By: Henry J. Fromage (Six Pack) –
As many of you might know already, I’m currently living in South Korea, which makes for an interesting movie-watching experience. For one, the theaters generally don’t care if you hit the mart first for some beer and snacks and bring them on in with you.
To an extent
For another, you never quite know what’s going to show up. Marvel has a policy of releasing its films internationally a week early, which is sweet, while if another studio does that, you can be confident the movie’s gonna blow (I’m looking at you, Taken 2). Ever once in awhile you get a movie with recognizable stars that you’ve never even heard of. This, also, isn’t a good sign.
Upside Down, which will be dumped in a few U.S. theaters in March, is such a flick. It stars Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess as lovers from opposite worlds- literally opposite, upside down worlds hanging over each other with opposing gravity. In true scifi fashion, one is rich (Dunst’s), sucking all of the resources out of the poor one. Thankfully Sturgess is a scientist/inventor fellow, whose discovered a substance that could change everything… and reunite him with his amnesiac lost love.
You can tell that a lot of thought was put into how these worlds would interact, and the results are beautifully realized, with some stunning special effects and layered environments on display. Also, for Sturgess, if you’re gonna be typecast, trippy, otherworldly love stories aren’t a bad way to go.
Although maybe avoid Asianface next time
A decent voiceover is really tough to put off, and as half-assedly as Sturgess approaches it… impossible.
The other problem with a voiceover intro is the temptation to just stuff all of your exposition in there instead of introducing it organically. And with so much to explain about how its unique universe works, Upside Down can’t resist.
The easy, cliché storytelling unfortunately doesn’t stop there. Every story needs bad guys, right? So let’s make sure to burn down Auntie Floating Flapjacks’ house for no damn reason, then never refer to her again. And since every love story needs its obstacle, let’s forget we’re already beating the whole “from two different worlds” horse to dust and toss in some amnesia while we’re at it!
If you’re able to create a compelling enough world and a fitting story, I’m prepared to forgive a plot hole or ten (Looper, Inception, Source Code, etc, etc, etc). Upside Down doesn’t get this free pass. The worst example is that Sturgess is basically goddam Superman whenever the circumstances require it, all thanks to his Deus Ex Machina Jelly. How much of this supposedly rare substance does he have? Does it completely counteract the Laws of Motion as well as gravity? Why should the audience ever feel suspense when Sturgess is clearly invincible?
Yay for ridiculous, unearned happy endings! Maybe this is a Brazil-type thing and this is all a hallucination as Sturgess slowly starves to death in government prison? Wait! That’s… that’s… also a worn out cliché. Maybe it’ll be an alternate ending on the DVD.
Still, a better ending than what we get
An interesting setup and some beautiful imagery is squandered by poor, lazy storytelling.
Take a Drink: whenever something floats upside down
Take a Drink: whenever Sturgess comes off as creepy, sweaty, and/or desperate
Do a Shot: whenever something happens to THE POWER OF LOVE!!!