“Don’t Look Up” is a political satire following two astronomers from Michigan State University, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Ph.D. student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), who discover a comet set to destroy Earth.
The film features a wide array of distinguished actors and actresses, including Ariana Grande, Meryl Streep and Timothée Chalamet. From my experience, an excess of big names is usually an attempt to compensate for a subpar script or plot. However, this film changed my mind. While the film has mixed reviews, I believe the filming techniques and script make this film incredibly entertaining and slightly eye-opening.
Unlike other political satires like “The Interview,” this film did not come off as satire from the get-go, but instead a sci-fi drama film. It quickly became evident that it is, in fact, a comedy, but parallels with the serious nature of climate change, the media’s power and role in reporting on important topics and our tumultuous political climate and response to serious issues the world faces. Spoilers ahead.
Within the first five minutes, Dibiasky discovers a comet set to hit Earth and ultimately destroy it. Upon learning this information, Mindy contacts NASA and the Head of Planetary Defense, who are also alarmed by this discovery.
Unfortunately, when the situation is explained to the President of the United States, President Janie Orleans, the astronomers are quickly shut down. Mindy and Dibiasky frantically work to get the word out in hopes of garnering more support through the media but quickly realize the media will not take them seriously either. Essentially, no one cares about the world’s impending doom.
As the comet gets closer to impact, Mindy and Dibiasky gain notoriety and are finally offered a solution from Orleans. She partners with a tech giant — likely referencing billionaires like Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk — and, surprise surprise, he is more interested in profit than helping save the world. Ultimately, their plans fall through, and the Earth is destroyed.
The shocking conclusion of “Don’t Look Up” disappointed some, but I thought it was perfect. The message issues a call-to-action, but the ending is what drove this film home because of its raw nature and dark reality.
In real life, we will not always have a happy ending, especially if we don’t act on serious issues. It seems to me that anyone who does not like the film might not like that it points out the reality of our situation and what will happen if we do not act quickly to prevent further climate change.
Another thing I really enjoyed about this movie was the techniques and acting.
The cadence of Dibiasky’s and Mindy’s voices not only tells you that they are the only sane people, but they emphasize the chaotic nature of their journey in getting the public’s attention. To me, the change in tone symbolized the five stages of grief — because they certainly experienced all of them — and really foreshadowed the rather sad ending. The opposing tones of the activists and the people who should care about the issue made for a more interesting and convincing movie. While this might seem like a small piece of the bigger picture, it made the film easier to understand and relate to.
Other techniques that stood out were the camera angles, lighting and colors.
The muted colors and dim lighting in the beginning leave you wondering what will become of their discovery. Throughout the film, we see brighter lighting in the middle when they believe it might be alright, then dim again at the end when they have accepted defeat.
The camera angles created a chaotic effect when needed and transported me into the minds of the astronomers.
I felt worried at the start with its shakey and quick cuts. I felt frustrated in the middle when they are trying to convince people about the severity of the situation. I felt at ease when the camera angles were more meticulous and basic when they thought the problem was solved. Finally, I felt scared again when everyone realized their plan was not going to stop the comet as the camera panned around the dinner table on close-ups of the astronomers gathered with family and friends awaiting their impending extinction.
I have to admit, this film is incredibly frustrating to watch for the better part of it — not because it is bad, but because you want to jump into the screen and shake the people until they believe what is happening.
By the end, though, I was convinced and slightly scared. The film invokes strong emotions through the acting, techniques and messages. In my book, any film that leaves you feeling and thinking that way is a success.
Ultimately, I thought “Don’t Look Up” was one of the more entertaining allegorical, political satire films I have seen to date. Whether you are left-leaning or right-leaning, a fan of sci-fi movies or not or just looking for some entertainment, this movie won’t blow up in your face.