‘Don’t Look Up’, look around: reaction to Adam McKay’s latest may say more about our world than about the film

Satire: the use of humour, irony, exaggeration or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity and vices particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.

It seemed like a pretty simple premise. Two scientists (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo Dicaprio) have discovered a comet as big as Mount Everest and they want to stop it destroying the earth. They have 6 months to convince the American government that they need to do something. Obviously nothing can be that easy so they have to battle through a very Trumpesque President Orlean played excellently by Meryl Streep and a truly vile Musk/Jobs/Bezos hybrid called Peter Isherwell played creepily by Mark Rylance.

This is where the simplicity of the film ends and the satire begins.

The director Adam McKay wanted to make a film showing how “absurdist, ridiculous comedy lives right next to sadness” and he wanted to take away the happy endings filmgoers have come to expect. The film was intended as a ‘big broad comedy’ about the impending climate apocalypse and climate scientists have made numerous statements about how real this was to them. Some of them stated that it was almost exactly what being a climate scientist was like nowadays which is honestly terrifying.

Jonah Hill, Leonardo DiCaprio, Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lawrence in Don’t Look Up

Nobody listens to the scientists, the President is too focused on midterms, Isherwell wants to blow up the comet himself to mine minerals and at the point the comet is visible we have the President telling a rally that they should ‘look ahead’ while everyone is wearing ‘Don’t Look Up’ caps. Isherwells B.E.A.D.S fail to destroy the comet but the comet doesn’t fail to destroy the earth. There are a lot of parallels to today’s society in a lot of different ways but the most fascinating is the media reaction.

Randall and Kate spend the first half of the film trying desperately to convince the audience of  a TV show called The Daiy Rip about the comet but because they are not being ‘positive’ enough the engagement isn’t there on social media. This would seem bizarre if one reviewer hadn’t written that McKay “just doesn’t know how to let people enjoy things-even if it is their own destruction.” (Luke Goodsell of ABC News Australia). David Fear of Rolling Stone called it ‘blunt’ which it is but when you get marine biologists like Aryana Elizabeth Johnson tweeting “Are you fucking kidding me?! Listen to the scientists!” maybe it proves it was just blunt enough.

The whole critical response to this film kind of veered between the media hating it and the actual scientists loving it. Journalists also seem to have forgotten that we are living through Covid and have seen the media reactions to this unfolding crisis. I have read articles about covid from anti lockdown campaigners, covid deniers and anti vaxxers. Joe Rogan is causing people to leave Spotify due to his anti vaxx theories. We can pretend the opinions are harmless but they are not. The opinion and the weight of the media and just how much politics is tied into this is a real cause for concern and all McKay has done is highlight this.

This is why reading the reviews has almost been as entertaining as the film itself. Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian said it was “laboured, self conscious and unrelaxed.” Um, a film about political and media ignorance to a planet killer event shouldn’t be relaxed should it? I wonder if the journalists honestly thought it was ridiculous or if they just didn’t like looking in the mirror. One of the best facepalm reviews gos to Nick Allen who wrote “Don’t Look Up thinks it’s pushing many savvy political buttons, when it’s only pointing out the obvious and the easy over and over.” The thing is it’s pointing out the obvious that cannot see the obvious.

If you have been put off this film by previous reviews please think again. The dialogue is cutting, the star-studded cast is on top form and it’s so real It’s like watching a train crash. Besides, if you always believe what the critics say, then maybe you are one of those who would never look up. #myeyesaremyeyes





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