May 18, 2014
Nyron (All reviews)
PATEMA INVERTED... is okay. It's certainly not that good, but not downright bad either. It's basically a whole movie based on a gimmicky premise where a boy meets a girl, except that gravity works the wrong way for the girl, so she's under constant threat of /falling into the sky/. Stretch that sentence out for 90 minutes and you have this movie.

Let's break it down.

THE STORY is a very basic anime boy meets anime girl story. Gravity works the wrong way for the girl. Boy lives in dystopian police state where that's an evil, reviled thing. Bad dudes hunt girl, boy goes after girl, yadda yadda, you've seen it before. And on the subject of "you've seen it before", the first 30 minutes of the movie are actually just "Patema Inverted: Beginning of the Day", which came out months ago, with no new animation or anything. So if you've seen the specials you can start the movie at like the 25 minute mark, honestly.

Really basic and flat character story aside, the main draw of this movie is figuring out the secret behind why gravity is all wonky for some people, but not others. There are exactly two really predictable plot twists in the movie that reveal this. Hell, the story flows like it's a bulleted list. It moves right along at a not-so-fast pace, and then after half a second of head scratching at the end everything makes sense, but nothing is particularly exciting or interesting in retrospect.

There are a few slightly suspenseful bits, but those are all the scenes where there's someone who's about to /fall into the sky/, which as a concept is terrifying in general. I don't really count those as good writing on the creators' part, since those scenes write themselves.

Overall the story felt like something Miyazaki would've written if he were 14.

THE CHARACTERS are entirely one-dimensional. There isn't a single interesting person in this movie. They're all cookie-cutter personalities with predictable lines and actions, and their only saving grace is that none of them are particularly irritating, I guess. There's idealistic high school boy with dead dad, and pushy girl Patema with dead dad, wise elder guy, hotblooded kid, crazy fanatical villain, flaky good cop/bad cop, and that's about it.

THE ART is generally... bad. The quality of art and animation in this movie is below what you'd see in a medium-budget, forgettable TV anime. There are a lot of things that irked me here.

Patema Inverted's character designs are remarkably lazy. The underground dwellers' outfits and the police dudes look kind of cool and distinct, but other than that you won't be finding much of visual interest here. The main boy doesn't have a single defining physical feature, he just looks like "generic anime schoolboy". The titular Patema is cute, but she's also not very interesting to look at. She had this distinct little hair braid thing early in the movie that was eventually removed. I suspect it was because they decided it was too hard to animate. Old crazy fanatic villain looks like an old, crazy fanatic. There's a general lack of detail on the characters, none of them have any interesting facial expressions, gestures, etc. It's all very hohum.

The background art killed me, it's really shitty at some points. I think I'm spoiled by Tekkonkinkreet. But yeah, a LOT of the background paintings are cubes and cylinders in 2-point perspective. It looked like a first-year art student was just practicing his homework. Anything more complex than really basic shapes and perspective was handled by equally rudimentary CGI. Apparently none of the artists working on this had the talent to draw circular desks from above. The climactic scene at the end of the movie where some wrecked up buildings were shown look like they were shat out in Photoshop in 15 minutes. This wouldn't be okay in a TV series, let alone a feature film.That said, a lot of the underground city architecture at the start of the movie was passable.

THE CINEMATOGRAPHY is pretty relevant here. Aside from 99% of shots in this movie being really basic perspective, really basic panning, really basic lighting, no visual symbolism, and other things that make this movie seem like a student film, there are a few interesting visual gimmicks. Well, not really. There are a few scenes in the movie where the camera rotates 180 degrees to switch to either the boy or the girl's perspective so that one is upside-down and the other isn't. It's kind of neat, but not implemented in many exciting ways. Sometimes it can be downright disorienting as your brain tries to figure out which way someone should be falling, and which way the ground is. The strongest scenes are the aforementioned ones where someone's about to fall into the sky, you really feel the "holy shit" during those.

Honestly, someone should totally take the video file for this movie and flip it. It would probably make the entire experience a bit more interesting. Or it might actually change nothing.

THE ANIMATION is... bad. There are no interesting-looking scenes or backgrounds in most of this movie, and the same goes for character animations. There's a good scene or two of some gravity-defining jumps through a field, and another comical one where a character's being rolled around on a ceiling, but yeah. It's just not a visually interesting movie. I guess one of the biggest hurdles here was to get the gravity of the characters looking correct when there are multiple gravities, which they did, but that's not really impressive. You won't find anything in the background moving unless prompted, you won't see the characters (or anything else) having life-like motions, you won't see any really artsy/trippy animation, or anything of the sort.

THE SOUND is... uhhh, what sound? I think there were like two or three musical pieces in this whole movie. If there are more than that, it shows how forgettable they were since I watched this 30 minutes prior to writing a review. The main theme reminded me of Castle in the Sky and similar music Ghibli works. It's okay, but you probably won't be loading this OST onto your playlist.

OVERALL, Patema Inverted is mediocre and forgettable, and very amateur-ish. It really did feel like a student film, and lacks all the whimsy and inspiration of similar Ghibli works. I've never seen the creator's other work, Time of Eve, but after watching this I'm not too eager. All you artists out there can turn this into a deadly drinking game though: every time you see a background that's made of cubes going a a single vanishing point in the center of the screen, take a shot.