There seemed to be a high level of intrigue surrounding this project upon first response. Comedy director Adam McKay (Anchorman, The Big Short) being joined by a star studded cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, in a satire that demonstrates the ignorance of the government and media outlets of today’s society.
Two astrologists, Dr Randall Mindy and Dr Kate Dibiasky (DiCaprio and Lawrence) discover an extinction level comet is headed straight for Earth, and after working out the math, come to the conclusion that they only have six months until it will hit. Knowing they will have to work fast and hatch a plan that could prevent civilisation from reaching its doomsday, they take their findings straight to the oval office. President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and Chief of Staff and son Jason (Jonah Hill) however, are dismissive of the scientist’s discovery, and have no haste to act. It seems going to the media was no hope either, which leaves our determined scientists to take matters into their own hands, and warn the world that this is no joke.
The initial set-up to Don’t Look Up is the basis of any disaster flick. The ‘Planet Killer’ is established early, and ideas and mathematical equations are thrown around just as quick as bursts of panic and fear. But then McKay’s direction takes us off of the beaten path, and traverses down the route of Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove…(1964) and Sidney Lumet’s Network (1976), using political brainwashing and media control to present a satirical (yet oddly familiar) scenario which paints a damning picture of modern society.
The first half of Don’t Look Up has an awful lot more to boast. Meeting these characters, establishing a manic end-of-world level scenario, and a script that favours the wacky personas of its stars. The second half though begins to play much like a broken record. One that trips up on the same aspects, replays the same jokes and runs a little too long.
Beyond its core cast, many of the character’s introduced feel like caricatures of an SNL skit. Mark Rylance as an awkwardly irritating business mogul Peter Isherwell, Timothee Chalamet as the college drop out skater boi ‘Yule’, Cate Blanchett’s obnoxiously overzealous news reporter Brie, and even Ariana Grande gets an appearance as a fictionalised version of herself.
You can see what Adam McKay was going for, but in an attempt to change the tide of the cliched disaster flick, it becomes one for an entirely different reason. A final product that is somehow more silly than the plot of 1998’s Armageddon, yet also offers a similar amount of laughs. Don’t Look Up weighs in on the real tragedies of modern day democracy, and the media outlets that are more focused on telling us stories of social discussion, and less so of the news that truly matters.
Despite its positive start Don’t Look Up batters you over the head with its pandering political message and rides that rocket all the way to a devastating (yet still comical) finale. There’s no real American heroes of this story, as a matter of fact it wants to go for the opposite, but DiCaprio and Lawrence are the real heroes of Don’t Look Up, and without them McKay’s end of world comedy would have likely reached a similarly catastrophic conclusion that could join the rest of Netflix’s missteps.