Upside Down

Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot details we can't reveal in our review.

First off, that infuriating ending: Dunst abruptly shows up in Sturgess’ world and informs him that he impregnated her, they’re having twins, and by the way, that fixed her gravity. How is that possible, he asks? She has no idea, she says, but does it really matter? Nah, they agree. They kiss, and the film ends with an almost-audible clunk.

Second, in regards to Upside Down’s fantastic illogic… after watching The Happening, I immediately inflicted it on friends. There was drinking involved. One participant was so riled at the film’s sheer dumbness that he couldn’t stop shouting questions at the screen, and we instituted an “If you have to ask a question, you have to drink” rule. By the last act, he was lying helplessly on the floor, begging other people to ask questions for him so he didn’t end up with alcohol poisoning. I don’t recommend playing that game with this film; it could be fatal.

Just a few of the questions I jotted down in my notes:

  • How can Sturgess and Dunst both climb what are apparently Everest-height, atmosphere-piercing mountains dressed in light jackets?
  • Why do the nebulous authorities punish Sturgess and Dunst for breaking the “no travel between worlds” rule by burning his aunt’s home and arresting her? Or possibly killing her? After all, she’s never seen or mentioned again, since she only exists to give Sturgess information and man-pain.
  • For that matter, why do they let Sturgess go, give Dunst a prestigious job, and not take any steps to prevent either of them—or other people—from going straight back to the mountains? Sturgess clearly has an infinite supply of pink-bee pollen, so he’s obviously still spending a lot of time up there.
  • Why doesn’t anyone else in either world know about the interplanetary bees?
  • What does Dunst do for TransWorld, anyway? She seems to have no volition or personality of her own. Her only obvious contribution to the company seems to be a planned giant art project celebrating the mountains where people can illegally sneak from world to world. And what does that have to do with the giant sagging paper building she keeps messing with in her office?
  • Why does TransWorld hire her in the first place, given how brain-damaged and easily led she appears to be, and given her history of criminal conduct?
  • What on earth is the story purpose of having her faint when she gets Sturgess’ floating flowers? The only thing communicated by that laughably over-the-top moment is that she’s way too delicate to exist in the world—an image maintained by the way she spends all her off hours asleep or curled up in a blanket, staring blankly. She isn’t a person, she’s a delicate object, in storage and awaiting an overdue pickup.
  • Seriously, when Sturgess shows up and says he’s from her past, why does she react as though he has to be making it up? She knows she has amnesia. She wants to reconnect with her past. It doesn’t occur to her that her past had people in it? And when she frowns, why does he immediately react with a dopey lie about how he just meant, um, they met by the elevators once? He’s risking his life to see her for five minutes, but he can’t risk saying, “We knew each other before your accident”?
  • Since Sturgess has a pink-pollen chem lab sitting openly on his desk, and he frequently whips out his container of pink pollen, why is TransWorld so baffled about his secret ingredient? He’s creating something that might revolutionize both worlds, but Big Brother doesn’t have a camera or a minder on him, or access to his desk?
  • Given that he’s experimenting with chemicals and forbidden inverse matter that has to be checked out to him one small piece at a time by a security crew, why isn’t he working in an actual lab? Why is he operating in the middle of what appears to be a bureaucratic office full of paper-pushers, apart from Timothy Spall’s computer guy?
  • Speaking of Spall, when he gets fired, why doesn’t TransWorld get around to revoking his building-access ID for several days (or weeks? time in this film is pretty fuzzy), given their fanatical devotion to security?
  • Why, for that matter, does the fascistic Big Brother-esque corporation have a PA system that lets its low-level grunts address the entire office, upsetting their public-firing routine?
  • Spall befriends Sturgess when the latter brings him a bunch of Down Below stamps. Later, Spall implies that selling those stamps funded his illicit activities. How did he keep the stamps from bursting into flame?
  • How is Sturgess getting the pink pollen back and forth, given that we see TransWorld’s stringent security measures, which involve weighing people on their way in and out of the building?
  • Why does no one notice Sturgess stealing hundreds and hundreds of pounds of metal for multiple versions of his Up Top jacket? (He ditches it at least twice, so presumably he has to steal triple his own body weight in metal to make it through the movie.)
  • When he and Dunst are each walking around in the wrong world, why doesn’t their hair hang upward, the way Sturgess’ tie does when he lets go of it?
  • How does that restaurant with people dancing on the floor and ceiling work? It makes some sense for the office in the TransWorld building, which is established as existing at the borderline between the worlds, on the zeroth floor. But the restaurant is down on the ground in Up Top; there’s no reason a section of it would be immune to the normal local gravity.
  • Why is there the hollow shell of what appears to be a blimp full of strung-up counterweights lying in the mountains, waiting for someone to use it as a backdrop for a chase scene?
  • Inverse matter bursts into flame after an hour or so in contact with the wrong world. So when Sturgess keeps catching on fire because of the ingots in his metal vest, it’s presumably because the Up Top ingots are in contact with his Down Below jacket. But then he gets an Up Top ingot vest from Spall, which ends his heating problems. Wouldn’t that just mean Up Top clothing in contact with his skin, which would set him on fire even quicker? For that matter, wouldn’t that have happened much earlier, when Spall gets him a nice Up Top suit in exchange for the stamps?
  • Honestly, this could go on for days, without even getting into the ways in which Sturgess and Dunst’s relationship plays out like a bad comedy, as he tries to take her to dinner and have a nice conversation without actually telling her any of the things she needs to know, and without burning himself to a crisp. But to wrap up: When they wind up back in the mountains together, spinning and gravity-free (and making sweet, baby-making, gravity-curing love), that presumably has something to do with Sturgess’ latest discovery that a pink-pollen-infused mixture of water from both worlds floats. How exactly does that translate to making two people float? Why is the effect temporary? And why can’t the scientific discovery he’s been steadily, thoughtfully working toward throughout the whole film be the actual answer to their two-worlds dilemma, rather than the answer being inexplicable magic fetuses and an apathetic shrug?

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