Don't Look Up (2021)

Genres - Comedy, Comedy Drama, Drama, Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama, Sci-Fi Comedy  |   Release Date - Dec 10, 2021 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 138 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Celeste Willis

Don't Look Up is a dark comedy written and directed by Adam McKay and features a star-studded ensemble cast. McKay was inspired by his own fears of climate change and environmental crisis when writing this apocalyptic dramedy. He hopes that if he scares audiences enough, they will take what he sees to be the greatest threat to the planet-humans-seriously.

McKay's film revolves around two astronomers, one Ph.D. student played by Jennifer Lawrence in a dark red wig with terrible bangs, and her professor played by an appropriately aged Leonardo DiCaprio. The student spies a comet headed straight for earth. She and the professor solve a lot of math equations to realize the icy rock will hit the earth in six months.

There are a lot of films about the earth being destroyed, or almost destroyed, by asteroids. Movies like Deep Impact and Armageddon draw crowds for their near-world-ending drama. Films like these exploit the extremes of human nature to reveal who deserves to survive and why. Audiences root for their favorite characters to make it through the crisis.

McKay's film is not about whether people deserve to survive, but it serves as a warning that no one will make it if people don't start caring about climate change and the environment more right now. Don't Look Up satirizes the media with TV personalities played by Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett, who both care more about their appearance than anything else. The film also lampoons politics and the American government with an incredibly self-important president played by Meryl Streep and her almost incestuously loyal son portrayed by Jonah Hill.

These characters are the gatekeepers, blocking real change and every effort to destroy the comet. The media doesn't want to take DiCaprio or Lawrence seriously because they're passionate scientists desperate to tell the world that this ride they're on is about the end. Only after Blanchett becomes romantically attracted to DiCaprio does she tout his story long enough for anyone to listen. Lawrence is dismissed as a crazy person because she has nothing to offer the daytime talk show hosts. The president doesn't want to admit there's a comet coming until it behooves her next campaign, which feels very believable given the tensions of polarizing politics in recent times.

The general public doesn't know who to believe. Should they listen to the crazy Ph.D. student, who doesn't even go to an Ivy League school? What about the handsome scientist who tones down his fear about the comet once he starts sleeping with the talk show host? And who trusts the president, who's caught in a sex scandal with her supreme court nominee and only reveals the truth about the planet-extinction event to divert the public's attention?

Once the bulk of the world's population believes they're in danger, it's too late. In fact, the president commands her loyalists, "Don't look up," to keep them from realizing just how close their demise truly is. McKay's use of red hats and country music feel too on the nose when it comes to Streep's portrayal of the president, but he clearly wanted his politics to be known.

McKay shows a version of the end of the world that feels convincing, controversial, and concerning all at the same time. Smartly acted and well written, Don't Look Up is more than just a disaster movie. It's a commentary on life and how it might all end someday.