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Review – Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away – Amazing aerial acrobatic art

Posted by on December 21, 2012 – 12:06 am

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away© 2012 Paramount Pictures
Before seeing the new movie  Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, the only thing I knew about the Canadian circus troop, Cirque du Soleil, was that they had signs all over the Vegas’ strip advertising shows with odd names like “O” and “Ka” and “Zumanity.” I had a vague notion that these were some sort of artsy acrobatic acts, but it was nothing that ever enticed me to gamble on a ticket – this incredible new film has changed my mind.

The Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away movie is almost completely without dialogue, with only a handful of words spoken. Instead the story is told with music and amazing aerial acrobatic art as you are immersed into a world that is a collage of bits & pieces from many of the Vegas’ Cirque du Soleil attractions.

Mia (Erica Linz) is a petite young woman who meanders into an old-school style traveling circus populated with the stereotypical oddities and freak shows. As the girl wanders the circus grounds she catches the attention of a handsome worker who is helping to erect a tent; their eyes meet and they share a moment before he is ordered back to work.

Mia runs into a very creepy clown who directs her to enter the tent where “The Aerialist” performs and she recognizes the star acrobat as the same worker whom she made eye contact with earlier. While watching his act, their eyes meet again and the distraction causes him to miss his trapeze bar and plummet to what should be his death. Instead he is sucked into the sand of the circus’ center ring and Mia jumps in to save him, only to find herself pulled into the ground funnel as well.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away© 2012 Paramount Pictures
The girl then finds herself transported into a strange limbo like dimension with several big-top style circus tents populating an alien landscape, transitioning from the standard circus to the state-of-the-art Fantasia-like circus world that Cirque du Soleil inhabits. She journeys through each of the tents in search of The Aerialist (Igor Zaripov) and encounters all manner of other worldly beings that are in the midst of a battle between good and evil.

There’s not really much to the dream-like narrative here, but it serves its purpose well enough by bringing you into this dimension of upscale circus performances and then tying them together with the story thread of two lovers trying to find each other and allowing for some astonishing set pieces to be showcased along the way.

The fantasy worlds that have been created for this film (and I’m assuming for the live action shows that are its source material) are incredibly inventive and of an epic scale. There is often what seems like dozens of performers simultaneously enacting intricately detailed feats of astonishment, and the camera puts you into the middle of the action, up close, with dizzying affect – where you experience the magic in a way you never could by simply watching a stage show – no matter how good your seats are.

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away© 2012 Paramount Pictures
Among the acts, which include Chinese contortionists, underwater acrobats, fearlessly flying superheroes and an elongated ringmaster (Lutz Halbhubner) that looks more like a cartoon than a man, my favorite vignettes were two different vertical battles that take place on a floating wall where the soldiers fight each other on a perpendicular battlefield. It looks like something out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but with multiple athletes performing unbelievable stunts without the benefit of camera tricks and special effects.

The music, which is a huge part of Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away, incorporates fantastic original material by composer Benoit Jutras as well as songs by Elvis and The Beatles (from the Cirque du Soleil shows Viva Elvis and The Beatles Love respectively.) The soundtrack may be weighted a little too much on the Beatles side for some viewer’s tastes, but, even if you are not a fan or familiar with their music, that shouldn’t be a problem as the tunes used are very fitting to the circus atmosphere (i.e. Octopus Garden and For the benefit of Mr. Kite, to name a couple.)

Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away© 2012 Paramount Pictures
Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away is written and directed by Andrew Adamson, who helmed a few of the Shrek and The Chronicles of Narnia films, so he is no stranger to fantasy material. The film is executive produced by James Cameron (Avatar), who was involved with the 3D effects in this movie. As usual, the 3D glasses darkened up the picture and I think I would have actually enjoyed it more in its simple 2D version as this movie is too beautiful to be muddied by the luminance issues caused by the 3D presentation.

If you are already a fan of Cirque du Soleil, then you are probably going to love this movie, others are likely to become fans and will be mesmerized by the feats of human acrobatic art within this film. It’s a little slow in spots and this may not be “the greatest show on Earth,” but it’s pretty darn good.  Grade: 7/10