“Don’t Look Up”: A Satire Disguised As Science Fiction

Juliette Coley, Contributing Writer

Rating: 4.5/5 Falcons

Just minutes into the movie Don’t Look Up, it’s discovered that a comet will  “direct[ly] hit … Earth in six months and 14 days,” and that because of its size, its impact will make for an extinction-level event. This immediately informs the viewers of the apocalyptic nature of the movie, but it is not until later that the subtle, yet obvious throughout, satirical and dark undertones are understood through the world’s response to the breakthrough. Directed by comedy-oriented Adam Mckay, the Netflix original doesn’t only take you by storm with its powerful plot and message, but also with its A-list cast: Jenneifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Meryl Streep, who are all able to beautifully display their chameleon-like acting skills.

When astronomers at Michigan State University, Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) and Professor Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) discover a colossal, earth-destroying comet, they report the news to NASA, where their discovery is verified and sent to the White House. The astronomers are then met by President Orlean (Meryl Streep)—who is said to parallel former president Donald Trump—to discuss the issue. Initially, the President brushes this discovery off as she questions its credibility, so the astronomers share it with the media, only to be met with journalists whose priority is to sugar-coat reality. As a result, a public reaction that consists merely of mocking memes rather than actual fear is received. These sequential disappointments are where real-life society starts to be reflected and ridiculed. 

What makes this quick-paced movie phenomenal is its duality of hitting close to home, as it relates to what’s happening in the real world, while not making you feel entirely hopeless about the real world’s dire state because of its constant humor.”

Later, when the president realizes this threat to humanity is in fact real, she enforces a reliable plan that will have the comet’s course deflected away from Earth, although her main intent is to promote her second presidential campaign. The President’s plan is later rivaled  by an unreliable, but profitable plan to save the planet made by a billionaire, who eventually gains the President’s backing. As a result, a political divide is created between those who support the respective plans, which is amplified with Ariana Grande’s musical role and even Timothée Chalamet’s rebellious teenage role as they support the original plan. The ending, which won’t be disclosed, was a shock, but also deserved a chuckle because of its surreal nature. What makes this quick-paced movie phenomenal is its duality of hitting close to home, as it relates to what’s happening in the real world, while not making you feel entirely hopeless about the real world’s dire state because of its constant humor.

Each obstacle the astronomers face in an attempt to alert the world of its impending danger brings with it parallels of real-life societal critiques on government incompetence, sensationalist media, technology-absorbed public, greedy billionaires, and divided politics—as well as a major critique on the inadequate societal response to climate change. The title and society’s inaction and even frivolity toward the comet in the movie can be compared to our current society’s response to climate change, or lack thereof. All aspects of this film make it an engaging watch for mature audiences, specifically with the powerful messages it spreads pertaining to the consequences of societal neglect of serious problems.