Patema Inverted is an ingenious animated allegory for societal divisiveness and a clever re-imagining of star-crossed young love, but its bogged down by a generic plot and bland characters.
Patema Inverted is a perspective-twisting sci-fi adventure about two kids separated by opposite gravities. Patema is a princess who lives in a giant underground industrial complex forbidden to venture above ground. Age is a student in a totalitarian society at the surface which uses the plight of “sinners who fell into the sky” to control its population. Together, by mastering the navigational complexities of their competing gravitational forces, they set out to discover the secret that keeps their worlds apart.
Patema Inverted takes on the top turvy conceit previously tackled by Upside Down. Fortunately, the latter is far less sillier and executed way better, even though its hampered by generic elements.
In this animated version, the makers paid attention to the physics of its world. You won’t see none of the stupid head scratching attempts to milk its concept (like strapping your legs with anti-gravity material and jumping from one ocean to another).
The lead characters literally 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 and give them meaningful conversations that finally express their suppressed thoughts. Instead, Patema and Age spend more time gazing at the sky and hiding in a shed. The narrative prefers to make parallels through a subplot rather than flesh out the connection of its leads. The movie meanders until it devolves into predictable dystopian thriller where they are held back by more one dimensional characters.
Age lives in a totalitarian society ruled by an ego maniac who controls its population using the plight of the “sinners who fell into the sky” represented by a crude painting. 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 have 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 defy gravity that pins them down, but the movie built around them doesn’t have any gravitational pull to make their journey memorable.
My Rating: 6/10