If a science-fiction movie is good, I usually don't spend a whole lot of time worrying about the logic of the premise. I haven't lost any sleep wondering how a flux capacitor fluxes, or how a lightsaber maintains its sword-like shape. However, when a movie is bad – and 'Upside Down' takes bad sci-fi to new levels – I'll spend half the film trying to figure out the logic (or lack thereof) of the concepts presented in the film. It helps me stay awake.
Which brings us to the basic premise of 'Upside Down' – one so confusing that Jim Sturgess (playing "Adam," the main character) literally spends the first five minutes of the movie in voice-over trying to explain it. What we have here is two worlds, one hovering right above the other. The two planets have opposite gravity, so anything from one world that finds its way onto the other world instantly wants to be drawn either back down or back up to the person's or thing's planet of origin. Okay, so far, so good…not sure if this is even scientifically possible, but I can go along with it for the purposes of this movie.
Now here's the problem. When the movie presents the two worlds, they are literally right on top of each other, meaning there's only a few hundred yards between the highest point on one world and the highest point of the opposite world. So assuming the planets are spherical (which the movie presents them as such in the opening credits), wouldn't there only be one point on each planet where the two worlds interact, with the other 99 percent of each planet not interacting with the other world at all? The only way this movie makes any logical sense is if the worlds are completely flat (and they aren't).
To add insult to bad science, the movie doesn't even play 'fair' with the rules it does establish. There are buildings in the upper world that reverse their gravity half way up (or half way down, depending on one's perspective). Are they connected to the world below? The movie never says, but it implies such…so does that mean that these worlds don't rotate either? Because if the planets rotated...even if they rotated equally...those buildings would rip in two every day. Plus there are items (such as drinks) in one world that are affected by the reverse gravity, even though the people in the same room aren't. Okay…I give up. Let's throw the laws of physics out the window and try to review the movie for what it is… Sadly, it's pretty darn awful.
The film centers around Adam (Sturgess) from the lower world, and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) from the upper world, who first meet as children when they spot each other at the highest points in their respective locations. Years pass, and they start falling in love with each other. One day, Adam gets a rope and helps pull Eden down to him, but it isn't long before the authorities show up, and Eden goes crashing back to her own world, injuring herself and leaving Adam to think she has died.
Years later, Adam is working on a formula that uses pollen from pink bees (better if you don't ask!) to create an anti-aging formula (it uses anti-gravity to "lift" the skin and make people look younger). The TV in his workshop is picking up a signal from the "upper" world and he sees Eden on it. Now knowing she is alive, he puts a plan into motion to go to the upper world to see her – unbeknownst to Adam, Eden has amnesia and can't remember anything that happened before her accident.
The remainder of the movie is basically spent covering Adam's obsession with seeing Eden again, and then to help her remember him after he has done so. You'd expect a movie with such grand visuals (even though they're all CGI) to use them for some great action sequences – but there's very little in the way of action in 'Upside Down.' The movie wants to be ponderous and romantic, but there's very little chemistry between Sturgess and Dunst. So, eventually, the only reason you'll continue to watch the movie is for the visuals…and after a while even those begin to bore (you've seen one upside down room, you've seen them all).
'Upside Down' should play in film classes as an example of how just having an interesting premise isn't enough if you can't inhabit your story with characters that the audience cares about. Visually-speaking, the movie is fascinating, but on all other levels it's a complete snooze.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
This review was taken from the Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray single disc release (both the 3D version and the 2D version are on a single 50GB dual-layer disc). A Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD combo back is also available, as well as a stand-alone DVD version.
The disc is housed in a keepcase, with a slip cover. There are no inserts. The Blu-ray is front-loaded with trailers for 'Brooklyn Castle,' The Iceman, What Maisie Knew, Straight A's, and 'Stuck In Love.' The menu consists of a video montage of footage from the movie, with menu selections along the bottom of the screen. The movie is presented in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and has been encoded for Region A.
Given the amount of green screen effects in 'Upside Down,' one would expect the movie to have been shot digitally, but it was actually filmed in good ol' 35 mm. That means while the above-average transfer here really shows off those visuals, the movie still has a nice (but not overbearing) amount of grain that results in 'Upside Down' still looking very much like a 'film,' as opposed to something as crystal clear as many of today's digitally-shot productions.
'Upside Down' really runs the color gambit, from the dark and dreary scenes in the world 'below,' to bright and colorful images from the world 'above.' All of them look very good on this release, with well-balanced skin tones, proper contrast, and strong black levels.
Where the movie loses some of its luster, however, is with the 3D version. It goes without saying that the 3D dims some of the wonderful colors used in the movie, but the 3D itself isn't nearly as good as one would expect. 'Upside Down' was a post-conversion to 3D, and it suffers from the problems that a lot of post-conversions do. Most notable is the fact that almost nothing in the movie comes "out" from the screen…almost all of the 3D image involves depth. While many of the brighter scenes look great in 3D, a lot of the darker ones lack clarity. I would have expected 3D to be one of the big selling points of this release, but sadly it's one of the disappointments (surpassed only, I suppose, by the lack of quality of the movie itself).
By far the strongest aspect of this release is the English 5.1 Dolby True HD track. This is an above-average mix, with lots of use of the rear speakers and some excellent directionality. The mix and balance is just right here, with the soundtrack giving viewers an immersive feel without sounds being too overbearing or drowning out the spoken dialogue. I detected no glitches, dropouts, or other problems with the track. Viewers will also have the option of listening to a Stereo 2.0 track, if they so choose. Subtitles are also available in English SDH and Spanish.
Not even the great visual work that went into this movie makes it worth spending time with these characters or with this story. No matter how you look at it – 'Upside Down' or right-side up – this is a huge disappointment of a film. Skip it.