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Upside Down (2012)

Millennium Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 6/18/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2
Audio: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/28/2013

Do you watch Downton Abbey? Trust me, the BBC show is not my cup of tea (pun intended), but my wife began to watch it and I couldn't help but get involved. In case you aren't familiar, the show follows life in a British manor in the early part of the 20th century. The story takes place in two worlds -- the rich, aristocrats live upstairs, while the poor, humble servants live downstairs. These worlds do mix, but the boundaries are very strict. Spanish Writer/Director Juan Solanas has taken this sort of idea and blown it up to epic proportion in his science-fiction fantasy romance Upside Down.

Upside Down takes place in a world where twin planets share the same atmosphere, while each maintains its own gravity. The rich and successful people live up, while the less fortunate working class live down. Intermingling between worlds is forbidden (and tough due to science). One day, two children, Adam and Eden meet one another at the tops of opposite mountains -- she is up and he is down. They chat and form a bond which lasts until she is injured and he is taken away. Ten years later, Adam (Jim Sturgess) is an inventor who continues to think about Eden. One day, he sees her on TV and learns that she works at TransWorld, the one place where up and down meet. Adam approaches TransWorld with his facelift invention and he's hired. Once in the building, he begins to devise a plan to find and re-introduce himself to Eden. However, Adam will soon learn that society and fate have other plans.

Sometimes it takes the entire length of a movie to form an opinion about it, but at other times, you get a gut feeling from the beginning. The opening credits of Upside Down contain a voiceover by Sturgess in which he attempts to explains the scientific rules of the twin worlds. This explosion of information would make Uwe Boll blush and I couldn't help but wonder if I should be taking notes. As it turns out, I probably should have, as the mumbo-jumbo of Upside Down gets very, very convoluted, making little sense at times and forcing the story to take a backseat to the "rules".

Speaking of the story, Solanas squanders a great idea in favorite of a very tepid Romeo & Juliet tale. The primary idea may not be original (more on that in a moment), but Upside Down has a lot going for it. The movie could have easily had a rather basic plot and then explored very aspects of the two worlds. Do people from below every vacation above? As the poor live below, have their ever been any upper-world heists? We learn very little about the day-to-day life of those above or below, and the movie takes a lot for granted. Instead, we get a hopeless romance in which Adam will stop at nothing to see Eden. There's simply not enough backstory and minutia for us to get deeply invested in this tale. So, we watch Adam struggle while we are forced to wonder what else is going on. On top of this, much of Solanas' story doesn't hold up to scrutiny. I'm not a scientist, but I'm fairly certain that none of what we see here could exist. The fact that one building in TransWorld has a floor which shares both worlds seems cool at first, but then it seems silly. The bottom-line is that everything mentioned in the credits comes back, but little of it really gels.

In the end, it seems the sole reason for Upside Down's existence is to show off the special effects, and they are impressive. A lot of green-screen and wire-work went into the many shots in which someone from above interacts with someone from below. In the TransWorld office, these shots take place with two characters speaking in the foreground, while dozens of people move about on the floor and ceiling in the background. The shots of the upper planet from below also look good. In addition, there are lots of little tricks happening to make it look as if Adam and his belonging are floating. If the story in Upside Down was on par with the technical aspects, we would have a gem on our hands.

What's with the sudden rash of "two planets" movies? First we had Another Earth, and then Melancholia, and now Upside Down. While neither of those previously mentioned movies is great, they fare better than Upside Down, as its lack of true focus really hurts it. Solanas has some good ideas and obviously worked with a great crew, but he needed someone to step in and hone his concepts into something more coherent.

Upside Down could have also been called right-side up on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Millennium Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no notable grain and no defects from the source material. However, some shots here are notably dark, especially exterior scenes. I wonder if this was intentional or a by-product of all of the special effects which were used. Certain colors, such as pinks and blues, look very good. The image has a nice amount of depth and the level of detail is worth noting. The Disc carries a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 1.8 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done, as they show good separation and match the on-screen action. Likewise, the surround sound action is effective, as it's clever use of detailed effects places us in the action. The subwoofer here is somewhat limited, but the examples do work well. The film can also be viewed in 3D. The film is letterboxed at 2.35:1 and we get an MVC 1089p HD transfer which runs at an average of 26/16 Mbps. For the most part, the depth is very good, with some shots showing more than others. The truly effective shots look like the image goes on for miles. The scenes where Adam and Eden are on their respective mountains look very good. It should be noted that if one chooses to go the 3D route, the audio becomes a Dolby Digital 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. This track isn't bad per se, but it lacks the power and detail of the lossless track.

The Upside Down Blu-ray Disc contains many extras. "The Making of Upside Down" (25 minutes) contains interview with the filmmakers (who speak Spanish with subtitles) and the cast. The piece places a lot of emphasis on the production design and how the movie was shot. We see many on-set moments showing how green-sceen was used extensively. The Disc contains two DELETED SCENES which run about 2 minutes. Neither would have added anything to the film. "History of the World" (3 minutes) has Director Juan Solanas walking us through some storyboards which show a discarded opening sequence. "Juan and Jim" (17 seconds) is an incredibly odd black-and-white short showing the actor and the director doing...something. "Preliminary Sketches" is a gallery of concept art. We get storyboard comparisons for two scenes, as well as "Previz" (Pre-visualization) for three scenes.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.