For anyone who has avoided seeing a Cirque du Soleil show for fear that the world-music soundtrack, fantasy costumes and relentless gymnastic performances would lead to eye-gouging and running for the aisles, the new film "Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away" will likely confirm all those presuppositions. The movie has a vague storyline, as a young woman pursues a male circus performer and they both wind up in an alternate world, but it is mostly just a pretense to feature set-piece performances from seven separate Cirque shows.
Although some of the more "native" Cirque du Soleil shows seem to work within the girl-seeks-boy narrative of "Worlds," a brief scene from the Elvis Presley-themed "Viva Elvis" and a long sequence from the Beatles-inspired "The Beatles: Love" stick out awkwardly. They rob "Worlds Away" from having even a pretense of a purpose other than as a Cirque promotional reel.
Because the Cirque shows themselves are mostly predicated upon the sensationalism of the performances, they provide something of an ideal showcase for the stereoscopic photography of modern 3-D; this film was written and directed by Andrew Adamson and executive produced by 3-D missionary James Cameron. The empty imagery of the Cirque shows often seems exciting in the moment, but lacks deeper meaning. This frequent disconnect between spectacle and storytelling in the Cirque shows provides a reflection on what's also missing in so much of contemporary 3-D filmmaking.