‘Don’t Look Up’ is all message, no movie

The Netflix comedy has an apocalyptic warning—but that’s about it

The Netflix satirical comedy released on Dec. 5.
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Deservedly or not, Don’t Look Up has earned a significant place in contemporary pop culture. 

With a stacked, high-profile cast and comedic tone, the Netflix original depicts a reality where a devastation-level comet is headed toward the Earth.

The film is written and directed by Adam McKay, who is known for comedies including The Big Short and Step Brothers. Since its December release, it has received intense media buzz because of its key, somewhat controversial messaging. 

Much to the dismay of scientists played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, everyone from the self-obsessed American politicians to the meme-consumed public refuse to take the threat of mass extinction seriously. 

Upon pressing play, I was simultaneously amused and maddened to watch as the characters in power were unable to grasp the gravity of the comet’s threat. 

This ignorance is most prominently highlighted by Meryl Streep’s egotistical and money-hungry representation of the president of the United States accompanied by Jonah Hill, who snobbishly plays her son and chief of staff. Together, they make a Trump-esque duo, mirroring his nationalist rallies, his disregard for science—and his inappropriately sexual remarks about family members.

Don’t Look Up satirically exagerrates a scientific fact being denied and then highly politicized by world leaders, who make their decisions to benefit only the upper class. 

The climate crisis and the pandemic are the two most obvious metaphors for the film’s comet. Through Don’t Look Up, McKay points out that we live in a society that allows us to bypass scientific fact and ignore the threat of our own self-destruction for rich people’s short-term gain.

The star-studded cast list was what drew me to watch this film, and they were just funny enough for me to get through it. Timothée Chalamet fans will be happy to know that the actor makes a brief appearance—and has two lines about fingerling potatoes and Twitch streaming.

But what stood out most about this film was its strong warning message. A message so strong, in fact, that the film was almost all message and no movie. 

I developed a deep sense of apathy for Don’t Look Up’s mostly unlikable roster of characters, and I began to think they deserved their fate. Perhaps this was the intention of the filmmaker: the point of this film wasn’t to make the best new comedy, but to blatantly reveal that something is deeply wrong with our society.

In Don’t Look Up, we enter a reality in which people close their ears to scientific truths and politicians are reluctant to put in place any legislation that will negatively affect their exponentially wealthy backers. This film shines a light on how detrimental we and our leaders have become to the world.

All in all, watching Don’t Look Up was a Christmas Eve spent okay with my family. 

Though I had to split my attention and watch a few TikToks so as not to lose interest in the film, I can appreciate it for what it was: a hyped-up comedy with a lot of big names and big messages. 

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