“Don’t Look Up” review or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the absurdity of it all


Courtesy of Netflix

Ver Lumod, Reviews Editor

Adam McKay’s latest satire “Don’t Look Up” may be far from this generation’s “Dr. Strangelove” with its heavy-handed approach to issues of climate change and the relative lack of collective action. But with the state of the world becoming a theater of the absurd nowadays, its fiery call to action undeniably captures the current zeitgeist.

The disaster film from Netflix mainly focuses on astronomy student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio). After discovering a comet on track to hit the Earth in six months, the two present their findings to the White House. However, they are met with indifference and apathy by U.S. President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son and Chief of Staff Jason (Jonah Hill). Gradually exasperated by the world’s collective denial about the impending apocalyptic event, Kate and Dr. Mindy embark on a media tour to increase awareness about the comet before it’s too late.

“Don’t Look Up” boasts quite an ensemble cast. In fact, I could personally talk all day about how they kept me invested in the film for two and a half hours. For example, DiCaprio gets to subtly ham it up as the middle-aged Dr. Mindy, who later becomes a submissive celebrity in the film. Streep is fun to watch as a cringeworthy political figure, something that is painfully emblematic of recent times.

However, with the presence of heavyweight celebrities in the film competing for screen time comes a double-edged sword. Viewers may come for the star power and leave with that impression, leaving the climate change connection on the back burner. For instance, it may be fun to see Ariana Grande as a pop singer whose breakup inevitably dominates the initial news about the comet. But what does that say about us in real life?

It becomes clear when watching “Don’t Look Up” that McKay is rightfully angry about the lack of action to address climate change. Take any ongoing catastrophic event and while there’s the occasional urgent call to action, the general public will inevitably go back to their endless cycle of checking social media and constantly worrying about what others will think of them. McKay fights against this dying of the light in “Don’t Look Up” by providing a mirror to the viewer and letting him see what the world has become.

However, McKay delivers his message with the subtlety of using a shotgun on a cockroach. The enduring reason why the similarly themed “Dr. Strangelove” worked, for instance, is that Stanley Kubrick never insulted the viewer’s intelligence. In this case, McKay offers up a knowing wink to several characters in the film that mirror real life, from Hill’s “bro vibes” as Chief of Staff to Mark Rylance’s pseudo-Elon Musk character, but he offers nothing of substance beyond showing the fact that these people do exist.

In addition, the film’s jokes about how everyone would rather make memes than engage in meaningful discourse get stale after a while, mainly because the viewer has already seen them materialize in real life. Without saying anything new, “Don’t Look Up” becomes reduced to a seething snapshot with all bark and little bite.

But for all its faults, “Don’t Look Up” takes one for the team. For once it recognizes the importance of listening to science in the age of misinformation. And while McKay and the cast keep hammering the point into our heads so hard that it hurts, they have every valid reason to do so. Maybe it’s because we do deserve it.

“Don’t Look Up” is now available on Netflix. Click here to stream.

Illustration by Ariel Landry
Illustration by Ariel Landry