Don’t Look Up (dir. Adam McKay, 2021) – Two astronomers embark on a media tour to warn mankind of an approaching comet that will destroy planet Earth.
Of epidemics and insurgencies, our world is plagued with myriad troubles. The most prevalent plague is perhaps apathy, which has only persisted and grown over the years in spite of our societal and technological advances. From climate change to global poverty, many of us choose to ignore the problems that feel distant to us. So long as it happens to far-flung nations or in someone else’s lifetime, why do we care?
Don’t Look Up satirises this ongoing crisis with the worst-case scenario: Grad school astronomers Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Mindy (Leonardo Dicaprio) have discovered a comet heading towards Earth, and no one seems to care. It doesn’t matter what the numbers show. President Orlean (Meryl Streep) remains indifferent, talk show hosts make light of the situation, and the citizenry turns it all into an ideological battle.
The situation, while exaggerated, is not that far off from reality. We have long ignored the inconvenient truths, despite knowing their devastating impact in the long run. To climate change, we respond with massive fundraising concerts and Greta Thunberg memes. Words outnumber action plans for complex world issues, which all eventually become gaming chips in a political casino.
As we watch President Orlean asking for “the ask” and her slacker son Jason (Jonah Hill) shrugging off news of potential armageddon, we chuckle. We laugh when we see the reactionary memes to Dibiasky and Mindy as they become public figures. So ready are we to scoff at the absurdity of what unfolds on screen, yet we almost forget how much it, tragically, mirrors our current state of affairs.
Its obvious parallels to left/right-wing American politics doesn’t let the rest of the world off either. We are just as guilty of playing bystanders from afar, enjoying the farce as reality television. Even for those of us who turn away, we can easily find our own versions of this twisted reality unfolding in our own backyards.
The film is funny, because it’s true. And it is sad too. As we close in on the inevitable end, with the comet glowing brighter and nearer, there is a sense of melancholy at all that we have lost, not because of the lack of resources or solutions, but because we chose apathy.
Several comets are heading our way, even if they aren’t literal rocks blazing like stars in the skies. Don’t Look Up forces us to ruminate on our collective inaction in reality and its eventual cost, leaving us with the biggest question of all – what are we going to do about it?
This social satire will drive you to tears of both laughter and grief for how concerningly close it mirrors our troubled reality.
Don’t Look Up is now on Netflix.