Monday, January 7, 2013

Upside Down (2013)

**This review contains spoilers**

In an alternate universe, Adam lives on a planet that shares dual gravity with another planet above. After losing  his biological parents in a devastating explosion caused by an oil refinery from the upper world, Adam spends time at an orphanage before living with his aunt.

Adam’s bottom planet houses the poor and starved half of the population, but the rich and healthy half of the population lives on the upper planet. TransWorld, a corporation that employs citizens from both planets, is the only connection between both worlds. TransWorld controls the economy between both worlds, and selling unaffordable electricity to the bottom planet is an important factor for maintaining  the separation between both planets.

Contact or intrusion between both worlds is strictly forbidden, and the Natural Law Police show no mercy towards defiance. Although, the citizens from the bottom planet CAN intrude into the upper world with the help of forbidden weights, or an illegal anti-gravity material, but this material has a short lifespan, and it burns quickly.

One day, a young Adam meets Eden at a boundary point on two mountains between both worlds. Adam builds a secret relationship with Eden, who lives in the upper world. As teenagers, Adam (Jim Sturgess) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) continue their forbidden friendship, but an attack from a group of border patrolmen ends a routine meeting between the two. Adam tries to use a rope to return Eden to her world, but a border patrolmen shoots him in the arm, causing him to drop Eden. Eden crashes into the ground above, and she suffers a nasty head injury. Devastated, Adam returns home to see his aunt arrested by the Natural Law Police.

Ten years later, Adam is trying to finish a project that could change everything, a matter with pink bee pollen. Working through the kinks, Adam believes his new matter can withstand the gravitational pull from both worlds. But Adam needs more money and resources, so he decides to get a job at TransWorld. Although, Adam runs into an unexpected dilemma, when he spots Eden on a game show for the upper world. As a cover-up, Adam perfects his new matter into a beauty cream for TransWorld, but he can’t fight his desires to reunite with Eden. Adam is willing to risk everything to convince an amnesic Eden, while trying to outsmart his ruthless employers.

I don’t have any real complaints about the acting. Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunce provide two very solid performances, and Timothy Spall is decent enough as Bob (Adam‘s buddy at work). The cast is just fine, but the story….that’s a different problem.

Upside Down features grandiose set pieces, and extravagant, breathtaking scenery, but I can’t ignore Juan Diego Solanas’ shallow and predictable love story. You can see every twist and turn coming during Adam’s journey to recapture Eden’s heart. The love story slowly goes through the motions, and Eden’s sudden remembrance of her relatinoship with Adam raises too many “how is that possible?” questions. Seriously, Eden’s just laying around in her apartment, she has a random dream about her childhood with Adam, and then BAM! She instantly falls in love with him again? Initially, Solanas took his time building the reconnection between Adam and Eden, and establishing the two main characters as adults. But the ending was rushed and underdeveloped, and I just couldn’t buy into Eden’s miraculous recollection of the past.

Juan Diego Solanas’ weak screenplay is very disappointing, but I enjoyed his directing. Take a good look at the movie poster I posted above, because that’s what you’ll see for 90% of this film. Adjusting to Upside Down’s topsy-turvy landscape takes some time. In fact, you might experience feelings of nausea during the first fifteen or twenty minutes, but Solanas’ steady guidance really pulls everything together. Behind the camera, Solanas stays true to the story’s gravitational rules. When Jim sneaks into the upper world for the first time, he pees on the ceiling of a bathroom, as his anti-gravity material burns. And you’ll see a few inverted scenes, as Solanas shows both points of view from both worlds.

Upside Down is a frustrating film. A unique premise is squandered, because stunning visuals, and awe-inspiring backdrops can’t cover up the “been there, done that” storyline between Adam and Eden. Also, the obvious plot holes (mainly the big ones towards the end) constantly straggle into a giant mess, as the story progresses. It’s so irritating, because Upside Down could’ve been a great movie, but an average love story destroys any chances for supremacy.

Upside Down was released in 2012 for Russian and Canadian audiences. Upside Down should receive a US theatrical release date in March, and if I can find any showings near me, I might watch Upside Down on the big screen. The big screen won’t help the quality of this film, but I’m expecting a more extravagant experience from a theater showing. The big screen should enhance Upside Down’s visual wonderland, and it won’t happen, but Upside Down would be an ideal candidate for an IMAX release.

Final Rating: 3/10

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