REVIEW: 'Upside Down'


If you’re going to bill a movie as a love story, there'd better be some love in there. Or better yet, a story to establish the romance. But that’s not the case with Upside Down, a new sci-fi flick where we’re supposed to believe that two characters are so head over heels, they’re willing to repeatedly risk their lives to be together. Sadly, the movie seems to go to great lengths to cut out all the lovebirds’ chances for chemistry – or even a single meaningful conversation.

Even more stupefying is the degree to which Upside Down’s story falls apart in the third act. The villains mysteriously disappear at the climax, never to return.  Just before the film ends, the hero gives up any intention of achieving his goal. Upside Down takes a promising sci-fi concept and manages to twist it into one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had at the movies in a while.

Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst play the oh-so-imaginatively-named Adam and Eden, denizens of a strange binary planet system. Their two worlds have opposite gravitational pulls – Adam lives in the poverty-stricken Down There, and Eden lives in the opulent Up There. Their two societies are kept separate, but through a chance meeting on mirrored mountaintops, Adam and Eden fall in love.

Kirsten Dunst as Eden, a young woman living on one of two planets with opposing gravity

Despite the gravitational and governmental forces keeping them apart, Adam and Eden resolve to spend their lives together – I guess this is where we’re all supposed to go, “Aww!” Adam happens to be a scientist of some note, and he begins working on a formula using some sort of pink bee pollen to let people from the two planets co-exist (the stupid factor increases on an exponential level in this film).

I’ll avoid a lengthy discussion of all the ridiculous “science” in this movie. Upside Down seems to work by introducing rules about its universe, and then flouting them almost immediately. The best example was the detail in Jim Sturgess’ opening monologue about how matter from one planet combusts on the other. The premise itself is fine, but the movie forgets about the rule the second Adam and Eden start making out – which they do a lot. We can't have the two lovers bursting into flame when they touch each other, can we?

In fact, Adam and Eden spend more time snogging than actually speaking to each other. This reaches a particularly stupid height when they’re supposed to be on the run from the authorities, and they find time to float in a neutral gravity point between their two worlds. Here, Adam and Eden gently spin and embrace, all while colourful, alien clouds swirl around them.

The only thing the lovers do nearly as much as locking lips is staring adoringly at each other. For some reason, the filmmakers thought this was a suitable substitute for an actual love story. Even that might be excusable, if Adam actually had an ounce of conviction. There’s a point when he’s turfed from Eden’s planet for the umpteenth time, and he just gives up. After all his interior monologues talking about how much he loves Eden, he decides the villains have won, and he goes away to mope.

The kissing scenes in the film go out of their way to make gravity seem romantic

Who are the villains, you may be asking? Why, a sneering group of corporate types who want to steal Adam’s magic anti-gravity formula to use as an anti-aging serum. Again, I’d be fine with this, if the villains didn’t simply disappear from the movie after the climax. That’s right: the villains just stop chasing Adam one day, and he’s able to reunite with Eden. Well, that was easy – remind me again what the point was of watching the first ninety minutes?

What confuses me most about Upside Down isn’t the comically long list of problems, but more that director Juan Solanas was able to go so wrong with some very good components. Solanas had an estimated $60 million budget (according to IMDb), some solid special effects, and even if the binary-planet concept had some holes in it, at least it was mildly interesting.

Solanas even cast some good talent – he just gave them very little to say. It was a shame to see good actors like Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst and Timothy Spall spinning their wheels with a script that doesn’t care about their characters.

On one hand, I’d like to recommend Upside Down, just so you can share the experience of this maddeningly inconsistent movie, which had a some quirky ideas and wasted most of them. On the other hand, the faults of Upside Down make me want to smack my head on my keyboard, and for that, the movie gets one and half stars out of four.

One and a Half Stars

What did you think of Upside Down? Do the quirky sci-fi concept and pretty visuals make it worth a viewing? Or were you expecting a more coherent story and better characters? Join the discussion in the comments section, and if you liked this review, share it with your friends and followers! You can also browse through my other recent reviews here:


New Releases:

Oz the Great and Powerful | Side Effects | Zero Dark Thirty

Reviews of Classic Movies:

A Fistful of Dollars | Midnight Cowboy | Doctor Zhivago