October 22, 2013

Upside Down (2013) - Big Budget Flopperoo

Upside Down is a strange movie, even for a Science Fiction Fantasy. Actually, it's quite a silly movie in many ways. However, the special effects that take us to this bizarre universe where two planets are interlocked by what is called duel gravity are quite spectacular at times. Without getting into the complications of the science, suffice it to say that the below planet is where all the poor people live in a dark, hellish nightmare of an environment and the 'upside down' planet, up above, is where all the wealthy elites live in a beautiful, bright city. The two planets are connected by a huge skyscraper owned by the Trans World corporation.

Despite the science fiction elements, the plot is your basic Romeo and Juliet scenario where boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back, then loses her again before they finally get back together one last time in a final glowing, spectacular balcony scene. The two lovers, played by Kirsten Dunst (Eden) from the above world and Jim Sturgess (Adam), from the below world, are being kept apart by the rules of society that don't allow people from the upper and lower worlds to get together for any reason.

Does this sound somewhat familiar? — other than the upside down worlds, of course.

For me, this is where the writers and producers of this film went terribly wrong. Science Fiction is my favorite movie genre, and what I expect is a story that I've never seen before or at least some new element that takes me by surprise and makes the spectacle of the special effects meaningful in some way.

As I watched Upside Down, I kept thinking this story really didn't need a Science Fiction setting. In fact, all these elements just distracted from the story of the star crossed lovers. This plot could have taken place anywhere at anytime without the gimmick of this alternative universe.

Upside Down reminded me of two other Science Fiction films. The special effects were very similar to the Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (which I loved) and Gattaca, also a Jude Law film with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman. I enjoyed these two films much more than Upside Down because, even though there were some romantic elements to them, there was much, much more going on beyond boy meets girl.

Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturges are both attractive actors who do a fine job playing the romantic couple, but the really fun character is Bob Boruchowitz as played Timothy Spall who is best know for the part of Wormtail in the last three Harry Potter films. Bob is from the upper world, but befriends Adam and helps him perfect a chemical that changes the future of this weird universe.

Another good element to the movie is the soundtrack by Benoît Charest. The music has a familiar ring to it, but is never intrusive and doesn't try to overwhelm the scene.

Upside Down isn't a totally bad movie, but the gimmick of the upside down worlds was silly and stretches reality a bit too far to be even a little bit credible. I'd give the film a 6 out of 10. If you're looking for a Science Fiction romance on a Saturday night, it might make a decent DVD rental and I
have a feeling there will be some people who will love it to death.

The film is a Canadian/French production and was filmed in Montreal. This may explain why Upside Down appears to have had such a limited release and why domestic box office totalled a paltry $105,095. In fact, the opening U.S. weekend box office was just $28,722 in very few theaters. The film managed much better in world box office earnings of $8,001,380, but on a budget of $60,000,000, Upside Down must rank up there as one of the biggest movie flops of all time.

You can judge for yourself on this movie, here's the official trailer.

Kirsten Dunst  ...  Eden 
Jim Sturgess  ...  Adam 
Timothy Spall  ...  Bob Boruchowitz 
Original Music by Benoît Charest
Box Office
Budget: $60,000,000 (estimated)
Opening Weekend: $28,722 (USA) (15 March 2013)
Gross: $102,118 (USA) (5 April 2013)
Worldwide:  $8,106,475



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