• Charlie King

Don't Look Up Review

Don’t Look Up is a strange one in that it seems to be universally panned by critics but enjoyed by a lot of people who watch it, me included. The basic story is that two scientists find a comet heading for Earth and take measures to stop it only to be met with lukewarm responses from the public and higher-ups.

In terms of things to enjoy, it is enjoyable to watch a disaster movie without everything being so melodramatic although that would be the appropriate response. I know it is not the point of the movie to say that the impending end of the world is funny especially with this film being a non-too-subtle allegory for climate change and people’s ignorance towards it. Essentially, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence try to bring the melodrama but everyone’s response to it balances that out very quickly and makes everything a comedy instead.

We don’t get to see Leonardo DiCaprio in too many roles where he is an anxious and shy character. His character is the only one who has different moods it seems and at least some character development at times. There is a story about how he is anxious about going on tv, instantly becomes a media star and seems to deal with everything fine from there.

Mark Rylance’s tech billionaire is a great low-key villain who never really shows himself as a villain, he is just the guy obsessed by money who thinks he can make money off the comet and solve the problem at the same time. There is no evil master plan, only that he has more influence on the President’s decisions than the scientists. There is even a bit near the beginning where the tech billionaire’s phones automatically buy things for people which you wonder if it’s going anyway but instead it’s another clunky observation of the world.

From a pure story-telling standpoint, there are no real story arcs or character arcs- every character is one-dimensional in order to fulfil their role in the film and that’s probably where it loses ‘technical’ points’ as a story. The President is ignorant to the threats along with most others, the TV presenters are only interested in what they present on their show, etc. There is also some unnecessary filler and secondary stories that serve no real purpose other than to fill time in-between developments with the comet situation.

You might notice how I am only referring to the actor’s names or ‘the President’ for instance and that’s because besides the surname of Dibiasky, which the comet is named after, I can’t confidently remember anyone’s name in the film and that’s probably where the lack of character depth comes in. It also might indicate that the film feels like it’s all-star power and nothing else with Dicaprio, Lawrence, Rylance, Streep, Blanchett among others involved.

Usually when you think of satire, you think of smart and veiled references but this film is heavy-handed in its approach to satire, not so much asking ‘do you get it?’ as shoving it in our face until we definitely get it. In that sense, the film isn’t smartly written. What is smart is comparing climate change to an oncoming comet. In the eyes of those who discuss climate change, it is as obvious to see as a comet in the sky flying towards the earth and yet people still ignore it.

Most of the criticisms that have been laid at the film can usually be responded to by saying ‘that’s the point!”

The characters are one dimensional, that’s the point! The characters either care about the comet/climate change or don’t, it doesn’t matter what their back story is or why they hold that opinion.

The satire/allegory isn’t subtle, that’s the point! What’s the point of being subtle about the end of the world especially when people have ignored climate change for years.

The characters have to be unbelievably ignorant to not notice/care, that’s the point! This may be a satire but it is telling how many people are commenting saying this is exactly how it feels when trying to discuss climate change and push options to improve the world. To them, it feels as obvious as a comet striking the earth with the same level of blindness to the imminent threat.

Anyway, when you think about the things mentioned above like character arcs, maybe this isn’t technically a good film but to me, it was enjoyable to watch. The funny parts are the parts where you might think it’s funny because it’s true, because some people really would react like that in this situation. It’s certainly worth a watch to consider how people would react if climate change was as physically obvious as a comet because that’s how scientists see it.

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