choice to release it to streaming in markets where Disney+ is available, Mulan still looks incredible on a smaller screen because its blazing colour palette pops and dazzles – unlike poor Tom Hanks’ war movie Greyhound which had hues ranging from ash grey to murky blue and looked terribly flat on Apple TV+.

Making men out of all of them

RELATED: Donnie Yen wanted to sing in a musical version of Mulan

Mulan’s COVID-interrupted release plans aside, there was also the trouble with a fledgling albeit noisy boycott movement after comments made by its lead star Yifei Liu in support of Hong Kong police and a growing anti-China sentiment in a year of the pandemic, trade wars and increased crackdown on democratic freedoms by its authoritarian government.

Mulan is more politically tricky to release than it was six months ago. However, other than the film’s pro-military stance and reinforcing the mostly benevolent virtues of at least one imperialistic national ruler (the Emperor is played by Jet Li), there’s not too much to tie Mulan into modern day China.

What Mulan emphasises above all is loyalty and honour to your family. Ancestral fealty is familiar in many cultures, but this particular brand has a distinct Confucian tinge to it, even as it seeks to bust gender norms.

Yifei Liu sparked a boycott movement when she came out in support of Hong Kong police.

RELATED: How 2020 upended Disney’s Mulan plan

Adhering closer to the traditional legend of a female warrior who saves China than it does to the 1998 animated version – there is no Eddie Murphy-voiced talking dragon, for one thing – Mulan is directed by New Zealander Niki Caro (Whale Rider, The Zookeeper’s Wife).

Even from a young age Mulan (Liu) is a parkour princess, able to nimbly chase a chicken across the rooftop of her village’s round tulou. She seems to be in possession of an abundance of chi, the life force that flows through all living creatures in a balance of yin and yang.

In Mulan, chi operates somewhat like Star Wars’ mysterious “Force”, which makes our hero innately excellent in battle.

But her physical prowess is not a desired characteristic for how she’s expected to bring honour to her family – through a marriage match.

When the Rouran tribes led by warrior Bori Khan (Jason Scott Lee) invade from the north and threaten the Emperor’s life, every family in China is conscripted to send one male fighter.

Mulan’s father Hua Zhou (Tzi Ma) is a former war veteran but he is older and injured. However he still prepares to join the fighting. To spare him, in the middle of the night Mulan takes her father’s armour, sword and conscription scroll and takes his place, disguised as a man.

Mulan features lots of stunt riders.

Under the tutelage of Commander Tung (Donnie Yen), Mulan struggles to fit in with her fellow recruits which includes Chen Honghui (Yoson An). Her fear of being discovered swirled with her shame over the deception are suppressing her true gifts.

She yearns to live up to the three characters inscribed on her family’s sword – loyal, brave and true.

There are some truly remarkable and exciting action sequences in the film, which proves you can do big set pieces without a plethora of guns or making everything go boom (although there is fiery catapult action).

There are martial arts and sword fights that showcase the prodigious skills by cast members including Liu and Yen, who did many of their own stunts, bodies flying and twisting against the pull of gravity.

There are also several exciting sequences involving a stable of stunt riders on horseback while a multi-levelled fight sequence on a bamboo scaffolding set moves briskly as the camera’s movements twirl with the actors.

From the jawdropping production design and vibrant costumes to the lustrous cinematography by Australia’s Mandy Walker, it all looks rather breathtaking – and its textual depth looks about seven times better than Aladdin did.

New Zealand’s South Island stood in for China.

RELATED: Everything new to streaming in September

But – and it’s a big but – the story’s pacing doesn’t match the level of its spectacle. Most of Mulan moves along nicely, taking time out for character moments or scenes of contemplative rituals, but as soon as the training ends and the fighting begins, that final act whizzes past with little consideration for the story.

Which would work if it didn’t decide to take huge shortcuts, specifically characters who make unearnt decisions and have about-turns that don’t make sense contextually, but which serves the sole purpose of quickly moving onto the next set-piece.

