Even 3-D can’t fully capture Cirque du Soleil

  • Wed Dec 19th, 2012 3:55pm
  • Life

By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic

Applying 3-D technology to the ingenious acrobats and aerialists who populate Cirque du Soleil’s many productions sounds like a worthwhile endeavor. Toss in the name James Cameron, the fella who knows 3-D like he knows sinking ships, and you’ve got potential.

Cameron is a presenter and executive producer of “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away,” a pretty feature that doesn’t really pretend to be much more than scenes from Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil shows strung together.

Yes, there’s an introduction in which a young woman (Erica Kathleen Minz) wanders into a homey little county-fair circus one night and becomes entranced by the trapeze artist (Igor Zaripov).

As can sometimes happen at county fairs, the ground beneath the circus gives way and these two people are swallowed up into a bizarre landscape of fantastical creatures and gravity-defying humans. Our heroine passes through a bunch of strange worlds before encountering her trapeze man again.

Among the Cirque du Soleil shows tapped for inclusion here are “O” (the one that uses a lot of water, which looks pretty cool on screen), “Mystere,” “Ka” (that one’s got a huge tilting stage, which results in some moments that are actually “Titanic”-like) and “Viva Elvis.”

Quite a bit is drawn from “Beatles Love,” the much-ballyhooed production that morphs a batch of Beatles tunes (with the approval of the surviving Fabs) into a collage of themed acts.

The emphasis here is on psychedelia from the “Sgt. Pepper” era, which seems appropriate given the outlandishly gaga nature of the Cirque’s designs and costumes.

It’s all kind of interesting to look at for a while and the people onscreen are amazingly talented. Now and then something comes along so jaw-dropping (like the guy who runs around and on top of a large spinning wheel far above the stage) that you can’t imagine who ever came up with the idea in the first place.

But it gets clear early on that this is going to be one act after another, a greatest hits cycle with only a tenuous connection to the alleged story line.

Oddly, director Andrew Adamson doesn’t especially exploit the 3-D possibilities of the vertiginous acts — he’s almost too reverential.

And by watching Cirque du Soleil in a movie, we lose one very important aspect of watching them live: Because we know the performance has been recorded, we don’t get the adrenaline-tapping anxiety of actually seeing these feats of daring in the moment. The movie gives the audience a safety net, in a funny way — so we can appreciate the effort involved, but not feel the suspense.

“Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away” (2 stars)

A collection of acts from various Las Vegas-based Cirque du Soleil productions, shot in 3-D. The scenes are pretty and sometimes amazing, but watching the gravity-defying troupe do its thing on film removes the in-the-moment suspense that is part of seeing the company live.

Rated: PG for subject matter.

Showing: Alderwood Mall, Everett Stadium, Pacific Place, Sundance, Thornton Place.