Worth a Watch? – Don’t Look Up (2021)

Don’t look up, apart from the last thing you want to hear from your ski diving instructor besides “Uh Oh”, is a 2021 American black comedy apocalypse movie about the end of the world as many eagle-eyed readers would have spotted with that word “apocalypse” hanging there.


Anyway, this Adam McKay disaster movie follows Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) as one of his PhD candidates, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), discovers a previously unknown comet which is a cause for celebration until they run the calculations and discover it’s more like a cataclysmic, planet-wide extinction event.


These findings are confirmed by NASA and their Planetary Defense Coordination Office head Dr Teddy Oglethorpe accompanies Mindy and Dibiasky to present their findings to the White House who would take these threats seriously right? right?!


Yeah, not exactly. During the entire meeting, the President (Meryl Streep) and her Chief of Staff idiot son (Jonah Hill) do everything apart from accept the gravitas of the situation that they’re faced with. Which I’m sure no politician in real life has ever done.


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After being left disappointed by the political machine, Mindy, Dibiasky and Oglethorpe take their story to the morning news talk show circuit unfortunately with much the same result. The presenters treat the world ending news announced on their show with as much gravitas as the choice of font used on Myspace.


This causes Dibiasky to, in a word, lose her fucking mind and rant for several minutes about how the science behind their claims are legitimate and everyone is going to die if nothing is done as soon as possible. This causes much of the public to deride her on social media and conflate the threat of the asteroid with the jokes being made about Dibiasky. Mindy somehow gets public approval for his appearance and lack of unhinged rantings.


Public attention for the threat of the asteroid is almost nonexistent at this stage with the president refusing to mention anything about the space rock hurtling towards them. Only once she’s under political threat from her Supreme Court nominee becoming embroiled in a sex scandal does she admit the existence of the threat and announce a plan to use nuclear weapons to divert the rock Armageddon style.


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The mission goes ahead until it’s aborted last minute when it’s discovered by the financial backers that the asteroid contains trillions of dollars worth of rare earth metals. The White House declares it will exploit the commercial viability of the asteroid using technology that hasn’t been peer-reviewed. Mindy is appointed the National Science Advisor as the others that helped him get there were sidelined and frozen out by the government.


Things crack on for a while with everything coming up aces for Mindy… until they aren’t. His wife caught him cheating and left him, he snaps on live television after having his valid questions brushed aside by everyone else in power and is dropped from his prestigious position.


As the asteroid gets closer and closer, society becomes more divided instead of the more optimistic view that people would come together. One side is barracking for other governments and companies to run their own asteroid destruction missions while the other side protests this campaign.


Long story short, shit goes sideways, the asteroid gives the earth the old Scottish welcome and 99.93% of the planet dies with the Elon Musk/Jeff Bezos stand-in rocketing into space with the US president and other “lucky” adventurers. The end, fade to black and cue the somber meditative acoustic guitar.


So straight off the bat, just go back through the last page of plot and tell me one thing; what’s the big underlying message of this entire endeavour?


Is it taking the piss out of social media’s influence on our society?


Is it taking a swipe at the political class that has devolved over the years to be little more than useless lackeys to corporation?


Is it trying to say something about the billionaires like Musk, Bezos, and others that have the ability to help solve some of the biggest problems in the world but instead launch dick rockets?


Does it have something to do with climate change and the breathtaking inaction by most countries?


The thing is, the movie’s setting its sights and ambitions high by trying to encompass all of these messages into one motivating movie that inspires true change like a delicious fruit salad smoothie. Except, they haven’t taken enough care of what they’re chucking into the blender.


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There’s so much in the plot summary and it jumps back and forth so haphazardly it’s like McKay had the idea that combining caviar and kraft cheese singles would enhance both of them because they taste good individually.


Sure, the themes seem complementary at surface level of fuck the powerful people but there’s nothing at the end to tie it all together. Our main characters die and the humans that did make it off the doomed planet end up savaged by aliens.


I understand that there are a lot of causes of the current problems we face but trying to address them all at once in one movie makes it so hard for the viewer to latch onto a message. It’s just too confused and tripping over itself to try and do too much at once.


Putting that aside, the actors do a good job with what they’re given. There’s nothing super outstanding but I did have fun watching Ron Pearlman and Meryl Streep just enjoying themselves playing their roles. Leo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are fine, they do the job well enough, I don’t particularly champion them in conversations like with Gary Oldman and Nic Cage.


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The cinematography and soundtrack are pretty forgettable. I remember them being there and doing a good enough job at what they were trying to elicit but the movie buries all that under its confusing grab bag of plot elements.


Overall, the movie comes up short as a valiant attempt that is sadly likely to be forgotten by most people in the future even as the messages it tries to foster become more relevant.


What did you think of Don’t Look Up? Did you think its messages hit home? Let me know down below.

 

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-Rohan

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