I am an agnostic on issues like climate change, solely because I am not a climate scientist. Is it real? Probably. Do I trust the politicians at the European Union and their accords to deal with it accordingly? Nope. Climate change is probably real and it will probably have negative side effects but I somewhat doubt it will be catastrophic enough to be an extinction level event, until I’ve heard otherwise by someone who isn’t taking government contracts and has no financial interests vested in the issue. I don’t trust people who stand to gain authoritarian power by way of climate policies.
Regardless, we now have Adam McKay’s newest film Don’t Look Up, a similar extinction level event made slightly less worse by the fact that it isn’t being inflicted upon our precious movie theater supply (they’re already on the endangered species list…).
McKay is, for all intents and purposes, a jerk. His recent trilogy of politically motivated dramas shows this. The Big Short, Vice and Don’t Look Up are all angry, petulant, condescending works of historical fiction sourced from a million early 2000s asinine leftwing blog posts. Whatever truths they hold are drowned out by McKay’s Sorkin-esc air of smugness and self righteousness. And unlike Sorkin, he can’t pretend he’s an amazingly talented wordsmith.
For good measure, his newest film is co-written by David Sirota, Bernie Sander’s former speechwriter. We know it’s going to be even handed and cool headed for sure!
Surprisingly, Don’t Look Up is doing very well. Netflix declared it the second most watched film in the service’s history. Critics on the other hand aren’t enjoying it, with a 55% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Netflix seems quite happy with the ratings they’re getting from this film, likely caused by negative press. Given it’s current position, we may have to deal with it as a potential Oscar nominee in the coming weeks.
God forbid the Oscar speeches if it wins Best Picture…
The story explores a fictional scenario wherein a world ending comet is plunging towards Earth. Six months in the future, the planet will be rendered lifeless if nothing is done to stop the comet. Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence are two Michigan State based scientists who discover the comet and take the information to the president who immediately decides to shelve the comet until after the midterms.
Meryl Streep’s president character is, of course, a Trumpian tyrant. Confusingly, she’s also something of a hybrid of Trump and Hillary Clinton (if the fact that the film was written by a Bernie Bro isn’t obvious). She makes grand speeches about nationalism and God while behind the scenes she schemes for power and wealth. At one point, she’s given the opportunity to destroy the comet but doesn’t because her backer, an eccentric cell phone technician played by Mark Rylance, announces they could get rich by mining the comet for rare earth elements.
My twitter buddy Stephen Michael Davis has already done an excellent video about the film’s politics so I won’t retread much of what he said in his review. Needless to say, Don’t Look Up is a very progressive movie that explores the way capitalist institutions are poorly situated to handling large-scale social problems such as climate change or COVID.
Don’t Look Up is a scree of a picture, a petulant cry into the abyss from a leftist artist who wants to scream “I told you so” into the face of oblivion. Most of the film is just scene after scene of Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters talking to politicians or going on live television and trying to convince someone, ANYONE, that they’re right.
The entire film is just variations on the same scene over and over. The scientists try to tell the world the truth, the media/politicians/public don’t care and they start screaming about how they’re all going to die. This happens as the Trumpian politicians and corporations scheme for how they can use the comet for personal gain.
By the end of the film, the scientists are just left in a state of pious resignation. They know they did the right thing and they don’t care anymore what happens to the world outside their house. It’s the end of the world. Why be sad when you tried?
It’s an extremely bleak ending to an otherwise plodding and unfunny ride that just wants to keep hitting you over the head OVER AND OVER with the same point. It’s like the film wants to guilt trip you into “doing something”.
There’s little introspection. There’s no hope to the story. There is only one director airing his grievances with the American public and demanding to know why the corporations and Republicans are so stupid as not trust the virtuous scientists who tell them the world is about to end. The film’s moral lesson seems to be “You deserve exactly what is coming for you”.
It’s a bleak exercise in emotional catharsis entirely on the part of the filmmakers as it marches towards it’s ultra bleak finale.
Speaking as one of those Republicans, I have no financial interests in massive cell phone companies or oil corporations. I just don’t try tyrants who demand the power to control the world (who he rightly dismissed in the film as paranoid antisemites). I don’t trust the powerful to not abuse their power and I know full well what kind of economic/life destroying power would be necessary to fix an issue like climate change, if it’s as bad as some scientists say it is.
If the world is about to end, so be it. I didn’t contribute to it one way or the other beyond eating meat and driving a car, no more than anyone else. If it makes Mr. McKay feel better by screaming into the void, he can feel free. He can enjoy the millions of capitalist Netflix dollars and awards prestige that comes from the same corporations who are also destroying the planet for money!
Don’t Look Up seems to be popular and I won’t take that away from it. I found it joyless and uncomfortable to watch but it’s popularity would probably suggest it’s hitting a nerve with someone, which is a more discouraging thought to me than I’d like to admit.