Reviews

See Romeo Do Some Social Climbing (Quite Literally) In 'Upside Down'

There are incredible visual moments, but there's only so much that urinating upside down can do for a movie.


Upside Down

Director: Juan Diego Solanas
Cast: Jim Sturgess, Kirsten Dunst, Timothy Spall
Distributor: Millennium
Rated: PG-13
Release date: 2013-06-25

Fiction feature films demand that we suspend our disbelief, but in a time and age where all the information in the world is at our access during virtually every single moment, it’s becoming harder and harder for the movies to impress and surprise us in the way they once did. Sci-fi movies, which have always had the advantage of basing their theories on elements out of the reach of regular people, are suffering more and more because of this and Upside Down is a perfect example to showcase this phenomenon.

The film takes place in an unknown part of the universe, where a young man by the name of Adam (Jim Sturgess) introduces us to his strange planet; one where dual gravity exists, meaning that there's another planet right above it -- practically touching it -- but the matter of each planet is pulled towards its own center which creates a unique visual given that the planet above Adam’s world is literally upside down. Ignoring the fact that by now clever audience members have given up on the film based on the notion that the planets’ proximity would most likely make them crash and explode, the film gives us something even more ludicrous: a Romeo and Juliet-like love story.

While Adam’s planet is poor and predominantly working class, the planet above is extremely wealthy and quite prosperous. The lower planet produces oil, which the upper world buys and then resells to them through electricity at exorbitant prices. If this wasn’t bad enough, citizens from both planets are also punished if they attempt contact with someone from the other world. Of course through a random act of chance, Adam meets Eden (Kirsten Dunst) a girl from Up that falls in love with him and, once they’re discovered and separated, haunts his dreams for the rest of his life.

Partly inspired by Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, director Juan Diego Solanas sets the stage for what will become a tale of social climbing (quite literally) as Adam spends most of the film trying to find Eden and attempting to end the inequalities between both worlds. If the convoluted scientific concepts haven’t made you abandon the movie midway, Solanas hopes that we’ll stick around to see if the lovers succeed, but he makes everything so implausible (not only from a scientific point of view) but from an emotional one, to the point where we end up not caring about whether any of the characters makes it or not.

Upside Down features incredible visual moments and usually every little detail is a wonder to behold, but there is only so much that urinating upside down can do for a movie and once the novelty wears off we are left with a clichéd tale that attempts to use every stereotype in the book to win both our hearts and minds. The actors do their best to deliver their lines with conviction and passion, but they are betrayed by the lack of depth behind them. For example, we never truly believe Adam really loves Eden, but the movie is too cowardly to turn his love for her into pure greed. It’s a shame that a movie with such earnestness feels so contrived, if only because it could’ve taken a darker turn and been much more fascinating.

For example, we also have the perverse dynamic between both worlds, one that perfectly mirrors the historical relation between North and South America. It might seemed that Solanas attempted to address this, if only because his father is the great political filmmaker Fernando Solanas, and we do feel the film’s Argentinean touch in random scenes that recall the country’s dark political past and its most famous musical genre. Yet every one of these references is lost among an amalgam of visual complications, Solanas created a marvelous world to behold but forgot to infuse it with any soul.

The presentation of Upside Down is astonishing, with a 1080p transfer that retains all the beauty of its cinematography and design. The Blu-ray set includes the 3D version which is serviceable to say the least. While not as impressive as other tridimensional movies, Upside Down is the usual reminder that we don’t need an added dimension to convey unique worlds within movies, Solanas could’ve easily trusted his DP and altogether skipped the 3D conversion.

Bonus features include a 30 minute making of, deleted scenes, an extended opening sequence in which we learn more about the worlds, several storyboard featurettes, a feature on the visual effects and how they looked before and after they were completed and previews of upcoming features. In all Upside Down is visually memorable but a sadly missed opportunity to bring politics, or at least a great romance, back to science fiction.

5

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image