The film is creating a wave of enthusiasm where it briefly turned up in movie houses earlier this month and is now streaming on Netflix. The cast is superlative: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Chris Evans, Cate Blanchett, Ariana Grance, Mark Rylance, Timothée Chalamet among others. And of course, the film director and producer, Adam McKay is well-known across the world, ever since his arresting 2015 The Big Short and sarcastic 2018 Vice (about former US Vice-president Dick Cheney), both box office successes and winners of numerous awards – so the expectations were high when Dont’ Look Up came out this year.
The premise is the kind that sparks immediate curiosity: Two scientists, a Professor Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his doctoral candidate (Jennifer Lawrence) have discovered a huge comet, the size of Mount Everest, heading straight towards earth and due to hit six months hence, with devastating results. Dubbed a “planet killer”, it will cause a mass extinction, spelling the end of humanity.
But the news leaves everyone indifferent, including the President of the United States, a long-haired, egocentric female Trump with a hint of Hilary Clinton (Meryl Streep). The two scientists engage in a frenzied social media tour to try and sensitize the public. To no avail. Social media indeed shows itself at its “best”, awash in dirty jokes, insults, arrogant pronouncements, bullying and absolute incomprehension.
But the sarcasm of director McKay is not only directed at social media. He also takes aim at the classic Silicon Valley wonder boy, here portrayed as an arrogant, silver-haired Steve Jobs type with hints of Bezos, Elon Musk and Peter Thiele (Mark Rylance). With a squeaky voice, darting eyes and a quick, empty grin, he becomes chummy with the American President and tries to turn the incoming comet into a juicy money-making venture (he wants to mine the comet when he is told it’s chock-a-block full of minerals and rare earths he needs to run his digital empire).
Arguably, the film is not perfect – a little long, some moments of diversion and lack of focus that thankfully don’t last and you’re thrown back into the action. It calls to mind Dr. Strangelove – same brutal sarcasm, same cruel hopelessness, same bitter laugh.
Soon the issue becomes politicized and “don’t look up” becomes the mantra of the American President, her Silicon Valley buddy and her party – don’t look up, that is, at the incoming comet that becomes highly visible in the sky as it gets ready to slam into earth. A mantra that is on the intellectual level – and clearly echoing – MAGA, Make America Great Again.
The message of the film cannot be ignored or misunderstood: This is the perfect metaphor of the political polarization that paralyzes America. The government cannot take decisions – the people through social media clamor make any policies impossible – and any decision it does take is the result of big business lobbying.
The metaphor here is about a comet – a “planet-killer” event, quite clearly an extremely rare occurrence. The last time it happened was about 65 million years ago, with an asteroid crashing in Yucatan, causing, inter alia, the extinction of the dinosaurs (but not the birds). At least, that is one (most likely) theory.
What we are facing is a much more likely event: The Sixth Extinction propelled by climate change. Perhaps humans won’t go extinct, but the likelihood with rising global temperatures is that the numbers will be considerably reduced. A mass massacre. Of course, just like in Don’t Look Up, nobody believes it and the government is unable to take a constructive course of action. Nothing happens. It’s “business as usual”, with an abundance of stupid jokes on the Internet while the climate continues to “change”.
Yes, this is a film worth seeing. Be ready to laugh and cry.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: screenshot from film trailer