It’s exasperating and takes you out of the story as you literally scream at the TV, “But that would never happen!”

The action sequences in Mulan are mighty impressive.

There’s not a lot of depth to the characters in general who are mostly archetypes, including villain Bori Khan, whose backstory is merely hinted at and not fleshed out – there’s a line about his people’s land being stolen and colonised by the Emperor, which could have made him a far more compelling baddie in the vein of Black Panther’s Killmonger than just an imposing screen presence.

The second villain is Chinese screen legend Gong Li’s Xian Lang, a witch who can shapeshift into a hawk and mimic the forms of other people.

There are several visual nods and musical cues to the 1998 animation, while Caro’s references to the work of filmmakers Akira Kurosawa and David Lean comes through. There’s enough here to please long-time fans, including Christina Aguilera’s new version of Reflection and a surprise cameo near the end.

Maybe Mulan won’t be everything audiences had hoped for – none of the Disney live actions have been – but it mounted a good effort.

Rating: 3/5

Mulan is available for premium video-on-demand rental for $34.99 on Disney+ from Friday, September 4

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Robert Pattinson reportedly has coronavirus as The Batman filming shuts down

Sources close to the set have said the highly-anticipated DC film has now been “thrown into chaos” as the lead star is said to be the one who came down with the virus, just days after filming resumed.

Warner Bros confirmed the news in a statement which read: “A member of The Batman production has tested positive for COVID-19, and is isolating in accordance with established protocols.

“Filming is temporarily paused.”

They would not confirm who had contracted the virus but Vanity Fair reported “through other highly placed sources that Pattinson was the individual who became sick.”

RELATED: Fans shocked as actor unrecognisable as Penguin in The Batman

Filming for the latest Batman-centered film, starring Robert Pattinson, has been halted in Britain after the actor reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, just days after shooting had resumed. Picture: Chris Delmas/AFP

An insider on the Leavesden set told Daily Mail that the cast and crew did not “know who has tested positive, but it has caused chaos to the schedule.”

Director Matt Reeves began filming with the Twilight star in the lead role as the Caped Crusader in early 2020 but by mid-March, production was put on hold as the coronavirus pandemic swept the country.

Reeves previously told fans they had at least another three months of shooting and they hoped to be finished by the end of 2020.

The Batman is currently set for release on October 1, 2021.

In late August, the first trailer dropped for fans, showing Pattinson’s character taking on foes Catwoman and The Riddler.

He faces off against Zoe Kravitz’s Catwoman as he catches her in the middle of a crime. The pair fight but end in a stand off, whereas The Riddler’s (Paul Dano) thugs don’t fare as well as Bruce Wayne beats them to a pulp.

The trailer also gives fans a glimpse of Commissioner Gordon, played by Jeffrey Wright for the first time.

Jurassic World: Dominion was the first major movie to restart production in the UK at Pinewood Studios, with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard back on set in July.

Universal Pictures have revealed their extensive measures to ensure the set will remain coronavirus-free, including routine temperature checks to renting out a hotel for the cast and crew for 20 weeks.

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Mulan: How 2020 up-ended Disney’s plan for $200 million blockbuster

A gust blew through a multi-levelled “play-gym-like” structure built from bamboo scaffolding, threatening to dramatically untie the long stretches of red fabric fastened to the poles.

The space, which not long ago had atop the exact piece of land a massive water tank for shark movie The Meg, will host a climactic battle scene in Disney’s live-action remake of the legend of a female warrior who saves China against northern invaders.

Unlike the beloved 1998 animated feature, this version of Mulan, directed by Kiwi Niki Caro, will feature no musical ditties or cheeky talking dragons voiced by American comedians. It will hew closer to the folkloric ballad told through centuries in China.

The bamboo scaffolding is a pivotal scene in the final act

The scaffolding is one of several large-scale, impressive sets by production designer Grant Major that dot the Auckland studio backlot. Perhaps the most eye-popping one is the full-size Hakka-style tulou roundhouse which houses Mulan’s village.

The floor is covered in real stone, but the roof shingles are made of foam. Bird cages and dried bushes hang from bamboo sticks.

The structure which took more than four months to build, is more than steady enough for a pack of journalists to climb up and down and wander around, but, thanks to the ephemeral nature of movie sets, will be torn down when filming ends.

Inside the tulou roudhouse built on a set in Auckland

The level of tactile detail on each set is incredible, such as the already burnt wicks on the candles that decorate the gold throne room – larger than any real throne room you’ve set foot in across Asia on the many palace tours you feel obliged to take in the name of culture.

Of course, now those intricate details won’t be seen on the big cinema screen in Australia as originally intended – though you could pause each frame at home and take it all in.

When this version of Mulan was greenlit in 2015, Disney could not have anticipated the storm the movie now finds itself engulfed in.

The pandemic aborted its original release plans in March this year. Two attempted reschedules finally turned into an entirely different plan – a release on streaming service Disney+, with a price tag of $34.99.

That was a first for Disney, as was releasing a $US200 million made-for-cinemas blockbuster straight to streaming (in markets where Disney+ is available).

Yifei Liu is the star of Mulan

RELATED: Donnie Yen wanted to sing a musical version of Mulan

And then there are the political challenges Mulan now face, being released in a year in which anti-China sentiment has soared through a combination of the Wuhan-originated pandemic, trade wars and the actions of China’s government against democratic Hong Kong and the Uighur people.

More specifically, Mulan’s photogenic Chinese star Yifei Liu, who could’ve been enjoying the Western attention someone like Zhang Ziyi was afforded after Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, has instead sparked a boycott movement after she made comments supporting Hong Kong police against democracy protesters.

Mulan’s big budget was never a sure bet, but it’s more of a gamble now than it was a few years ago.

It’s definitely not a scenario producer Jason Reed could’ve predicted during production in 2018 when he said Mulan is to be a “love letter to China”.

At the time, Reed talked about the care taken to ensure Mulan would be culturally respectful which included recruiting producer Bill Kong, hiring cultural, military, historical and literary consultants and casting an ensemble of actors with Chinese backgrounds, especially after the mixed casting of the 1998 version.

“When the original movie was made, that world is a little different and there was some ethically mismatched casting that happened,” Reed said. “We feel like the world’s moved to a new place in terms of representation and it was very important of us to make sure that we’re conscious of that, in all elements of casting.”

Yifei Liu with Niki Caro while filming in New Zealand Photo: Jasin Boland

That dedication to casting actors from Asian backgrounds is evident in the enormous costume warehouse, where their reference headshots are pasted on the wall near the three clocks set to Los Angeles, New Zealand and China time. The sight of so many photos of Asian actors on a big-budget Hollywood set is unprecedented.

Liu’s casting came about after a search in, according to Reed, “25 or 30” countries. She has a notable profile in China and Mulan was set to be her most prominent global role. With a martial arts background, she was able to perform most of the stunts herself and trained for months in the lead-up for fight and riding sequences.

Reed said of Liu, “It was really important to us, given that Mulan is so much bigger in China, and we live in a globally connected world, that it was important for us to find someone who embodied the ‘Chinese-ness’ of the role.

“When it finally came down to who had the acting ability, the physicality, the soulfulness and fierceness to play this role, when we found Yifei, there was no choice. We just had to cast her. We actually moved the start date of the movie in order to accommodate her.”

Liu has sparked a boycott movement Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP

Throughout the day on set in Auckland, almost everyone, from costume designers to fellow cast members, spoke of Liu’s strength with admiration and reverence.

When she appeared later that day, her small frame and softly spoken, unimposing presence belied the physical strength she would show on screen.

She didn’t give a lot away when asked about whether she’s ready for the global recognition that comes from headlining a Disney movie.

“I don’t try to think about it when I’m acting because the real present for me is you know when you’ve done a good job,” she said. “If people like you, that’s good but the most important thing is how you feel.”

Liu gave a similarly guarded response in February when she told The Hollywood Reporter she’s trying to not think about the response to her controversial social media posts about Hong Kong – “It would really be a loss for me if I let the pressure overtake my possibilities”.

Still, there’s no denying Liu has become a bit of a marketing problem for Disney in the West – the movie will release theatrically in a week in China where there is no Disney+.

The first sign of trouble was a week after her comments, when Liu was absent from D23, the Disney star extravaganza during which famous faces from its upcoming projects were all rolled out for red carpets, presentations and panels. Director Caro did the Mulan presentation solo.

But, to focus solely on Liu, no matter your opinion on her stance, would be a discredit to the 810 crew members, ensemble cast that also includes Gong Li, Jet Li, Donnie Yen, Yoson An and Jason Scott Lee, and 2600 extras who worked on Mulan in New Zealand and in China.

Yoson An to the right of Liu

An is a Macau-born New Zealand actor (and spent two years in Australia as a child) who plays Honghui, the closest character resembling a love interest for Mulan. His role is one-half of the Li Shang character from the 1998 animation, which has been split into two, the other being Yen’s Commander Tung.

The decision was based on understanding it wasn’t the best choice to have the love interest and a commanding officer as the same person.

An, who has a background in karate, jiu jitsu and MMA, views it as a blessing and a curse to not have an animated equivalent.

“It’s a blessing because I get to revamp and come up with something new with Niki, so that’s been really fun,” Reed said. “But some of the other cast members whose characters were in the animated movie, they have the luxury of going back and draw inspiration from that.”

An, who Australian audiences might recognise as the co-lead opposite Rachel Griffiths in SBS drama Dead Lucky, hopes Mulan will be the next movie to build momentum for Asian stories in Hollywood productions.

“We went out to support Crazy Rich Asians, the first week it was out, the full cast of Mulan went to support the film,” he said. “It was amazing what the film has done to establish itself as the first full cast of Asians in a Hollywood film for 25 years, and the momentum it has created is phenomenal.

“We definitely feel that Mulan is going to take that momentum and go even further, to do for the Asian community what Black Panther has done for the African community.”

Jason Scott Lee and Gong Li

Hawaiian actor Lee (Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story) may play the movie’s villain, Bori Khan, the leader of the invading forces, but like any actor worth their salt, he created a backstory in which Bori is the hero in his own eyes.

“You can’t approach the bad guy feeling you’re the bad guy,” Lee said. “For Bori Khan, he feels that he has a mission and his ideas and culture is very different from the emperor’s.

“The backstory I’ve created for him is that the Chinese culture is somewhat trying to impose their ways upon our culture and diminishing our culture. So, it’s very relevant in a way to modern times how certain governments go into other countries and try to rectify the situation with force.”

If Lee is specifically referencing any particular modern government, he’s keeping mum – but there is the chance that some audiences may walk out of Mulan feeling more resonance with Bori’s Rouran warriors than they do with the titular hero in the current political climate.

A movie is rarely just a movie – even one that’s designed to be family friendly and empowering to young women.

Mulan releases on Disney+ on Friday, September 4

“I think on a universal level, Mulan should make people feel proud, excited and inspired, but it definitely speaks to women,” Reed said. “I think it’s an important and inspirational story about a woman finding her place in the world, where it’s not always expected or accepted.”

That was the goal in 2018, but 2020 has thrown a lot of other unpredictable elements into the volatile mix.

Whether Mulan will be a success may never be known if Disney chooses not to disclose the rental numbers, which it doesn’t have to do. And what would even qualify it as a “success” in this unforged path?

Perhaps like Mulan herself, the film will defy expectations and doubt to become legend.

Back in Auckland that day, addressing whether there was immense pressure on Mulan, Reed said, very earnestly, “There’s an overall pressure that it has to do well, but you never know what the world is going to look like in 2020.”

Words that would take on a prophetic tinge in hindsight.

