Why Can Movies Get Away With It When Books Can’t?

poster_large_upside_downRecently, I discovered a science fiction film starring the adorably scruffy and British Jim Sturgess and lovely Kirsten Dunst. The trailer looked fantastic – suitably surreal and sci-fi-esque. I couldn’t wait to watch the movie titled Upside Down. The premise seemed original, the poster looked like so many covers from my favourite YA books and did I mention Jim Sturgess aka Jude from my favourite movie of all time, Across the Universe. So last Friday I stayed in to watch what should’ve been a fabulous film, right? Wrong…

When writing science fiction and fantasy, the world building is essential. Get that wrong, succumb to inconsistency and you’ll lose your readers as they fail to suspend disbelief. This is exactly what happened in this film.

*Note: there be spoilers ahead*

1. The Premise – twin planets with equal but opposite gravity with proprietary matter.

Cool, interesting, different, and the writers went to great lengths to explain how this worked, what inverse matter could and couldn’t do and why people from different worlds couldn’t ever be together. (Yes, this is a bit like Romeo and Juliet with the additional problem of un-cooperative gravity). Too bad all these rules were forgotten whenever the plot needed it. Inverse matter combusts after short time exposure to opposite gravity, except when down worlder boy is using inverse matter for a lengthy romantic lunch with up worlder girl. This is the type of inconsistency that would never be allowed in a book so why do films think they can get away with it? (don’t even get me started on how the opposing atmospheres work when it can apparently rain ‘up’ but let’s just ignore physics for now.)

2. Plot holes galore 

Boy hero has the inverse matter and jumps into the ocean to prevent set on fire (let’s ignore the fact that he survived an interplanetary plunge, which, at that distance, would’ve made landing in water like smacking into concrete) and he loses the matter – we see it sinking. In the next scene, he’s got all his matter again! Gah! My critique partners wouldn’t stand for that type of inconsistency let alone my agent or editor. How do film writers get away with it!?

3. Resources

So down worlders use pilfered inverse matter to heat their homes because inverse matter burns of its own accord. So in one scene we see the boy hero go to a fridge (where he’s keeping the inverse matter cool) and take out a bar of matter and put into his stove where it starts burning (instantly – the only time this matter is ever seen to burn instantly). That’s nice and cosy except! How the hell does he have enough power to run a refrigerator but not heat his apartment!? This makes no sense and would never fool wily readers.

4. The happily ever after ending (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT)

The ending is as probably as finding French fries on Mars. So at some point, our down worlder boy gets the up worlder girl pregnant – we don’t see this, just a floaty kissing scene as they battle each other’s reverse gravity (the effects of which are only apparent when convenient to the plot). So this girl is pregnant, she’s carrying around inverse matter inside her. Um… it’s been drummed into us that inverse matter BURNS in the opposite gravitational field so wouldn’t mother-to-be actually be crispy by now? And what about the kids? (They’re having twins, btw) Will they be of both worlds or destined to float between the worlds?

In short, I am disappoint! Do film producers really think so little of their audience, that we’ll just chew on popcorn and ooh and ahh at all the shiny without paying attention to what’s going on? What could’ve been a really cool story with some great gravity combating strategies turned out to be a weak, dystopian take on Romeo and Juliet. This concept of up and down worlds has been done already. My recommendation is if you’re looking for a dystopian Romeo and Juliet you’d be better off reading Mystic City, than watching this.

For those still interested, here’s the trailer (which looks amazing!):


Has anyone else seen this movie? What did you think?

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