(Credit: Niko Tavernise / Netflix)

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Adam McKay explains the ending of Netflix’s ‘Don’t Look Up’

Adam McKay’s latest disaster comedy Don’t Look Up premiered on Netflix on December 24th, 2021. With a star-studded ensemble cast, namely Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Meryl Streep, Timothee Chalamet, Tyler Perry, Rob Morgan, Ron Pearlman, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi, Chris Evans and more. The film was one of the most highly anticipated releases of this year. While it has received mixed responses, with some calling it a certified disaster and others finding themselves resonating with the allegorical message the satire comedy wants to convey, it is safe to assume that McKay knew what he was venturing into. 

Global cataclysms, apocalypse and impending doom have always been a favourite Hollywood trope with superheroes and vigilantes averting dangers, bringing in a ray of hope where people leave the theatres happy to have survived to see yet another day. Don’t Look Up removes that blanket of security and makes one fall headfirst into a pit of uncertainty, despair, devastation and death. 

The film premise is pretty simple where Michigan State University professor Dr Randall Mindy and his PhD candidate student Kate Dibiasky chance upon a humongous meteor that is hurtling towards earth in six months and will ravage the planet, leading to mass extinction. Anxious and paranoid to save the world, the duo, along with another concerned scientist, venture into the world to warn them against the impending danger. However, the film is a satirical and allegorical take on the climate change crisis that is overtaking the world now and shows the nonchalance and ignorance of the wealthy and privileged, who only take action when their interests are threatened. 

After the world ends with a boom, the rich escape in a specially designed ship before being gobbled up by alien birdlike creatures. The dark comedy serves as an alarming wake-up call to the world and the imminent dangers pervading us. McKay did not want to end his film with a ray of hope for he wanted to bring out the real-life crises that cannot be averted, infusing in a bit of black humour to make it appear relatable and likeable. 

McKay said, “We’ve seen hundreds of movies where the world is about to end, whether it’s Marvel movies or James Bond or the ’70s disaster movies, and it always works out.”

He referenced the time when Elon Musk said that “technology will take care” of the climate change crisis and said that he was representative of the group of people who have “seen a lot of movies where you know that in the third act it’s going to work out”.

He wanted to create a film “for people to see a movie that ends where people don’t work to get the happy ending — hopefully some people will have a reaction to that.”

“It was already a crazy script but I would say reality out-crazied us by like 10 to 15%,” McKay continued. “Well done, reality.”

McKay, whose script was also impacted heavily by the Covid-19 pandemic and the varied responses to the global crisis worldwide, also uses his film to provide a scathing commentary on the media and political systems of the 21st century and their inability to provide an adequate and appropriate response to serious matters, even ones where the world is on the brink of mass destruction. 

The central conceit is that we’ve screwed up the way we talk to each other by profitizing even the most casual of exchanges,” McKay said.

While he said that the film was not “blaming any people or saying anyone’s evil”, it simply served as a commentary on “the system that we’ve created. But we’re in a really dangerous situation because when everything is a sales exchange, you’re never going to hear the dark truth.”

DiCaprio and Lawrence, who play the main leads in the film, opened up about what attracted them to the script, especially the bleakness of the fatalistic ending. 

Lawrence, who found the project “funny and urgent”, said, “It’s extremely frustrating to be a citizen that believes in climate change and is scared, but I’m not a part of it — you know, I can’t buy a senator — so we’re just kind of helpless.”

DiCaprio, who is a known advocate for the climate change crisis, was sold by the dinner scene where the Mindys and Dibiasky and Yule gather for mindless small talk to ignore the end of the world that befalls them in seconds. He spoke about how “ this film is really a smack in the face.”

“The end of this movie gets really dark, and had it not had that tonal shift, I don’t think we would have been as excited as we were to do it,” he continued. 

Stream Don’t Look Up on Netflix now!