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article imageReview: Cirque du Soleil brings ‘Avatar’s beauty to the world stage Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jan 10, 2016 in Entertainment
Cirque du Soleil’s ‘Toruk – The First Flight’ is a visually attractive homage to James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ that captivates the stunning beauty of the record-breaking film.
Up until the recent release of the latest Star Wars chapter, Avatar was the highest grossing film of all-time. Yet, in spite of this monumental accomplishment, the stunning picture has rarely been mentioned outside of this context since 2009. However, such striking artistry did not escape the attention of the creators at Cirque du Soleil. The troupe pays tribute to James Cameron’s epic world of the Na’vi in their first adaptation of a movie titled Toruk – The First Flight, which is currently on a world tour.
Inspired by the beauty of Pandora and the natives’ affinity with nature, the story is a new adventure that remains loyal to the essence of its source. It’s discovered the Tree of Souls is in danger from a natural catastrophe that threatens to destroy it. Their only hope is two young warriors who agree to journey to the other four clans on a quest to collect the five items required to ride with Toruk, the great bird believed to have the ability to save the tree. Along the way the pair face many risks and much resistance to their mission, but they also befriend a young capable female adventurer who agrees to accompany them on the remainder of their expedition.
As expected, the show is spectacularly eye-catching. The set regularly transforms via projections and minor alterations to represent various landscapes, many of which will be familiar to fans of the film such as the floating mountains of Ayram alusìng. In addition, the combined use of sound and images often produce the impression that the land is moving, which makes for a very interesting experience as a member of the audience who knows everything is stationary but can’t resist the well-constructed illusion — the water sequences are the most convincing in this capacity. As a result it all feels and looks very magical as shadows and puppets are used to create the presence of fearsome creatures, and flowers bloom from the main stage.
A scene from  Toruk - The First Flight
A scene from 'Toruk - The First Flight'
Photo: Jesse Faatz Costumes: Kym Barrett © 2015 Cirque du Soleil
Most of the music is percussion based and frequently performed on stage as part of the show. Rhythmists fly through the air to play drums suspended in the sky, while others use ordinary objects to contribute to the beat. The soundtrack is a powerful aspect of the presentation as most of the action is set to the compositions and seemingly feed off of each other throughout.
The actual narrative is probably the weakest element as it’s somewhat repetitive and relatively predictable, much like its predecessor. Their journey falls into a pattern of natural peril, followed by an enthusiastic introduction to the clan and negotiations. However, the delivery is rather noteworthy. The narrator’s commanding voice relates the tale in English with opening and closing remarks. The other actors only speak Na’vi as the audience is encouraged to interpret the story via their actions and tone.
The show also has some appealing technological elements in which attendees are encouraged to participate. By downloading the free Toruk app, viewers can participate in the show. When prompted they can raise their devices, which will display more attractive visuals and, in some cases, trigger the flash to contribute to the atmosphere. Fortunately there are only a handful of these moments programmed at the beginning and end of certain acts so as not to distract from the main event. The app also provides further opportunities to explore Pandora and learn about the Na’vi. Finally, fans can purchase a photo at the souvenir booth in which they are digitally transformed into one of the Na’vi.
This new venture certainly lives up to the standard set by other Cirque du Soleil shows, though some may leave wishing there was more of the troupe’s signature air acrobatics incorporated into the performance.
More about Cirque du Soleil, Toruk The First Flight, Avatar, World tour, James cameron
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