Released December 24, 2021, just in time for families desperate for entertainment during the winter break, Netflix’s “Don’t Look Up” is a masterful satire that perfectly captures the ignorance of today’s political climate.
It stars Leonardo Decaprio (as Dr. Randall Mindy) and Jennifer Lawrance (as Kate Dibiasky), two astronomers at Michigan State University who discover a gigantic comet that is hurling towards the earth. This comet, with a 100 percent chance of making contact in exactly six months and fourteen days, will result in total extinction of the human race. With this disturbing information, astronomers rush to tell the world of this perilous situation and promptly meet with president Janie Orlean, played by Meryll Streep, and her hilariously ignorant son, Jason Orlean, played by Jonah Hill. The president’s response: if this information is shared with the public, my approval ratings will go down, so we will not share this information. The struggle between spreading information and misinformation continues for the entire movie, resulting in a shockingly accurate parallel to political issues like COVID-19 in our current society.
With countless popular actors and celebrities including Timothee Chalamet, playing a skater boy named Yule, Arian Grande, as a famous singer not dissimilar to herself named Riley Bina with a boyfriend named DJ Chellow (played by Kid Cudi), and Rob Morgan, playing scientist Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe, “Don’t Look Up” is the second most watched movie in Netflix history. This was arguably strategic, given that the movie is a political goldmine riddled with nods to Trump, climate change, vaccinations, mask-wearing, and much more.
Many critics have commented that while the movie had an all-star cast, its director, Adam McKay, failed to create a worthwhile comedy or satire. Critics claimed that the commentaries and metaphors were too broad to encapsulate the significance of the issues at hand. Despite these harsh comments, the movie smashed Netflix records with 152 million hours streamed in a single week.
Why did this movie gain so much attention? Because the world-renowned cast caught the eyes of the viewers and the hilariously relevant writing kept them hooked throughout the movie.
The extent to which this movie comments on modern politics is impressive, ranging from corruption of the media, to heartless billionaires, to the conservative resistance to the science behind vaccinations and masks. When the astronomers initially receive no reaction from the president regarding their discovery, they approach a popular talk show called The Daily Rip, hosted by Brie Evantee (two time Oscar winner Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry). The talk show, mirroring the corruption of media surrounding societal injustice and politics today, completely downplays the discovery and disregards the clear-cut fact that this comet will destroy Earth. The public sides with the media, and instead of becoming alarmed, makes a meme out of Jennifer Lawrence’s character’s public breakdown.
The comet advances to Earth steadily as the public ignores its presence, however, the president begins to become attentive when she becomes aware that it may harm her performance in the upcoming primaries. Thus, she hires her own scientists, including tech guru Peter Isherwell (played by Mark Rylance) to work on solutions.
After discovering that the comet actually contains trillions of dollars worth of gold and other rare minerals, Isherwall’s mission shifts from comet destruction to comet preservation, and he plans to break the comet into smaller pieces, allowing it to hit Earth, and then mine the materials for monetary gain. Essentially, Isherwell and the government disregard the dangerous nature of the comet in order to make their already bulging pockets bigger, representative of large corporations neglecting to care about the drastic environmental effects of their work. This strategically comments on the pandemic of heartless billionaires destroying our Earth for their selfish personal gain.
While scientists, Kate Diabasky and Randall Mindy embark on a tour to convince the public to simply “Just Look Up” in order to see the deadly comet, President Janie Orlean undertakes an opposing tour to convince the public that the scientists are lying, complete with a show of fireworks and the catchphrase “Don’t Look Up.” Such blatant disregard for science, even when the evidence is quite literally in sight, mimics the ignorance and arrogance of ex-president Donald Trump and his band of anti-vaxxers as well as climate change doubters. The slogan “Don’t Look Up” parallels Trump’s “Make America Great Again” with its exploitation of herd mentality to override basic reading and science. The film’s unapologetically dark and glaring metaphors work to create a message about climate change that is too bold to be ignored: believe science, and look up.
We recommend this movie as a must watch for its entertainment value, but more importantly, for its political insight. “Don’t Look Up” exquisitely boils society’s current political turmoil down into a simple black or white question: will you look up, to see the impending comet of mass destruction, or will you keep your eyes down and remain ignorant? The film’s unapologetically dark and glaring metaphors work to create a message about climate change that is too bold to be ignored: believe science, and look up.
“Don’t Look Up, like all great satires, holds up a mirror to society’s existential issues–and to ourselves.