Upside Down explains itself as thus: Two planets with competiting gravitational pulls host inverse matter. Objects from the lower world exist in their gravitational field, and vice versa. Items pulled from one planetary surface to the other can be used to off set weight like a specialized pulley system. The catch? Inverse matter is strained when removed from its home surface, and will burn in a few hours.
Ask yourself this: If a person on the lower planet were to be given food from the upper surface, would that food then erupt in his stomach? Why would a person who has lived this situation be amazed at inverse rain at age 13? Would it not be normal to them? How would intercourse play out between lovers from different planets?
Upside Down does not care. In fact, it brazenly takes its opening rule book, shredding it for metaphorical convenience. Adam Kirk (Jim Sturgess) and Eden Moore (Kirsten Dunst) are separated by their worlds, defying authorities meant to keep interplanetary relationships voided. Known directly as upper and lower planets, a mystifying concept of class warfare between the divided factions is glossed over; Upside Down is enamored with forbidden love.
For 15-minutes, Upside Down is wholly captivating, Jim Sturgess’ ill-advised narration notwithstanding. Seeing the freshness of the idea and young teenager lovers trapped by their impossible boundaries is mesmerizing. Upside Down feels like an act of sheer creative will, and this opening act is punctuated by dramatic tragedy. Snip it there, and it becomes a contender for best short film.
It continues, Adam and Eden separated, pulled together via work one decade later at a gargantuan corporate complex that illogically binds worlds together (how do these worlds rotate?). A bombardment of dazzling, dizzying visuals cascade across the screen, defying basic senses in our own world to remarkable effect. This is a visual medium taken to its utmost extreme, catapulted to gripping success purely on its sun blazed vertical landscapes.
Adam & Eden’s story is there to exude influence on what purpose these gratifying sights carry, stretching and daring to pursue lost romance. Complications with the pull of their non-Earths lead to a creaky plotline involving manipulations and lies, one that can only pursue a direct path into cliché.
Modern fairy tales flaunt their worlds. Upside Down is rightfully proud of its majesty, and unconcerned with its rules. No one questions why Hansel & Gretel approach a candy home; there is no attempt to play into its logic. Upside Down requires the use of rules to function, and throws them to the wayside to serve as a playing field for wayward lovers. Juan Solanas’ piece is fixated on minor incidents as his world burgeons with class discrimination, erupting war, corporate lockdowns, and inhuman law. Adam and Eden are incapable of superseding the importance of those elements until a protracted ending slips in a notion to contrary, a twist that lends more value in what is to come than what the audience just saw.
Captured on film but doused in visual representations of dueling planets and green screen effects, the implementation of film is so limited as to be invisible. There are concerns regarding aliasing from the introductory credits, a sampling of universal creation through lines and spheres. Those issues persist with lavish architecture, especially within a ballroom that is adjoined between planets. Wall curvature is a haven for broken lines. It is entirely possible some effects were rendered at lower resolution to cut costs, the film breaching a $50 million budget.
Frustratingly, these epic and inventive visual spaces are crammed into irritating hues of orange and teal, with no particular merit to speak of. Both surfaces share the same dried up, shriveled look of contemporaries. The rich are bathed in an identical two-tone scheme as the poverty-stricken populace below, creating no diversion or barrier. Maybe it is part of the metaphor, or maybe the creativity well ran dry in post so they slapped together a Hollywood scheme.
Upside Down is vicious with contrast, choosing a selection of brutal, shadow crushing blacks and sun-driven contrast. Both are detrimental to already slim levels of fine definition. Material is strongest when the lens is allowed to pull back and exhibit the brunt of visual prowess. Many moments are more akin to paintings, lush and rich in density. High fidelity elements are often tossed to the wayside.
What’s left is an edgy, certainly artificial – some may say dream like – aura. Post processing adds analog-esque halos and grit the AVC encode from Millennium is unable to cope with. There are barriers to appreciating what has been created here, but tightening up the videophile inside and giving it a go is worthwhile.
Sadly, despite enormous potential in dizzying upside down photography and swirling clouds, 3D effects are abysmally faulty. Credits showcase a universe of peering stars and sweeping lines with little to no afforded depth. Into the film, cities fall into the horizon yet fail to separate substantially from foreground elements. It is as if a flat plate is serving as the backdrop.
Actors have limited dimensionality, at times so flattened there is hardly any sense of 3D at all. Upside Down’s highest grade 3D implementation is during a snow storm, flakes weaving in and out of the screen. By comparison, a late rain storm, with the lens situated on the ground looking up, has no sense of pop. It is a total loss for something that could have been raw technological spectacle.
Upside Down takes an audio approach to bolster impact as needed through a TrueHD mix. Heightened moments rely on orchestration, beautifully pushed through the entirety of the soundfield to swell naturally for necessary emotional direction. Tight LFE adds weight.
Action becomes forceful via gunshots, powerful rips that scatter through the available channels, a few in close generating earthquake like rumbles. Exaggerations aside, it serves as a thematic wake-up call. Falls from one surface to the other use rushing wind as an excuse to pursue the low-end, nicely balanced and satisfying.
Brief extras are worth the time investment, a making-of 25 minutes long, following the initial idea and the filming process. A short selection of deleted scenes are merely there, but a separated alternate opening (storyboarded but not shot) would have achieved more interesting results as opposed to narration. A seventeen second outtake shouldn’t even be here sans audio, while six sections on pre-vis and storyboards finish things off.
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