Yes, its a surprise review, for the Christmas period and of course I decided it was going to be a film I had been thinking about all year but hadn’t really got round to watching (in actuality, I missed it when it first came out and the DVD release kept getting pushed back so much that I was afraid to put it on the review schedule in case it didn’t come out in time).
Patema Inverted was released in Japan in late 2013 but it got a bit of an interest following this years Scotland Loves Anime tour and, which sparked my interest in the idea of it and it did also receive a cinematic release on 2 May this year for a limited period only. However I completely missed this as I was concentrating so hard on going to see The Wind Rises, which was coming out the very next week, so it completely passed me by, I only discovered it had received its release around the time I was doing research for the Axia Film Society at the time I was starting it up and doing my first Sin City review. I always planned to get it on DVD to see what I had missed out on, but as I mentioned before, the release date kept getting pushed back. Now it is finally here in all forms, including the cheapest option of the DVD by itself, which came out two days ago from this reviews publication (I hope).
With all that said and all that hype that I had built up for myself I was relatively looking forward to seeing this film, although I wasn’t expecting too much out of it, I was just expecting it to be another good anime film that had had some success on the film festival circuits. That being said, however there have been a couple of my favourite films that have had that treatment. For example my favourite film of last year Wolf Children. (If you haven’t seen it, its basically Twilight, done right). That and I wasn’t aware of the Directors any other work being that the only other film that he seems to have produced is Time of Eve, which also came out this year but I haven’t seen it up to this point because I was already backed up with a ton of films I had to see for my top ten list which is coming out next week. But all in all I took a special time and notice to see this film.
As usual I am starting with the plot in this review and this plot is how I could describe as both complicated and yet simple to understand on a basic level. The plot centres around a young girl named Patema who lives underground with her friends and family as they are a part of a group of people who have been affected by an accident that has affected the world’s gravity and as a result their gravity is inverted to ours, hence the title. She, however, comes across our world by accident where the gravity is what we would describe as normal and comes across a young boy named Age, who takes her in, in this strange new world, though Age’s world is not as beautiful as Patema had imagined, as the incident that has affected the earths gravity has caused a police state to rise filled with propaganda and religious dogma, and Patema’s kind are sought out as evil sinners.
Now, that plot may not sound that original at first, however its the way Patema Inverted handles the plot that makes it incredibly original. This is incredibly high concept Sci Fi, in fact it’s kind of the high concept Sci Fi I was expecting to get from Interstellar, which I reviewed earlier this year. The plot really builds this world, or I should say both of the worlds as the plot constantly has to dangle between the two, as well as the perspectives of the two lead characters, and it’s done expertly. The film lasts 99 minutes in total and it makes use of all of it, there is no portion of this film where you would not be engaged.
The writing is superb and it flows brilliantly, it has some of the best pacing of any film I have seen all year. I really was worried about this film coming to an end because it would mean I would have to stop watching this incredible plot line. It got me really invested in these characters. Speaking of the characters, they are excellent too. Patema and Age are both a really believable couple, their connection and chemistry are incredible because of the set piece of they literally rely on each other to survive. If Age lets go of Patema she will fall into the sky, literally. The really sell their individual needs to survive and the wonderment of each others worlds. I love the main characters personalities Patema gives off her inquisitive nature and both her wonderment and fear of this new world that she has dreamed of seeing. Age also give off a fearful young man living under the state that has caused him pain and his desire to make things right and achieve his goals and will not wait to act unlike some similar lesser anime characters, it really endears you to them
As for the side characters, they don’t tend to get a lot of development, or at least not as much development, but I think they get just enough to be worthwhile and I still came out loving them at the end. Another high criticism for this movie probably could have been the villain, considering that he initially doesn’t get too much depth and he does sort of veer into the whole, evil for the sake of evil villain. There a a few lines toward the end that will explain a lot of his motivation and he still feels threatening, you believe he controls this state and will enforce it with an iron fist or bullet to keep his control of it, plus its also helped by the choice of the actor for the villain, but we will get into that later.
Of all the criticism I saw coming towards this movie after I ended up watching it, were, there were a few things that weren’t explained, but I think thats not a negative in my book, again it didn’t bother me too much as I felt it was open to audience interpretation, and also if you thought long and hard about it, you probably could have figured it out, if you didn’t want to go down that route. Overall if plot is really your thing when it comes to a film, this is one to really look out for, its probably the most original plot I’ve seen all year and as I said it is ground breaking Sci Fi, but I really don’t want to call it Sci Fi because I think that would put too many people off that wouldn’t want to go and see a Sci Fi film, despite the fact that this doesn’t have a ton of the Sci Fi tropes like space travel and aliens that a lot of people are put off by, from the great world it built to the characters I fell in love with, to the connection and romance between the two lead characters, it was great and despite the fact I didn’t want it to end I was very satisfied with the ending.
In terms of acting this film was not made by a major studio so I wasn’t sure if they were going to get decent voice actors to play these characters, after all this film was largely funded by a kickstarter project, but Anime Limited got out the cheque book to get some seasoned actors that have been in several animes in the past, most of which I have enjoyed. Now I’ve watched the english dubbed version rather than the original japanese, mainly because most of the reviews for this film are already of the japanese version, rather than the english dub. I know a lot of anime purists will watch the film in it’s original japanese with english sub titles, but I mainly wait for the dubbed to turn up as I feel it helps me concentrate on the plot and character development better.
