Circus Maximus Stars and is Directed by Travis Scott
Meant to be watched alongside his new album Utopia, Circus Maximus spawns new endeavors for Travis Scott. Although laced with a few nice tracks, the movie ultimately gets lost in drab images and an absence of unique styling.
Circus Maximus is the visual accompanying project to Travis Scott’s latest album Utopia. The movie had a short run in movie theaters to coincide with the album’s release, and is now available to stream for free on YouTube. The film marks Travis Scott’s segway into filmmaking as he worked alongside many of the medium’s most unique and accomplished arthouse directors.
But unfortunately, Circus Maximus doesn’t do much to enhance either the musical experience of Travis Scott’s Utopia, or the concept of a feature length visualizer. Although slightly dark and despondent – styles that feel in line with his artistic thumbprint – the film that’s attached here doesn’t keep with the energetic and ballistic pace that the album frequently indulges in.
Especially given the other talent involved with bringing Circus Maximus to life, which includes the likes of Gaspar Noé, Nicolas Winding Refn, and even Harmony Korine (whom Travis Scott is working with again in 2023 in the form of Korine’s infrared Aggro Dr1ft). For the strange, eclectic crew, I would’ve liked to see more artistry on display from set design to camera work.
But it’s undoubtedly impossible to write about my feelings towards Circus Maximus without reflecting on Utopia, Travis Scott’s fourth studio album as a solo artist. It doesn’t contain the same buttery and airy quality that I found so appealing in Astroworld, and it fails to maintain the edgy instrumental choices that made Rodeo such a unique foray into hip-hop. The album feels largely in conversation with the latter of the two albums, but rarely hits the same melodic or emotional heights.
This is to say that I’ve struggled connecting to Utopia’s musical elements much more than I have with many of Travis Scott’s albums in the past. Perhaps if the music was more resonant with me, I’d be more willing to engage in the visualizer attached to it and forgive lackluster ideas for the sake of musical harmony. Instead, I found myself falling out of interest as the project went on as it slowly formed into an odd hybrid of concert film and Avant Garde imagery.
There are still many elements to Circus Maximus and Utopia that I do like, starting with the opening minutes of the film backed by some of the album’s more bombastic musical moments. Circus Maximus starts much more color and vibrant than it ends, offering a psychedelic journey into an abyss, accompanied by the rattling drums and synths of the Utopia soundtrack. There’s a globetrotting nature to the movie, bouncing between African nations, European architecture, and eventually one giant bass-bumping arena.
Reviews for Films like Circus Maximus (2023)
Which is perhaps where Circus Maximus gets its most tedious. I’ve never found Travis Scott to be the most interesting or unique personality. He tends to hide his physical and emotional characteristics behind gothic clothing, thick-rimmed shades, and layers upon layers of auto-tune. It’s hard to break through and connect with his performance here when it lingers on him attempting to break that mold, while still donning the pieces that hide him from his audience.
The back half of Circus Maximus mostly involves this structure, watching Travis Scott perform each of his tracks among a seemingly desolate wasteland. The scene looks heavily inspired by the likes of Mad Max. Scott uses the area to the best of his ability, swinging from one section of the stage to the next. There aren’t a ton of stylistic choices beyond this, mostly simple camera movement and editing. I struggled to find many filmmaking elements that reminded me of the works of the other auteurs involved. I expected more oddity from an album/film hybrid directed partially by Gaspar Noé.
And I still walked away from Circus Maximus feeling lukewarm about Utopia. Travis Scott’s new album still has some standouts, but if it’s going to grow on me, it will take some time. Maybe I’d have to revisit the visualizer alongside it in the future if I begin to feel more positively about the record. For now, I’m rather mixed on the whole presentation.
Watch Circus Maximus on YouTube
Circus Maximus Movie Cast and Credits
Travis Scott as Self
Rick Rubin as Self
James Blake as Self
Sheck Wes as Self
Yung Lean as Self
Writer: Travis Scott
Cinematography: Łukasz Żal
Composer: Travis Scott
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