Don’t Look Up (2021)

If nothing is done soon, global warming and climate change will kill us all. The sea levels will rise, severe weather patterns will become more common, entire ecosystems will be destroyed, and more disastrous things are in our future. Our entire way of life is at risk and there not only are people who are apathetic to these problems, but some actively ignore the warning signs and say nothing is wrong. It’s an absolutely maddening situation. And that’s basically the plot of Don’t Look Up, only it’s a comet and not rising global temperatures. Interesting premise, but not the best execution.

Two astronomers (Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio and Mrs. Jennifer Lawrence) discover a comet set to hit Earth in 6 months and destroy everything. A serious and pressing issue, but one that politicians and the media–and therefore the public who trusts those institutions–downplay the severity of. Oh, it’s not a 100% guarantee, or it won’t be that bad, or even the comet doesn’t actually exist. As Leo loses his way and becomes part of the machine not taking the situation seriously, Jen is ostracized for being so outspoken and angry. In the end Earth is destroyed and the rich people who thought they could escape their fate get eaten by aliens. Good riddance.

The big draw of this movie is the star-studded cast, which starts to become a drawback. Sure, you got DiCaprio and Lawrence as the astronomers, Meryl Streep as the President, Jonah Hill as the Chief of Staff, Mark Rylance as this world’s Elon Musk (complete with lofty claims and buggy technology), Tyler Perry and Cate Blanchett as reporters, and so on. But, like… Timothée Chalamet has such a minor role, but he’s Timothée Chalamet so we have to learn his character’s background. You forget Ariana Grande is in the film until she sings a song late in the film, but she’s Ariana Grande so we have to spend time on her love life, even though it doesn’t do anything for the plot. Now, I’m not saying that every decision a movie makes has to further the plot, but Don’t Look Up is over two hours long and it didn’t need to be. Hire a couple no-name actors and move on!

I kept thinking about Melancholia, another film about Earth getting destroyed. I didn’t like Melancholia, but I do have to give it credit for having a consistent tone: soul crushing depression and despair. Don’t Look Up was all over the place, being a black comedy at some parts and then suddenly having DiCaprio look straight at the camera–he’s on a talk show so it’s not breaking the fourth wall–and yelling about how serious the situation is. And this keeps happening over and over again, laughing at the President’s lukewarm at best and corrupt at worst reactions, and then getting incredibly serious for a moment before going back to satire.

I’m not saying I’d rather watch Melancholia again, but that movie is technically shorter than Don’t Look Up, even if it feels like it was 5 hours long.

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