Patema Inverted takes on the topsy turvy conceit of Upside Down with better execution. In this animated version, the makers paid attention to the physics of its world. You won’t see stupid head-scratching attempts to milk its concept.
The lead characters cling to each other as they try to cancel out their opposing gravitational forces and navigate their worlds, standing as a clever allegory for the rest of the movie. The director uses their challenges to immerse the audience in two different perspectives that enable you to relate with their point of view.
Sadly this ingenuity isn’t applied to everything else.
The script doesn’t develop its characters. Instead, Patema and Age spend more time gazing at the sky and hiding in a shed. The movie devolves into a predictable dystopian thriller where they are held back by more one-dimensional characters.
Age lives in a totalitarian society ruled by an egomaniac who controls its population using the plight of the sinners who fell into the sky. Patema grew up in a tribe ruled by elders who scare its people to hide the truth represented by the forbidden zone.
The movie doesn’t give these worlds any details to make it distinct. One is a city of nondescript buildings and land conveyor belts for transportation. There seems to be no other adult here (other than a glimpse of a few in a vague flashback) apart from the big brother villain and his henchmen. The other is an underground industrial complex of typical tunnels – rusty, cramped, and abandoned – that has no mystery.
As a result, Patema Inverted doesn’t offer much beyond the awe-inspiring views of its gravity-defying couple.
It does manage to be a clever commentary about prejudice and fear that holds us back from getting along. While there is much to learn from the past, dwelling in it will prevent you from moving forward.
If the movie spent as much effort on its universal themes, story, and characters as much as it did on its concept, Patema Inverted would have been a more compelling animated movie. The characters are able to overcome the fears that hold them down, sadly the movie doesn’t have the script to elevate their story.
Patema Inverted is an ingenious allegory for societal divisiveness, but it's bogged down by a generic plot and bland characters.