Upside Down Turns Romeo & Juliet On Its Head
Upside Down is a a new science fiction/romance concept film where the worlds of luxury and poverty are separated by the laws of physics and gravity. Amidst this strange reality, two young lovers from each world – Adam (Jim Sturgess) and Eden (Kirsten Dunst) – spark a love that will haunt them for the next ten years – when Adam decides to break the law to travel “up above” in order to reclaim his lost Eden. It’s the interesting debut feature of relative newcomer Juan Solanas; a high concept science fiction re-telling of the classic Romeo & Juliet story. While it’s not an official adaptation of the source material, the influence is immediately evident to anyone that has ever sat through an English literature class. While it’s true that the work of William Shakespeare has influenced countless tomes and permeated into many different areas of our culture, there’s no denying of the Romeo & Juliet imprint, even down to the class based differences.
Upside Down has understandably been getting a lot of positive attention from cinephiles of late, due in no small part to its frankly astonishing and powerful cinematography. There’s no denying the richness and beauty that practically oozes out of every shot, and for a relatively independent endeavour the special effects are pretty amazing.
However, therein lies the problem. Yes, the visuals are imaginative and in some places, breathtaking. This is of course a great thing, but it cannot save the entirely derivative story, and if you’ve watched the trailer and some of the other clips, you’ll notice in some places that it’s unavoidably, clatteringly stupid. Such choice lines of dialogue as “Love is stronger than gravity” make you want to scream at the screen “NO!” and/or potentially vomit. Also, let’s not kid ourselves here: You’ve all caught on to the references right? Adam and Eden? “Up there” and “down below”? Subtle, it ain’t and unfortunately it tends to be this complete lack of finesse that becomes the undoing of some otherwise, really good science fiction stories.
The early reports from the film certainly seem to corroborate this inclination; that it unfortunately succumbs to its own (ironically) lack of imagination when it comes to story and symbolism, instead becoming earth shatteringly ridiculous, and patronizing.
Still, while this all sounds extremely negative, I’m still going to recommend that everyone watch it at least once. Sure, some of the nonsense on display will be too much for some of you (most likely me), but I’m sure the visuals will serve for a captivating experience for a lot of people who don’t care so much about intelligent science fiction. I know that I personally really want to absorb the visuals at least once – even if they are holding up something that’s otherwise dreadful.
Upside Down is an ambitious film that has some truly eye popping, jaw dropping visuals combined with some innovative and unique shots. Yes, it’s not the smartest movie you’re bound to see this year, but it may well be the prettiest. Plus, you have to admire the ambition of a fresh filmmaker taking on a project as daring and risky as this. Hopefully, despite it’s shortcomings, it will be an enjoyable romp.