Cirque du Soleil movie not as good as the real thing

By Christopher K. Conner

At one point in 2011, Cirque du Soleil had seven shows on seven stages in Las Vegas. “Worlds Away” takes video from some acts of those seven performances and blends them into a surreal dream world.

In “Worlds Away” Mia (Erica Linz) is a demure figure, quietly approaching a traveling circus. She takes in the sights of the midway and eventually meets the eyes of a worker and smiles at him. The circus boss chases her off and she turns to leave but is intercepted by a sad clown with a flier for “The Aerialist.” The clown’s silent urgings convince the girl to enter the tent of Circus Marvelous.

Inside Mia nervously watches the introduction and the strange cast of characters composing the circus. When The Aerialist finally begins his performance, she catches his eye at an inopportune moment making him miss and fall to the ground. When he falls, the ground gives way beneath him. Mia races to help and finds herself being sucked into the ground after the fallen performer.

Mia is now in a fantasy world where tents represent the borders of individual worlds. Moving from one tent to the next carrying the flier she’d gotten from the sad clown, Mia finds guides in a number of strange allies. Her search for The Aerialist is interrupted by interludes of stage performances.

From each of the seven shows (“O”, “KA”, “Mystere”, “Viva Elvis”, “Criss Angel Believe”, “Zumanity” and “The Beatles Love”) the director and writer Andrew Adamson chose images and acts to weave together into the mist-bound tent world Mia and The Aerialist have to navigate. For the most part, these worlds seem to go on about their own business, disregarding the two interlopers searching for each other. At certain points, however, one or the other protagonist is captured or confined for some unknown purpose by denizens of these worlds.

Like all Cirque du Soleil performances, “Worlds Away” relies on imagery and expression to tell the story, rather than dialogue. There is also much of the film that probably isn’t meant to make sense in the context of the main story and what little plot there is takes up a minimal amount of the screen time until the climax. As a movie, there is something lacking from the overall experience.

Admittedly, it is interesting to have the advantage of camera work to give different angles on the performances that are usually seen from a stationary perspective. But while the experience is vastly different, I wouldn’t say it is better or worse than seeing a stage performance of Cirque du Soleil. What is missing is the attention to the plot and how each of the performances interact with the plot.

Recognizing that this kind of feature is more theme based than plot driven, the introduction of a tenuous plot is probably doomed to failure regardless. So, to enjoy “Worlds Away” it is more important to take in the spectacle than it is to try and follow the plot. Very much like seeing Cirque du Soleil on stage, the imagery and motion is the focus.

“Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” is probably not a suitable replacement for traveling to Las Vegas and seeing a stage performance of Cirque du Soleil. It does give a good overview of the kinds of things those shows bring to the stage, and will give most viewers a good idea of whether they’d enjoy the experience of seeing any Cirque troop perform. As entertaining as this sort of talent and skill can be, as a movie the results are disappointing.

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