Mulan is available for premium video-on-demand for $34.99 on Disney+ from Friday, September 4

Share your movies and TV obsessions | @wenleima

The writer travelled to Auckland as a guest of Disney

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Centre Stage star Ethan Stiefel shocks fans with completely unrecognisable new look

Stiefel, 47, played the professional ballet dancer Cooper Nielsen in the 2000 cult classic.

Gone were the days of his clean shaven face and floppy blonde locks, instead, fans were met with shoulder length hair and an intimidating moustache.

Centre Stage actor Ethan Stiefel is completely unrecognisable now. Picture: YouTube

“Good god, Ethan Stiefel, that look is a choice,” one fan wrote after watching the reunion.

Oh my goodness. Ethan Stiefel looks... verrrrrrry different. https://t.co/iexFv3JGpw— Sam (@sgreen3) September 1, 2020

Ethan Stiefel?!

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Where it all fell apart for Universal Pictures’ Cats

Behold, this graph:

pic.twitter.com/9RY1rQcfkT— Jonathan Champ (@meaningbusiness) July 12, 2020

Compelling theory.

When the Cats trailer was released in July last year the Twitter universe went bonkers.

The feedback at the time was that people were confused, intrigued, but mostly downright terrified.

Director of Cats: “Make it look like the hell you go to if you deliberately drowned a cat”— pixelatedboat aka “mr tweets” (@pixelatedboat) July 18, 2019

I don't know why you're all freaking out over miniature yet huge cats with human celebrity faces and sexy breasts performing a demented dream ballet for kids.— Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) July 18, 2019

the James Cordon cat is giving me a panic attack pic.twitter.com/snDc9PzwXd— Ryan Broderick (@broderick) July 18, 2019

Don't tell me your dreams are impossible when someone managed to get this greenlit https://t.co/a6PjKpcbmN— Angie Thomas (@angiecthomas) July 19, 2019

therapist: judi dench as a cat isn’t real she can’t hurt youjudi dench as a cat: pic.twitter.com/1cLqmS22xO— ?? raya (@intoanewlife) July 18, 2019

And things didn’t get much better upon its December release.

Cats – which just hit streaming on Binge if you’re keen to see what all the fuss is about – cost about $131 million to make, with extensive visual effects and a lucrative cast including Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Rebel Wilson and Idris Elba. It was also directed by Tom Hooper (Les Miserables, The King’s Speech).

A lot of money also went into marketing, which cost a further $160 million.

Given the global success of the iconic musical of the same by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Universal put significant energy into advertising the film, and people were naturally expecting greatness.

It grossed only $100 million against that hefty budget – making it a certified box office bomb and reportedly lost Universal Pictures up to $160 million.

While the general consensus seemed to be that people were unsettled by the blend of CGI and live-action, there were also some disastrous visual effects issues.

One particular scene revealed Dench’s human hand – with her wedding ring on show – against her cat body.

MORE: Cats movie review

Judi Dench stars as Old Deuteronomy, a wise and ancient cat the others look up to – but as far as we know he didn’t have a human hand with a wedding ring.

Watch popular movies and timeless classics on BINGE. Get BINGE Basic now for just $10 a month & 14 day free trial for new customers

The studio was forced to notify cinemas on premiere day, and later sent an updated cut with “some improved visual effects”. Studio executives and cinema owners said that the decision to release a modified version of a film already in wide release was “unheard of”.

Then there was an early cut of the entire film where the celebrity cats all had visible “buttholes”, which the studio then had to call an expert in to remove.

A source told the Daily Beast in April: “We paused it. We went to call our supervisor, and we’re like, ‘There’s a f***ing a**hole in there! There’s buttholes! It wasn’t prominent but you saw it … It wasn’t in your face but at the same time, too, if you’re looking, you’ll see it.”

The publication spoke anonymously to a visual effects artist in April, where it was revealed the team had six months to produce the two-minute-long trailer and then only four months to produce the full film. Visual effects artists were spending 90-hour weeks and even sleeping under their desks in some cases to get the film done on time.

