For cinema theatres and streaming platforms Don’t Look Up – is an ascorbic satiric comedy with science fiction and apocalyptic elements mixed in. For the Adam McKay however, it is a warning: about the “shadow” covering all of us – of climate change and damage we’ve done to this world. This is why the film comes out as a surprise, but a welcome one.
It’s all coming down
According to his own words, McKay intended the film to be a climate action warning, showing how dangerous it might be – not the disaster itself, but our inaction, and how damaging to our society and planet this situation, where basic science becomes a subject of political debate.
Here, in GEAI, we understand how hard it may be to spread the message to someone, but should we stop doing so? This film just screams:”No!”, for otherwise we all are doomed.
Transformations start slowly. Sometimes it is hard to change your habits and learn a new one, but once you are used to it, be it using paper instead of plastic, sorting waste, or other, it just comes naturally. The first steps are always the same – spreading the message; the second is a little bit tricky, but nothing out of the ordinary, just solidify and make them your routine. The goal is to make them the norm for everyone, not just eco-activists!
Governments should be great mediators in such things, as they possess tools of sanctions and rewards. Of course, there are always some disagreements… but a few years after everything worked out. Just take smoking in public for example. Surely, sorting waste in comparison isn’t that hard.
The plot is simple: the comet coming down the Earth and it’s the job of our heroes (played by several gorgeous actors, including the powerful three stars: Leonardo DiCaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy, Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky, and Rob Morgan as Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe) to save a day – or at least try to push people in power to do something. The movie explores vices of modern society – of both ordinary people and the elite – showing the worst parts (greatly exaggerated, of course) of characters. Just throwing a few examples at you: a senior official of White House is completely incompetent despite his high position, a wanna-be-visionary-billionaire risks the existence Earth itself for profit. You don’t see people like these every day, but at least their type will be familiar to you.
Most critics were harsh on this one, calling the film “too straightforward”. It is, especially when it all comes to references to real-world politics, but who said it is a bad thing? It is easy to be lost in the amount of information, so being straightforward is the best approach to appease the wider audience and not just critics from Cannes, especially when you talk about modern social problems – otherwise, the message might be lost. So this form of satire was really effective to increase attention to the inactions of the government and people.
Right in your face
Being a film nerd, as I am, a few words of admiration: direction, camera work, and montage are just outstanding! McKay and his team did a great job with the atmosphere of the film, easily mixing an overall dark and heavy aura on the screen with just mere seconds of jokes without ruining the suspension of disbelief. Not all screenwriters and directors are capable of such feats, especially in the field of satire.
It is both intriguing and disturbing to see how the perception of the “main event” changes because of the influence of the media, polarising society in the face of this grave danger. Some go straight to blunt denial, others understand but don’t act. Movie shows how the media downplays real scientific facts and influences public views, and even if the majority of people don’t trust them blindly, the damage may be already done. Surely, it is a subtle message hidden in the satire about climate denial. Why do people resist action? For some it’s profit, and others – it is simply hard to grasp the scope of the situation, so their mind opposes any opposition, and the media only polarises people even more, as, for every action, article, rally or paper, there is a similar response from the other side. This all ends up in a stalemate, while the clock just keeps ticking!
The cathartic scenes for the L. DiCaprio character, a professor having a mental breakdown on national TV, is surely a reference to the classical “I’m Mad As Hell and I’m Not Gonna Take This Anymore!” scene from the 1976 movie The Network. In both scenes, multimillion news channels explore people’s rage in the face of grave danger for-profit and additional ratings. There are major differences. Network explored more obscure topics such as depression (both economic and personal) and neoliberalism, Don’t Look Up works with more impactful events of natural disasters. I think this fact good example of how our society has changed.
No doubt, the film shines in its last third part, when the atmosphere of inevitable doom is at its hights, and we can see characters from new perspectives.
It’s not the best film I’ve ever watched and not even the best satire, but it is pretty solid. Don’t be afraid of two and a half hours of screentime, just try it. I can assure you – the film will leave its impression on you.
The movie is a great example of our current reality where the worldwide response to mitigating climate change currently results in tragic inaction, discourse, and polarisation as demonstrated in McKay’s work.
Surely, it is hard for people to grasp such ideas and concepts as Global Warming before it’s too late, but what are we all gonna do, when the comet is already in the sky and it’s too late?
And remember, just look up – or there will be nothing left to save.
Written by: Ilya LInevich