I've been to two Cirque du Soleil shows in my life. The name of the first exposure -- many moons ago -- escapes me, but I loved every minute of the enthralling mixture of traditional circus elements with grand if surreal high drama. With many of the performers doing their thing high above the stage with no visible safety gear, and some of the fun if slightly creepy performers interacting with unsuspecting but mostly willing audience members, you never quite knew what to expect.
My second show was "Iris" in 2011, a show revolving around the world of cinema and performed, quite intentionally, in the former Kodak (now Dolby) Theater in Hollywood (home of recent to the Oscars). It had its fun moments, some fairly creative costumes (including one Betty Boop type character wearing a large zoetrope around her waist on which real and reel images were projected) and its share of physical stunts, derring-do and contortion.
But it was also occasionally -- and a bit surprisingly -- a bit boring, especially once one had figured out that elements from past shows were simply retrofitted to appear as "new" here. Granted, some of my reaction could have been from a 6-hour flight, a live taping of The Jimmy Kimmel Show and then the Cirque performance jammed into one day, but I found myself on more than one occasion having to keep myself awake.
Interestingly enough, I had something of a similar experience while watching the new 3D Cirque film, "Cirque du Soleil: World's Away." To be fair, there wasn't any flying or "Kimmeling" before our press screening, and I felt fairly refreshed before stepping foot into the theater. Even so, there were moments where I easily could have nodded off, especially upon seeing -- yes, you guessed it -- similarly retrofitted material from my previous two shows inserted into this nearly 100-minute presentation.
Not truly a simple filmed version of a Cirque show -- in reality, it's a mixture of seven of them currently showing somewhere in Vegas, including "O," "Mystère," "Kà," "Love," "Zumanity," "Viva Elvis" and "Criss Angel Believe" -- yet not a traditional piece of fiction, the offering features a young woman (Erica Linz) who becomes enamored with an aerialist (Igor Zaripov) and inadvertently falls through a Wonderland sort of rabbit hole into a surreal world of various circus type shows.
Some are wondrous to behold (one revolving around the water-based Cirque show), others fun (mostly due to the modified Beatles tunes found in the "Love" show) and the final flying ballet style number (featuring the two "lovers" flying through the air with the greatest of ease) is a truly lovely moment. Others, however, are less enthralling and some are sleeping inducing.
The 3D presentation and the close-up cameras used by writer/director Andrew Adamson (director of the first two entries in the "Shrek" and "Chronicles of Narnia" film series) give viewers a more intimate look at the performers, the inventive costumes, the wild makeup and the physical requirements of said performances. Yet, the fact that it's been captured on film (and often in slow motion) and doesn't feature the roving audience-grabbing performers hampers some of the excitement the live shows can produce. There's never a worry that you might be chosen to go up on stage or otherwise be used as some sort of comedic prop, or that someone might slip or otherwise meet some sort of horrendous injury or worse (something that gave me sweaty palms upon my first live exposure to such stunts).
So, if you're a huge fan of the Cirque shows, you might love the intimacy the close-ups provide. If you've never seen any of them, the film could be a good introduction -- and sampler -- of some of the productions that are currently available to attend in person. But if you're someone like me who's seen a few and become less enamored with each exposure, this offering might come off as a mixed bag of good to thrilling moments mixed with bouts of near narcolepsy. Accordingly, "Cirque du Soleil: World's Away" rates as a 5.5 out of 10.