Other crew members told the publication they would stay in the office for “two or three days at a time, sleeping under desks” and that the experience was “almost slavery”, citing Hooper’s name.

MORE: Cats trailer is the weirdest thing you’ll ever see

Francesca Howard in Cats. Picture: Universal

And Webber didn’t soften the blow for Hooper in a recent interview with The Sunday Times, where he said “the whole thing was ridiculous”. This coming from the man who wrote the original musical.

“The problem with the film was that Tom Hooper decided, as he had with Les Mis, that he didn’t want anybody involved in it who was involved in the original show,” Webber said.

While Hooper hasn’t directly addressed any claims, he gave an insight into his mindset in a December interview prior to the film’s official opening day that he was “tired” and had been working “seven days a week since August”.

Derulo was also quick to defend the film in an interview with TMZ after the movie’s release, saying critics’ opinions “don’t matter”.

“Reviews don’t matter man, reviews don’t matter,” he said. “At the end of the day the people are going to see it and it’s going to be a deportation to another dimension. It’s an incredibly brave piece of art and it always has been that way. When it came out on Broadway.”

Corden and Wilson however, couldn’t resist but make a joke out of it at this year’s Academy Awards in February.

Dressed as cats, the pair poked fun at the bizarre visual effects.

“As cast members of the motion picture Cats, nobody more than us understands the importance of good visual effects,” they said, which was met with laughs and applause from the audience.

Cats is now streaming on Binge

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Tenet scores at box office despite pandemic

Australian box office totals were not yet available at the time of publication.

Australians were among the first audiences to see director Christopher Nolan’s anticipated blockbuster.

With the exception of Victoria, cinemas were open and operating across the country, anxious executives looking to Tenet as the spark for a return to theatres after mandated shutdowns during the pandemic.

Given the pandemic, there is no yardstick against which to adequately measure Tenet’s opening performance, Nolan’s most recent film, Dunkirk, opened at $US100 million in 2017.

With social distancing measures in place including capped capacity and heightened expectations placed on the film, cinemas were running few non-Tenet sessions, instead putting the blockbuster on multiple screens at the same time. George St cinemas in Sydney had 38 sessions in the first day of previews.

The physics-defying movie stars John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki and Kenneth Branagh.

Tenet is seen as a ‘saviour’ to cinemas which were forced shut during the pandemic

RELATED: Tenet is visually spectacular but confusing as hell

RELATED: Tenet interviews with Christopher Nolan and John David Washington

RELATED: The Tenet detail you probably missed

Australia and New Zealand were among the very few markets to have had preview sessions ahead of a global rollout which started on August 26 in 41 markets. Tenet will be released in the world’s two biggest box office markets, the US on September 3 and China on September 4.

In many cities around the world, including lucrative markets such as Los Angeles, cinemas are still closed.

Only weeks ago, it wasn’t even clear Tenet would be released this year when it was delayed indefinitely.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit in March, studios pulled their titles from the schedule as it became clear that public activities such as moviegoing would be impossible during a global public health crisis.

The next James Bond movie, No Time To Die, was the first to move, from April to November. Everything else followed soon after including the likes of Black Widow, A Quiet Place 2, Fast & Furious 9 and Top Gun: Maverick.

Other movies including The Lovebirds, Greyhound and now Mulan were punted to digital and streaming platforms, skipping a cinematic release all together. Amy Adams’ The Woman in the Window is rumoured to be heading to Netflix.

Tenet is directed by Christopher Nolan and stars John David Washington and Robert Pattinson

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For months, Tenet remained the outlier, staying in its then-July release berth.

Its reticence to change bestowed on it a “saviour” status, as if Tenet and its famously pro-theatrical director Nolan will rescue the big screen experience from obsolescence in the face of overwhelming challenges from both coronavirus and deep-pocketed streaming companies.

Since cinemas reopened in Australia in late-June, there have been few notable new movies as studios held back titles.

The King of Staten Island, The Personal History of David Copperfield and Russell Crowe thriller Unhinged have topped box office charts in recent weeks. Unhinged had the most robust opening weekend until now with $800,000 in Australia.

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Even the stars of Tenet struggled to comprehend Christopher Nolan’s movie

Tenet lead John David Washington confessed to news.com.au that it took him a while to get there – if he’s even there yet.

“Like all Christopher Nolan movies, after the fourth or fifth viewing, with great depth, it starts to fall into place for me,” he said. “On a certain level, I understood it, especially when we were working – I definitely understood my character so I would try to lock in on what The Protagonist was doing in relation to the story.

“As far as the overall theme of it, it took some time. I’m still learning!”

British director Nolan is renowned for crafting movies that are puzzles within puzzles, from the reverse narrative of Memento to the plot-twist of The Prestige to subconscious layers of Inception.

Tenet is no different, introducing a concept called “time inversion” in which characters and objects can move backwards while everyone and everything around them maintains forward momentum, following cause-and-effect.

If you think about it for too long, your head starts to hurt - and for the lucky Australians who saw previews this past weekend (the first in the world to do so), their heads already do.

Washington, son of Denzel and star of Spike Lee’s Oscar-nominated BlacKkKlansman, plays an unnamed character known as The Protagonist, an operative tasked with stopping an apocalyptic threat posed by Kenneth Branagh’s Russian oligarch and arch-villain Andrei Sator.

Tenet is Nolan’s nod to the spy genre with more than a drop of a globetrotting Bond movie in its veins. It just also happens to have what Doctor Who calls “timey wimey” stuff.

Tenet is seen as the ‘saviour’ of cinemas hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic

RELATED: Tenet review – so confusing you’ll need to see it twice

Branagh said he was exhilarated when he first read the script, calling Tenet “no espionage film I’ve ever seen before”.

“When I saw it for the first time a couple of weeks ago, I felt as I did when I first read it,” Branagh continued. “I just went completely with the ride, I felt like I had 50 cups of coffee, and was amazed to have been involved in something on such a scale and pace.”

Branagh likened Nolan’s story to a Russian babushka doll with a smaller doll inside and then another and another.

He didn’t seem to understand all of Tenet either.

“I totally went with its complexity and was happy to. Having worked with Shakespeare for half my life, I say to people, it doesn’t matter if you understand all of it, you can feel it all and go with it. So I went with it, intuiting what I intuited, and loved it.

“One of the things I respect about Christopher Nolan is he completely respects the intelligence of the audience.”

Nolan remains one of the few directors in the Hollywood system who has close to a blank cheque to make the kind of movies he wants to make. Not many filmmakers would be handed hundreds of millions of dollars to write and direct a movie with so many intellectual hurdles for your average non-physics-degree-holding cinemagoer.

In the weeks after Inception came out in 2010, the internet was flooded with diagrams, graphs and other visuals trying to explain the barely discernible levels of a movie in which thieves steal information by penetrating your subconsciousness.

Christopher Nolan on set with John David Washington

It’s that ambition in original storytelling which has earnt Nolan so many fans, whether they came on-board in his early years with The Following, Memento or Insomnia, or if they bought in during his Dark Knight trilogy. Nolan’s take is why they’ll sit through movies they know they won’t likely understand on the first go.

For Nolan, he believes he’s just making the kind of movie he wants to see.

“I’ve always had good luck just following my instincts because I’m a member of the audience too,” he told news.com.au. “If I want to see something different and original and exciting and maybe challenges me, I trust there are other people out there in the world looking for that too.

“We go to the movies to be entertained and excited and taken on a thrill ride. That’s the most important thing, but if there can be more layers, things that spin around in your mind after you’ve seen it, I think that’s a win-win.”

Even if, like Washington and Branagh, you can’t fully comprehend Nolan’s conceptual ambitions, there’s no denying the filmmaker can weave a spectacle, full of jaw-dropping set pieces such as bungee jumping into and from a Mumbai penthouse.