Cassandra Morris does an excellent job playing Patema, and I think this film with make her a large main stay and actor in this genre, she is up and coming right now, but I’m hoping she will get more work on the back of this, having only done a few dubs for 4kids at this point. Age is played brilliantly by Michael Sinterniklaas and he does a brilliant job with this character as well, especially considering most people know him for playing Chris in the awful Sonic X Anime. Again I’m hoping he will get larger roles after this, but I think it’s almost certain, considering his resume includes this and my favourite movie of all time, Summer Wars. The rest of the cast do an excellent job as well, it’s great to see Patrick Seitz in this movie, playing Jackoo and I’m really looking forward to him returning next year to play Frankie in One Piece (yes I know most people have already seen most episodes of One Piece, but I’m following the box sets so I have to wait until next year). But one of the real standouts for me is Richard Epcar as the villain Izamura. As I said this villain would have failed if Richard Epcar had not delivered an amazing performance, he really sells this characters threatening nature and his underlying reasons for his sense of control and his fear of losing control.
I could go into a lot of the other members of the cast, particularly Bill Lader playing elder and Robbie Daymond in the role of Porta, but I wouldn’t have enough time in this review and it would just further iterate my point that this is one of the best english dub casts of an anime I have seen in a while, they really play off each other very well. Granted they are given a lot to do with the excellent writing, but I would not undersell how much they bought to it and their performances were brilliant enough and I hope will earn them some recognition at whatever Anime awards are possibly coming up.
The big discussion now, is now more on the presentation of the overall film, and let me tell you right now, this film is visually outstanding. It is one of the best animated, best designed movies I have seen in a long time. I really regret not seeing this film in the Cinema because it would have blown my mind. In order to get the full effect of the film I made sure to watch the Blu Ray version, having bought the Blu Ray and DVD combo pack and I also made sure to watch it at night and turn off the lights, which is how I recommend you watch this film, it will help you to get the full effect.
The animation has to show off the gravity effects and the changes of perspective between the characters, and it does this brilliantly, it can be disorientating, but that’s the effect its meant to give and your eyes will adjust to it relatively quickly and the movement of gravity physics which will take getting used to but once you get the hang of it sells the wonder and fear that this world gives and the idea of what is up or down and the idea of falling into the sky . It’s not just the gravity effects which are amazing, its also the small things, like the still shots which really accentuate the size and scope of both worlds, the actual design choices, the colours of the animation, everything is done brilliantly, even small aspects are given great detail. This really feels like a living, breathing world and during some of the high up shots and the shots surrounding the sky, I was getting slight vertigo just looking at it, it really will have that effect. The character designs are also pretty decent. Patema gets a pretty similar anime girls style, especially with the green hair, but I think it matches her bubbly and inquisitive personality, which is also reflected in her outfit choices as well. Again the animators clearly knew what they were doing and this also reflects in the people that live in the inverted world. As for the people that live in the normal gravity world, they’re suitably designed to look like drones and basically people living under the thumb of the state and this plays to amazing effect.
I can’t stress how much love and care went into the animation for this. It has to be seen to be believed. There are a ton of things I could easily mention in regards to other ways, as to how the animation works so well but it would be giving away too many plot points. You have to see it to believe it and that’s really how I can sum up the art style and visuals of this film.
Is there a negative I can say about this film? Well there a few of points I possibly could bring up on technical levels, like as I mentioned a few things are kind of left open to audience interpretation, and some of the lesser developments of characters, as I said before I think if those characters had been developed more than they already were, they would have taken up too much time in the movie, or the movie would have been too long. I think they are given just enough for it to work and I still felt that connection at the end of the film. At the end of the day it’s Patema and Age’s story.
The point really to make though is that despite the fact this film does have negatives that I can recognise, they don’t bother me. They didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the film and to be honest whether I saw a fault or not I thought, who cares, this is unbelievably good to watch. I can’t really sum it up any better way, I think you will just have to see it to see my point.
To sum up. I loved this film. Out of all the films I didn’t go to see in the cinema this year, this was my biggest regret, though admittedly a limited release probably meant it wasn’t playing in a cinema anywhere near me. It’s just stunning how much love and care went into making it. The plots great, the characters are great, it’s got some of the best animation I have seen in years and a soundtrack that matched it perfectly, its already in my favourite anime films , along with films like Spirited Away, Summer Wars, Wolf Children, Ghost in the Shell and Jin-roh the Wolf Brigade.
If you buy no other film in the new year sales, track down a copy of Patema Inverted. I want this film to be a success and I’m not sure it’s going to be that way considering how limited the press releases on it have been. If you are going to see it, please do all you can to track down a Blu Ray copy and watch it on an excellent TV, at night, with the curtains drawn, it really is the best way to see this film, and for the love of god please see this film, its one brilliant film that you have to experience. Thats the best way to sum it up. It’s not a film, its an experience.
Well, sorry for springing a surprise review on you guys, but I really felt this review needed to get out and with the companies approval I have managed to do that. Admittedly as I said, it wasn’t announced, mainly due to the fact that I wasn’t sure this film was going to come out this month.
Please go and check out my review of Big Eyes which is online now, especially if you want to find out whats coming up next and if you’re curious about submitting your own reviews, discussions or top ten lists as we go through the details on how you can do that in that review and the requirements for it.
Please, if you want to discuss Patema Inverted or any of the other animated films I have mentioned, leave a comment. We accept all opinions and view points and I am up to replying to as many as possible. It can be as short or as long as you want, it doesn’t matter, but it’s always good to get a discussion going.
Thanks for reading this review and I hope you will check out the reviews I have planned for 2015.
Calvin – Nerd ConsultantShare This Post: