Film Review – Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away
On face value, it seems like Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away would be a film perfectly suited to 3D. Cirque du Soleil has long been lauded for their mix of circus acrobatics and street entertainment, winning numerous awards and garnering audiences worldwide. I’ve seen a few of their shows in Las Vegas and am always amazed at the complexity of their productions; they are truly meant to be a spectacle. In this regard, the film really captures the magic of their shows—but it is also a powerful reminder that focusing on one dimension of a movie (pardon the pun) can be a major mistake.
It is hard to describe the plot of the movie, because it is more or less non-existent. Essentially, a girl goes to a circus, where she travels after a trapeze artist who falls into another dimension—a damster (or whatever the male equivalent of damsel is) in distress, if you will. Instead of creating a new show, the film essentially consists of the characters traveling through parts of all the Cirque performances from Las Vegas. Movie-goers expecting a unique project could potentially see this as a bit of a bait and switch. Really what the film boils down to is an opportunity to showcase the work of Cirque du Soleil, which is totally cool and deserves as much recognition as possible. In essence, the film is a survey course on Cirque du Soleil…you get a pinch of the Beatles LOVE, a dab of Viva Elvis, etc.
The film is written and directed by Andrew Adamson, director of the first two Shrek movies and the first two Chronicles of Narnia movies, so clearly he is a very experienced filmmaker. Perhaps it was the challenge of trying to translate a show that is so visually complex, but I found the results here to be somewhat mixed. The film is stuck somewhere between trying to be its own narrative storyline and just being a cinematic recreation of great sequences from other Cirque performances. Unfortunately, it fails to distinguish itself as either. I think it would’ve been better to just be a film version of one of their shows or a highlight reel of performances. The storyline is actually a bit of a distraction and causes the movie to feel like it’s plodding along whenever they cut back to it. Having seen The Hobbit within the same week, I can say that despite being an hour longer, that feels as brisk as this movie did.
While his work as a writer seems questionable, Adamson does deserve quite a bit of credit for being able to translate the kinetic magic of Cirque du Soleil onto film. Visually, the movie is stunning: the 3D is effective; the detail of the performances can be seen up close and from many angles, though the cutting between various angles sometimes happens too quickly and the cuts are sometimes so jarring that it ends up feeling dizzying. I see a lot of 3D movies, and this is one of the few times that it actually gave me a headache. Even still, it gave me a new appreciation for the projects and a new level of amazement for what the human body is capable of doing. In addition to the visuals, it doesn’t hurt to feature music from the Beatles and Elvis on the soundtrack, so the film is a bit of a treat for the senses.
If you look at the movie from the perspective of being a “film,” it is actually pretty dull. It doesn’t really feel like something that requires your full attention for 90 minutes. You could zone out or fall asleep and not really be lost. Where the film truly is a success is as a 3D exercise and a demonstration of the nuance of Cirque du Soleil. You can see much more detail than you could ever see at a performance of the show. Even so, it is hard to recommend the movie unless you are curious about Cirque du Soleil and you aren’t planning to travel to Vegas or can’t afford to see them live; this is a pretty good alternative for under $15. For everyone else, it might be a bit of a slog.
Final Grade: C