Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

  • Reviewed by: Joe Marchese
  • Review Date: Apr 10, 2013
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

Andrew Adamson

Release Date(s)

2012 (March 12, 2013)

Studio(s)

Paramount

Review

If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas, there’s a good chance you’ve been to a show created by Cirque du Soleil.  Cirque has been a fixture there since Christmas Day, 1993, when Mystère premiered on the Strip at Treasure Island, and the circus group’s own website estimates that five percent of all visitors to Sin City take in a Cirque du Soleil production.  Today, there are seven such shows there, and all of them have been preserved on film in writer/director Andrew Adamson’s 2012 fantasy Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away presented by James Cameron.  The film has just arrived on Blu-ray from Paramount in both 3D and standard 2D editions, the latter of which we have viewed.

Clocking in at just 90 minutes’ length, Worlds Away plays like Alice in Wonderland crossed with an infomercial.  In a brief prologue, we’re introduced to Circus Marvelous, a traditional circus (or so we think) with games, tents, clowns, a carousel and the like – including a death-defying aerialist (Igor Zarapov).  Mia, portrayed by Erica Linz, is wandering the circus grounds when she’s persuaded by a mime-clown to attend the aerialist’s performance.  Soon, both she and he are down the rabbit hole to a world of tents, each one housing a Cirque du Soleil production.  Separated in their journey between worlds, Mia and The Aerialist, as he’s known, spend the film seeking one another out in the company of the various acrobats and clowns populating each show.

Worlds Away is primarily Mia’s story.  In Adamson’s vision, everything is rendered in big, heavily-stylized brushstrokes.  There’s no sense of reality, and most damagingly, no sense of danger once she enters the world of Cirque.  Like most of the company’s staged extravaganzas, there’s little to no dialogue as she wanders from tent to tent searching for The Aerialist.  The New Age-style musical accompaniment is provided by composers including Benoit Jutras (the original score) and Rene Dupere (much of the music from the original shows).  The film never hides the fact that each sequence was filmed at its actual Las Vegas home; we see theatre walls, stage lighting equipment, the performers’ wires and harnesses, and so on.  Whereas a Cirque show can be a captivating experience in person, that’s largely due to the completely immersive nature of each production.  Theatres are built to Cirque specifications, from seating to sound. In person, a death-defying acrobatic act can set one’s pulse racing; viewed on film, where we routinely expect the impossible, the same act becomes ho-hum.

So Worlds Away on BD, ultimately, best exists as a souvenir for those who have already attended a production in person and wish to have a bit of the Cirque experience to remember, re-watch and enjoy.  Adamson’s camera does allow you to view the multi-talented Cirque performers from a variety of unusual angles, and he beautifully captures the distinct visual and choreographic vocabulary of each of the seven shows.  Worlds Away features a ravishing water ballet from O, an aerial cube act from Mystère, and an exciting battle sequence with giant contraptions from Ka.  The sensual “adult” Cirque show Zumanity is represented with the water bowl contortion act, which is presented in particularly gorgeous fashion.  Throughout these sequences and the others, Mia does little more than stare, wide-eyed, though this is hardly the fault of the actress.  Still, she likely was appreciating the graceful balletic poses, martial arts and acrobatics which are all part and parcel of the Cirque blend.  It’s all lovely, but hardly engaging as cinema.  And for all of the clever cinematography, there are just as many moments when you’ll feel as if you’re watching through a theatre proscenium, waiting for the show’s conclusion to re-enter the world of chiming slot machines, clinking glasses and bright lights.

It’s Paul McCartney, of all people, who breaks the monotony when he is heard singing “Blackbird” in the first of a number of sequences from The Beatles’ Love.  The ghost of Elvis Presley also figures into the film when Mia enters the garish world of Viva Elvis, with performers clad like superheroes bouncing around to the strains of The King’s “Got a Lot o’ Livin’ to Do.”  But The Fab Four steals the show with the most visually stimulating sequences in the film.  Onstage at The Mirage, Love can be sensory overload.  On film, Adamson brings focus to the psychedelic fantasia.  Thanks to the music of John, Paul, George and Ringo, and the remixes of George and Giles Martin, the Love excerpts are also the most aurally interesting.  Following a trippy “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” Mia is led into Pepperland for the surreal mise-en-scène of “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” with faceless men, hooded characters, and partygoers with a generally malevolent air.  It gives a much-needed jolt to the film.  Love threatens to steal the film, between the rooftop dance of “Get Back,” the madness of “Fixing a Hole,” and the haunting “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” all preserved from the arguably most inspired of Cirque’s Vegas productions.  (For those wondering, the seventh show included here is Criss Angel Believe.)

It’s not much of a spoiler to reveal that Mia and The Aerialist eventually are reunited, and we finally get the chance to see them become active participants, thanks to an airborne pas de deux.  Fireworks signify the explosion of romance in the air, and the film then comes to an abrupt conclusion.  The cast even takes bows, over end credits set to The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love.”

Paramount’s BD is rather bare-bones.  Two short featurettes are included, “Making Worlds Away” and “A Day in the Life with Erica Linz.”  The 2D edition also includes the film on DVD plus a digital copy, while the 3D package includes the 3D BD, a DVD and a digital copy, as well.  Thankfully, the film’s strongest assets – its striking visuals and varied palette – are beautifully captured on the 1080p transfer with dazzling results.  Sound is also tremendous, with an impressive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track bringing the varied soundscape to life.  The Beatles’ songs, in particular, will pop out of your speakers with dynamic clarity.  French, Spanish and Portuguese tracks are also included on the BD in 5.1 Dolby Digital, along with English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

If this latest film from Cirque du Soleil won’t truly take you Worlds Away, it will at least transport you to the Las Vegas strip for a heckuva lot less than the cost of a plane ticket.  If you’re a Cirque fan or are eager to sample the live shows before attending, you could do much worse than picking up this film on Blu-ray.

- Joe Marchese

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