It’s the marriage of the cerebral and the thrills that earns Nolan the kind of adulation that more straightforward action directors such as Michael Bay and Roland Emmerich can’t inspire.

Branagh, who has also directed almost 20 films including Thor and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and previously worked with Nolan on Dunkirk, attested to Nolan’s skill for spectacle.

“He knows that part of the fun of a movie like this is it really delivers on the blockbuster, edge-of-your-seat stuff,” Branagh said. “I mean the sound in this movie is incredible, the soundtrack, the music, it gets right under your skin. It’s immersive, it properly is.”

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Kenneth Branagh plays a menacing, low-voiced villain in Tenet

Nolan has been working on the idea for Tenet for a very long time, with it ultimately coming together about six or seven years ago. But Nolan knew it would still be some time before he was ready to take it on.

“Logistically, a very complex film like this, a giant blockbuster with lots of action and everything, I certainly didn’t want to take it on until I had a lot of experience doing the kinds of action scenes we knew we were going to have to do in this film, and then turn them on their heads.

“That was going to be a huge challenge to film. Having done car chases and planes crashes in other movies, I felt ready to take those on and take them to the next level.”

It was quite the learning curve for Washington, who had the responsibility of not only anchoring the story but of performing the most “inverted” stunts.

“Everything you learnt, you had to learn it backwards,” Washington explained. “Something I never do when I’m working on a film is look at the monitors after a take but in this case, I had to, just for the physicality, to try to match what I did. It was a very new experience for me.

“Our stunt people have been in the industry a long time and no one has ever done this kind of movement before. No one has had hand-to-hand combat fights where one guy is going forwards and the other one is going backwards and then vice versa. We’re making movie history.

“It was intense, it was hard, it was very physically taxing – a war of attrition on the body. I needed massage therapy, ice baths, all of it to push through the finish line, because it required so much.

“And I’m now more comfortable with heights! That was required of me too.”

John David Washington had to learn to fight backwards

Tenet is seen as something of a “saviour” for a global movie industry hit hard by coronavirus, with cinemas shut and productions halted as social distancing mandates came down around the world.

For months, Hollywood studios delayed the release of money-making tentpole movies. But Tenet didn’t initially budge from its original mid-July release date, a beacon in a sea of doom and foregone box office revenue.

By the time the release was pushed back to late August, Tenet had already been branded as the movie cinema chains will reopen for, and the one to lure audiences back to (spaced out) seats. With Nolan being a passionate advocate for the big screen experience, it was highly unlikely Tenet was ever going to skip theatres and go straight to digital.

But it was touchy for a while there as virus cases resurged in many territories, putting in doubt whether Tenet would even be out this year, or whether it would be pushed to 2021 like so many of its compatriots.

Washington wasn’t sure it was coming out anytime soon. “I thought maybe next summer, maybe Christmas?” he said, growing increasingly excited. “So great relief is what I’m feeling doing these press junkets because it means it’s happening! It’s finally happening!”

Tenet is full of things that go bang

Nolan is diplomatic when asked if the pressure to perform well is weighing on him, especially in the COVID era when Tenet is being used as a yardstick for whether or not more studios will back releasing blockbusters at this time.

“Any big release, and I’ve worked on a lot of big films over the years, carries enormous pressure, and as a filmmaker you can’t internalise it too much. You have to concentrate on the things you can control and all I can really control is what’s on the screen and how specifically and passionately I’ve made that.

“With Tenet, I’ve really tried to put as much of myself into the project as possible and get as much as possible for the audience on screen.”

Branagh admitted he too felt moments when he wasn’t sure what was going to happen with Tenet’s release – his own film Artemis Fowl was diverted to streaming platform Disney+ during the pandemic – but was glad once he saw it on a big screen knowing it would come out in that format.

“I feel like it was such a tonic to be in this world of escape and to travel the world with Christopher Nolan and see seven different cities in this kind of detail and have that experience. So I’m glad it’s happening.

“I hope it gives people pleasure.”

Tenet is in cinemas from Thursday, August 27 (excluding Victoria)

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