Being a disaster movie aficionado myself, with a weird masochist liking for films like Armageddon, Adam McKay’s Netflix film Don’t Look Up was an obvious Christmas weekend pick to appease my lonely self. Despite the hordes of bad reviews and harsh criticisms, I would proclaim it as my favourite 2021 Netflix flick: a grim and profound reminder of how screwed we are as a species.
It is not easy to pull of a satirical comedy, especially one of this film’s stature with an incredible star-studded ensemble cast, namely Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, Meryl Streep, Mark Rylance, Rob Morgan, Ron Pearlman, Tyler Perry, Kid Cudi, Ariana Grande and more. Infusing dark humour in this allegorical take on the current climate change crisis, the film’s fatalistic premise sees 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 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.
A scathing commentary on the predicament of media and politics in the 21st century, surrounded by the burgeoning presence of social media, technology, influencers and more, the film continuously focuses on the banality of human existence and the imminent doom that awaits in this cataclysmic event. The film shows how hopeless one feels at the lack of reaction and nonchalance on the part of the wealthy and privileged, even at the brink of complete destruction of humankind and other species.
Meryl Streep as the ditzy President of the United States is reminiscent of the ex-President, Donald Trump and her cult-like followers echo the angry Republicans who disregard the current global warming crisis. As President Orlean, Streep is callous, ignorant, clumsy and not bothered about anything apart from covering up her smoking and coochie scandal. Jonah Hill is brilliant as her sociopathic son whose bro humour and lack of understanding of the doomsday scenarios mirror the current situation. DiCaprio and Lawrence are brilliant as well and the casting director deserves a special mention for tactfully incorporating such heavyweight names in significant roles that leave a long-lasting impact on our minds.
Although the film abounds in hollow comical sequences that might often seem lackadaisical, it hints at the bleakness and despair of the grave reality and the ubiquitous feeling of despair that people are seemingly unaware of. The film has everything that we see in today’s world. Stoned skater boys, a ditzy pop star and her breakup gaining more significance than a catastrophe, a giant tech klutz whose mercenary mindset is hidden behind his benevolent and philanthropic facade, social media campaigns and more.
The existential threat is inevitable that McKay disguises in this extremely provocative disaster movie of a satire that should serve as a disturbing alarm call to one and all. It starts an important conversation and hurls uncomfortable truths towards us that we otherwise tend to ignore. While many might find the sudden meta-commentary in-between scenes not very intellectually appealing and aesthetically pleasing, it is essential to detect the rage in the filmmaker’s voice.
As we are equally angered and humoured by our own doom, hanging by a thin thread of poignant anguish and uncertainty, Mckay’s Netflix flick reinforces via Grande’s chorus, “We’ve really fucked up!”