When I first heard of Adam McKay’s new film Don’t Look Up, I was excited. Looking at his past work such as The Big Short, and the all-star cast, it seemed like a winner. Now that I’ve watched it, I am a bit less sure. While the cast, and concept deliver, the length and flow of the film takes away the impact, feeling like the film could have used some more edits.
Don’t Look Up follows two scientists, grad student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and her professor Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) as they discover an 8-10KM asteroid is heading towards earth, potentially causing a world ending event. Following the formula of most disaster movies, they must try and convince the political elite that this is something that needs to be tackled immediately or all life on the earth will be unceremoniously ended in a little over six months.
What follows is a satire on the political world we all currently live in, poking fun of daytime talk shows, the need for social clout, the focus on elections over lives, and anything else you could imagine in a movie of this nature. From failed attempts to stop it, to the exploration of the greed of the tech bros we all know and love to hate, if there is a target, you best be sure Don’t Look Up takes aim at it one way or another.
“At the core, Don’t Look Up is a biting satire of the political and media system that neglects science in favour of what is popular.”
Here rests the biggest problem with the movie. There is just too much going on. At the core, Don’t Look Up is a biting satire of the political and media system that neglects science in favour of what is popular. It explores how even the best of us can be caught up in the wave of fame or excitement and what harm that can have. Taking the disaster movie trope and bringing it to a ‘real’ world setting was a brilliant idea, and shows the inherent flaws, especially after we have all lived in a pandemic world.
With such a good core, it is only sad that it gets lost in the process of trying to do too much without keeping focused on what makes it fun. The beginning moments of the film are fantastic. DiCaprio and Lawrence are believable as scientists just trying to help people, only to be pushed aside by more scandalous news. The way the film frames these moments of frustration is brilliant and shows just how aggravating it can be when people hear the words without taking the meaning, to smile and nod at devastating news all while mocking the way you look or sound.
The cast brings their all to the roles they are given, with a cast that would put many of the 2021 Oscar contenders to shame, including Cate Blanchett, Ron Perlman, Mark Rylance, Ariana Grande, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep, just to name a few. But again, this massive cast is part of the problem, giving screen time to so many characters makes the end result feel bloated. While I love Mark Rylance in a Steve Jobs type role, there was too much focus put on him late in the 2nd act, making that segment feel lost as the world is edging ever closer to total destruction.
“Even with these gripes, Don’t Look Up has some very powerful moments, and some truly biting humour that should make even the most difficult believer take note.”
There are also many aspects that feel forced or rushed, with characters acting in ways that make no sense to the way they are presented, or just feeling like they have gone through full arcs in a matter of minutes, just to move to the next story point. From love affairs to the a company building poor quality products, there are many story points that make sense at the moment, but are given very little built up to make them hit home.
Even with these gripes, Don’t Look Up has some very powerful moments, and some truly biting humour that should make even the most difficult believer take note. The ideas at the film work well and taking an Armageddon like story and turning it on its head was an excellent idea, especially in today’s political world.
With Don’t Look Up now on Netflix, it is well worth your watch. While not everything hits as well as I would have liked, it has some moments that are fun, scary and worth your time. Even if it is just to see these actors deliver some bonkers lines, Don’t Look Up is well worth 2hrs 18 minutes of your time. I just wish it was a bit tighter to make the message hit harder.