Journey of Man

For years now, the Canadian Cirque du Soleil troupe has awed audiences worldwide with their reinterpretations of classical circus acts. Originally, the only place to see them was their trademark blue and yellow striped tent as it traveled across the world. Shows began appearing in Las Vegas, and more recently in Biloxi, Louisiana and Disneyworld. Journey of Man is probably their most accessible act thus far, in the IMAX 3D format. Journey of Man takes various acts from Quidam, Saltimbanco, Mystere (the show at the Las Vegas Treasure Island) and O (the show at the Las Vegas Bellagio) and combines them into a semi-coherent allegory.

The main weakness of all Cirque shows is the story. The sheer beauty and intensity of all the performances overshadow any sort of story. Even when it is clearly laid out, the story still really does not make any sense. The same thing applies here. Peter Wagg, who also wrote the film adaptation of Cirque's Alegria, wrote the story here, narrated by Sir Ian McKellan (Apt Pupil, Gods and Monsters). Journey of Man follows the life journey of a man. He travels around the world, and learns various lessons about life, each time taught by observing a Cirque act. Each act represents love, courage, fear, or some other aspect of life.

For those who have not seen any of the shows, everything will be new. For people who have, the acts are old, but interpreted in new ways. Director Keith Melton (License to Thrill) chose (wisely) to film acts on location all over the world. The Bahamas, the Redwoods, and Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada are some of the beautiful locations used. The synchronized swimmers from O are by far the most beautiful act to appear on screen. At the Bellagio, the audience can only see the swimmers above water. Here, the camera captures them from all angles, displaying their grace and elegance in new ways. Other acts include the taiko drums, the cube man (Mystere), the banquine acrobats, the statue act (Quidam), and the bungee jumpers (Saltimbanco). Music by Beniot Jutras accompanies all of the acts. Jutras weaves in themes from his scores from O, Quidam, and Mystere, improving upon them for this theatrical release. In particular, Reveil, the song that accompanies the statue act, sounds even more wondrous with a full orchestra.

With so many good things going for it, Journey of Man still falters on some points. Again, the story is vague, but thankfully secondary. Some of the camera angles end are distracting and end up blocking some of the more amazing shots, including many scenes in the statue act and the banquine. Journey of Man is also far too short. All Cirque shows take viewers to a different world, one of vast imagination and wonder, and people are always reluctant to leave. By the time the movie is over, it seems like only a matter of minutes passed. Moreover, Melton did not take full advantage of the 3D capabilities. Granted, many of the acts need no improvement, but the only 3D effects used pertain to the credits and some scenery in the foreground. Of course, there is the typical flying scene through mountains (this is an IMAX film after all). The good things in Journey of Man far outweigh the bad, and it should serve as a great introduction to the world of Cirque du Soleil.

Haro Rates It: Not Bad.
38 minutes, Rated G.

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