A scientific experiment was conducted with gravity resulting in several people “falling” into the sky. Several years later, these people are demonized in a world called Aiga that is run under a militaristic dictatorship. There is an underground world where people are “inverted” (flipped upside down with respect to Aiga) and said people never come above to the world of Aiga. One day a young girl name Patema ventures outside of the underground world and into Aiga, where she meets a young man named Age. The two’s fateful encounter will change the lives of everyone around them.
It’s hard to look at Patema Inverted without comparing it to a Ghibli movie. Its curious and headstrong female protagonist coupled with its rich and detailed art style have all the makings of something great.
The movie starts out fairly strong. Our protagonist Patema is part of a society that lives underground and is forbidden from going to the upper world of Aiga. Aiga’s gravity is flipped from the world Patema belongs to and when she ventures out to discover what Aiga is all about, a fateful encounter occurs.
From the beginning it is easy to tell that a lot of love has been put into this movie. Artistically the movie shines and every little detail of both the underground world and Aiga looks stunning.
We follow Patema on her adventure to the opposing world where gravity is inverted. The playful scenes of Patema and Age discovering how their opposing gravity counteracts each other, allowing them to “moon jump” large distances, are blended with the terror that follows the concept of “falling into the sky”. The story introduces us to the militaristic world of Aiga, where we learn that during a scientific experiment involving gravity several people “fell” into the sky. These people were branded as demons and society restructured such that children are treated like drones and nobody is allowed to look at or venture into the sky. This brought about underlying religious elements that I was excited for the movie to explore. Despite the interesting premise the movie initiates and clever ideas presented, this movie doesn’t deliver overall.
The first problem arises in the show’s pacing and the use of its ideas. For every shot of Patema and Age learning to moon jump with their opposing gravity, there are a ton of boring pan shots of buildings and sky. It destroys any sense of fun the movie seems to be building, and led me to believe that the environment artist and the director were having a tiff with each other. A second problem that arises comes from the characters themselves. Neither Patema nor Age ever graduate from “Spunky Heroine” or “Nice Guy”. One of the biggest offenders is the villain. If I was the betting type of gal, I’d put money on the fact that the movie was contracted into having a villain. The villain of this movie was so generic I can’t even remember his name. For this review I am going to refer to him with a silly name. Lord CreepsorEvil comes off as part lunatic and part pedophile.
His encounters with Patema are creepy and don’t seem to have any basis for being so. He wants to find and eliminate all of the underground citizens but it’s generally unclear why. Outside of these three characters (Patema, Age, Lord CreepsorEvil) any and all other characters are unimportant and uninteresting despite their best attempts.
In terms of story it feels like the writers weren’t confident in their ability to generate fun with just “gravity powers”. Instead, they force feed a damsel in distress plot and some half baked idea about a floating device from Age’s past. While some parts of the movie let the gravity counteracting abilities shine through, most others just have you gazing at scenery or staring into the sky. To allow the plot to confuse you, the camera spins every once in a while just so you aren’t sure where you are. The idea of “demons” and what is happening in the world of Aiga barely come up after they are mentioned. All of this makes the movie feel longer than it should be and some convenient plot devices later give the ending a happy but inconclusive feel. I will note that the end got me so confused that I actually sat down and drew out a diagram to help me navigate the movie to its final destination. If nothing else, the movie gave me a neat mental puzzle.
While Patema inverted shows some impressive artwork and a unique premise with a fresh idea, majority of the movie falls short and is just kind of boring.