What is there to say about Juan Diego Solanas’ Upside Down? It takes place in an amazing, fantastical universe, where two worlds share the same atmosphere, orbit, and rotation cycle, but what they lack is the same gravity. The dual gravity of the two planets defines not only the planets’ identity, but also the people who inhabit them. The people from “Up Above” are rich, prosperous, and affluent, while the people from “Down Below” are poor, impoverished, and needy. People are forbidden to intermingle or visit their neighboring world. Since each planet has its own gravity, there are three rules to how the planet works:
1. All matter is pulled by the gravity of the world that it comes from, and not the other.
2. An object’s weight can be offset by matter from the opposite world (inverse matter).
3. After some time in contact, matter in contact with inverse matter burns.
The film follows two star-crossed lovers, irritatingly named Adam (Jim Sturgess) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst). Adam is a scientist from “Down Below” and Eden is a marketing guru from “Up Above.” They both work at TransWorld, the ambiguously evil corporation at the center of the two worlds. Adam is the inventor of the magical beauty cream that uses inverse matter to elevate your sagging skin, and Eden tries to market the cream to the people from “Up Above.” They slowly re-kindle a past love affair they had when they were children, which was violently broken up by the authorities of their respective worlds. During the melee, Eden got amnesia and Adam got a broken heart.
It’s clear that these two lovers are modeled on the Shakespearian lovers Romeo & Juliet, as well as the biblical Adam & Eve, but does this have to be so blatant at every turn? It comes from a poorly written and thoughtless screenplay (also by Juan Diego Solanas). The characters act like symbols and metaphors rather than actual, believable people. There should be a moral lesson about mankind and humanity in the film, but it’s always stated in a mind-numbingly obvious way, which completely undercuts any narrative thrust.
It’s almost as if Juan Diego Solanas is sitting next to you, nudging you with his elbow to make sure you’re getting the point of his movie. “Get it? They’re named Adam and Eden because they’re going to re-build the world. Get it?”
Upside Down also constantly introduces things that are never resolved or brought up again. Everything about these two worlds is so undefined that when conflict arises, Solanas has nothing to do but awkwardly cut to the next scene without any notice as to how the previous one resolved itself. We repeatedly go from Adam being chased or confronted to the next scene, where Adam is not in harm’s way. Was there a reel missing? What just happened here?
Upside Down never pays off, even on its premise. Solanas seems more concerned with delivering mind-bending visuals than with telling a memorable story. Upside Down lives in a sea of over-saturated blue and orange hues that add nothing to the two different worlds. It’s a disappointing exercise in style over substance.