At some point in ‘Upside Down,’ a character deliberately says ‘all we have to do is CAREFULLY mix the two solutions.’ He then immediately proceeds to mix the two fluids vigorously together like he’s working a martini shaker.
It’s this type of attentiveness to dialogue, action and its own ridiculous laws of physics that makes ‘Upside Down’ difficult to buy into.
In short: A man from one planet (Jim Sturgess) tries to find his lost love – a girl (Kirsten Dunst) who lives on a nearby planet, a world with an opposing gravitation pull. (watch the trailer)
Any film that starts off with 7 minutes of pure exposition voiceover starts with one foot in its own sci-fi grave. ‘Upside Down’ puts its other foot in the grave wrapping its own convulted sci-fi premise with a thin story and even more meager screenplay.
The intriguing premise of two worlds proximate world with opposing gravity quickly gets lost in its own silly laws of nature. Like all bad science fiction, ‘Upside Down’ is obviously more impressed with its own camera moves and playing with its sci-fi rules than telling a compelling story. Great sci-fi puts characters and story first, allowing the sci-fi help tell the story. Poor sci-fi does exactly the opposite, relying on a sci-fi element push the story forward.
When sci-fi elements aren’t forcing the movie forward, way-too-convenient plot points pick up the slack. Characters show up and leave at just the right moments. This unnatural chain of scenes disarms the characters of much decision making ability, thus robbing their actions of much significance.
The ‘Have/Have-not’ split between the two worlds reduces all but a few of the supporting characters into arch caricatures. The exposition-laden script allows very little room for any sort of nuanced acting.
But this movie’s greatest crime is de-emphasizing the love story in what’s clearly a sci-fi love story. The main couple share very little screen time together or interacting at all. This lack of contact makes the hero – whose entire journey is motivated by his love for a childhood love – seem crazy.
And its closing act is largely characters making announcements of off-screen actions. This is incredibly deflating, especially for the film’s closing moments. Maximum emotion is taken from watching a character struggling with a decision and committing to an action – ‘Upside Down’ makes the odd decision of letting key events occur off-screen, thus leaving only the characters’ reactions.
In short: convenient plot turns, shallow supporting characters, exposition-heavy dialogue and erratic time jumps sap all the wonder or emotion from ‘Upside Down.’