Opinion: ‘Don’t Look Up’ serves up supreme satire

Plank Article Luke Kriss ’23

“Don’t Look Up” was released on Dec. 5, 2021 on Netflix and in theaters. The film follows Leonardo Dicaprio as Dr. Randall Mindy, a socially anxious, good hearted astronomy professor, and Jennifer Lawrence as doctoral candidate Kate Dibiasky.

The film received a subpar 55 percent Rotten Tomatoes rating, and generally mixed critical reviews; however, the viewing hours (a measure more effective than box office returns for Netflix Originals) were through the roof. The film had 360 million viewing hours in its first month, only four million less than another Netflix Original “Red Notice.”

In the film, Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) discovers a large comet in the outer reaches of our solar system. Then, Dr. Mindy (Dicaprio) discovers that this comet is on track to collide directly with the planet Earth. They soon report their findings to  the chain of command until Dibiasky and Mindy end up in the White House where they are unceremoniously dismissed by Meryl Streep’s satirical President Orleans, due to the upcoming midterm elections.

The main asteroid, the “Dibiasky Comet,” is a metaphor for climate change. It is a quantifiable representation of the ticking clock before climate change, presumably, renders the planet Earth uninhabitable. This film, however, is not about scientists. This film is about politics and the politicians at the helm.

Meryll Streep, as per usual, delivered a great performance. Her role as President Orlean was exactly the republican, gun and freedom loving, rich rebel rouser that would serve as a perfect satire of former President Donald Trump. She valued her own reputation so much that she delayed the announcement of an incoming asteroid just to help her in the midterm elections. She chose to only release the information once her affair with a southern sheriff, without a law degree, whom she had nominated to the supreme court was discovered.

One of the most hilariously horrible parts of the film was Jonah Hill’s, Jason Orlean. He served as President Orlean’s chief of staff. Throughout the film he tormented Dibiasky and Mindy about their lack of prestigious degrees, while constantly sucking up to his mother in a fashion that was more worrying than flattering. But most importantly, this guy was just a jerk. At the very end of the film, he said a prayer to the American people about the beauty of material wealth.

Dr. Mindy and Dibiasky are very much greenhorns when it comes to politics. When they were first drawn into the White House they expected a quick and effective response to this asteroid, but they did not get it. When they stopped believing that Orlean would ever respond, they went to a morning news show called “The Daily Rip.” “The Daily Rip” is a satire of, ‘think it over with your “Morning Joe.”’ The scientist’s appearance on this scathing parody of a show did not go as they expected. 

After the show was over, producers went over a series of statistics and memes that summarized how unsuccessful their attempt at rallying the American people was. In fact, Dibiasky’s swearing attracted more social media attention than the actual announcement of the asteroid’s impending crash. These scientists stand to represent the climate scientists who try so hard to get a genuine response to climate change.

This film is worthy of both critical acclaim and the viewing hours it accrued. The Oscar Nominations, not so much. The film has been nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay, and even Best Film Editing!

This film did have a great original score. The song “Just Look Up” by Ariana Grande was both shockingly realistic and hilariously funny. In the beginning of the song, there were metaphors and loose references relating the asteroid to her relationships, but in the end of the song she dropped her metaphors. She literally told people to get their heads out of the sand, and accept that they were all going to die. This message tied with her semi-angelic voice definitely led to big laughs, and a little depression, once I realized what she was saying. This film definitely deserves to be a contender for Best Original Score even if the messages were a little heavy handed.

The editing in the film was over the top. There were constant messages superseded on the screen, such as the logo of the planetary defense office, not to mention cutaways to the hauntingly beautiful impending comet. In my opinion, Best Film Editing is really up in the air for this film.

“Don’t Look Up” was great and stood as a very good example of heavy political satire, but is not best picture material. Frankly, the plot was lacking in some parts. While the idea of helplessness was an interesting tool in the satire, there is a point where it simply verges on preaching. This film was just another example of a Hollywood director lecturing about what people should stop doing, without any actual ideas for change besides pointing the finger at the easy political targets. 

Frankly, this film did not accomplish nearly as much as it has been given credit for. In fact, it seems more likely that the academy just wishes to ingratiate itself with the ideas of climate preservation. This same assessment goes for Best Original Screenplay.

Regardless of my opinions on the film’s Oscar-worthiness, “Don’t Look Up” is a must see. Make sure to go to Netflix and watch it soon before the asteroid they haven’t told us about hits. Overall, I would give this movie a 7 out of 10.