I’d never really been too much of a fan of Kirsten Dunst until I saw Melancholia. And no, it’s not just because there’s a scene in which she’s lying naked in the moonlight (though that doesn’t hurt). I was a passing fan of her in the Spider-Man films, have admired some of her more avant garde choices in films like The Cat’s Meow, On the Road and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Still, it was last year’s Melancholia that really got my attention. So when I visited apple.com and saw a trailer for Upside Down, I was intrigued. After all she and Jim Sturgess, who I enjoyed in 21 and Across the Universe, starred and it looked like an interesting premise. Then again a lot of films has interesting premises and they don’t always, well, deliver. Having only seen the trailer before popping this disc into my player, I had a very limited idea as to what to expect. Here goes…
Adam (Jim Sturgess) narrates the opening sequence for us, telling us of the world he lives in. It’s actually two different worlds, each with their own gravitational fields and, as we quickly see, a very distinct class-system. Those who live “up above” enjoy a very lavish lifestyle, office jobs and the sort. Those who live “down below” are the polar opposite. They live in poverty and are literally (well, depending on your perspective) looked “down” upon. But Adam meets Eden (Kirsten Dunst) atop a point where the two worlds nearly meet. They talk, gravity plays a cruel trick on them and Eden falls. Time passes and Adam learns that Eden is very alive. He somehow manages to concoct an anti-aging cream that garners him employment at TransWorld – a corporation that epitomizes the difference in the socioeconomic status. Adam does managed to make contact with Eden, but learns that she has amnesia. Is this meant to be or will the difference in class (and gravity) have another fate in store?
Ok, there’s both good and bad in this film. First, the good. Writer/Director Juan Solanas does have a vision, to be sure. The idea is engaging and though it’s somewhat predictable as to what will happen, it did keep my attention. Sturgess and Dunst obviously have chemistry. Now the bad. For as good a movie as this could have been, it seemed to cop out in a very big way. I won’t divulge any major plot points/faults, but let’s just say that things wound up very nicely for our stars. That and the logistics of things is a bit odd. Wouldn’t someone who is walking upside down have the blood rush to their head? That’s not covered. I will say the visuals are amazing and it made me wish that my 60″ HDTV had an extra zero on it. Yep, it’s that amazing to watch. I can only think and imagine that in the right hands, this could have been a masterpiece. Then again, so many others could have been as well.
Video: How does it look?
There might be a more visually appealing movie out there, but right now nothing comes to mind. I’ve yet to see Cloud Atlas, but I hear that might compare. If anything Upside Down should set a new standard for pretty much everything relating to visuals. And, of course, it’s all a matter of perspective when you walk into your office and look up to see someone who’s not you, upside down looking right at you. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image isn’t without its faults, however. I noticed some vertical banding in a few of the wood walls in the interior shots and while the nebula-esque sky looks radiant and amazing, some scenes were plagued with a bit of grain that I’m sure was intentional, but seemed to distract from the overall beauty of the picture. Sturgess’ hair seems to have missed a comb through the entire film, coupled with his perpetual stubble, though we can see every hair with the utmost clarity. Like the movie itself, this transfer seems to be a bit inconstant, but on the whole a worthwhile visual experience.
Audio: How does it sound?
The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is used and with good measure. Vocals are crisp and lack any distortion, the surrounds are abundant and add some drama to a few scenes while the front stage seems to soak up the remainder of the soundtrack. The score sounds fairly good as well, but I kept getting lost in the visuals and constantly cocking my head to try and make literal sense of things. This might be an instance in which the physical picture of the movie really overshadowed the audio, though it sounds just fine and I highly suspect no one will be displeased.
Supplements: What are the extras?
While most lack in substance, the supplements for Upside Down are as varied as they come. We begin with a “Making of…” feature that gives us the history of the project (four years), writing, casting and essentially making the film. It’s nothing we’ve not seen a hundred times before, but it’s chock full of useful tidbits as well. We get several storyboards that show some scenes from the film, deleted scenes and director Juan Solanas takes us through making a shot. There’s also a DVD copy.