Movie Review: Don’t Look Up

YJ Si, Editor-in-Chief


“Don’t Look Up” follows two astronomers from the University of Michigan who, upon discovering a comet roughly the size of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs headed for a direct hit with planet Earth, desperately try to mobilize to prevent a collision.
But at every turn in the movie, with the government, the media, and the people itself, they are met with relentless apathy that—spoiler alert—leads to the end of humanity.
The film serves as a sort of satirical allegory for humanity’s inactions against climate change, but amid the pandemic, it also highlights science denial in general. It is a harsh critique of the slowness of bureaucracy and the evils of capitalism.
The astronomers’ first stop is the White House. There, they are met with a president (whose chief of staff is also her son) who seems to be more concerned with the upcoming midterm election than with the extinction of humanity.
They then turn to broadcast media, but instead, are met with anchors more concerned with celebrity relationships than, again, humanity’s extinction. This cycle continues for an exasperatingly long time, and it feels like it drags on forever.
For me, the slow pace at the beginning of the movie made me want to shut it off at so many moments—at one point, it was only my respect for DiCaprio and Meryl Streep that kept me watching the movie.
But to some degree, I understand that how annoying it was is representative of what real life is like—it should make us all furious to see how unconcerned we are with the end of the world as we know it. Still, maybe things could have picked up a little faster.
Later on, after a wave of “comet denial,” the comet is close enough to Earth to literally be blazing in the sky—sparking the movement “Just look up.”
But from an obvious metaphor for former President Trump and his supporters’ rhetoric, a counter-movement known as “Don’t look up” begins, telling all of its supporters not to look up in the sky because the “fake news media” is trying to manipulate them.
In addition, a billionaire who figures out that the comet contains precious metals prevents any government action against the comet (such as blowing it up) and instead suggests to break it apart into 30 pieces, let it land on Earth, then mine it for its precious metals.
So that’s definitely a not-so-subtle metaphor for government inaction and corporate greed as a central reason for the inaction that easily ties to the auto industry’s grip on our government’s climate response.
I like that the movie critiques these aspects of inaction—its criticisms of the government, media, billionaires, and the general population parallel real-world events and don’t just blame one side—the metaphor runs deep through all the different aspects of inaction.
But while I enjoyed the film, it also oversimplifies the issue of climate inaction—even though there is a lot of evidence that climate change exists, fixing the issue is not as easy as sending a nuke to blow up a comet in space.
The actual issue requires a permanent, drastic change in the lives of everyday people and a consistent movement against corporations and governments who seek to pursue profits over people.
Still, “Don’t Look Up” is a wonderful satire that concisely summarizes the problems with our current system.