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Don’t Look Up (2021) Review: Adam McKay’s Apocalyptic Satire!

Red-colored poster photo for the movie Don't Look Up, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio as Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence as Kate Dibiasky, with the text "Don't Look Up" prominently displayed.

Don’t Look Up, directed by Adam McKay, portrays two astronomers trying to warn authorities and society about a comet that is about to collide with Earth, and it mercilessly criticizes modern society.

“Don’t Look Up”, directed by Adam McKay, is a scathing satire of modern society that follows two astronomers as they struggle to warn the authorities and the public about an impending comet that is set to collide with Earth. The film is inspired by the work of famous scientist Carl Sagan, particularly his book “Pale Blue Dot”, which explores humanity’s potential future in space and on Earth. Through Sagan’s perspective, the film highlights the insignificance of Earth in the grand scheme of the universe, and the arrogance and violence that humanity is capable of. ”

Don’t Look Up” takes a reverse angle, asking the question: “How would humanity react if a comet were to collide with our planet?” Ultimately, the film serves as a warning to be mindful of our only home and to treat each other with care and compassion. At the beginning of the movie, we are introduced to two astronomers, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his doctoral student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence). Kate discovers a comet that will hit Earth in six months, ten days, two hours, ten minutes, and forty-five seconds. Together with Randall, they go to great lengths to raise the alarm and alert the media and humanity as a whole. In the process, they try to involve everyone concerned with the matter.

McKay’s Freakout Trilogy

Poster photo of the movie Don't Look Up featuring the cast members looking upward in a pose.

Director Adam McKay brings together his last three films under the Freakout Trilogy: The Big Short (2015) which tackled the real estate crisis in the US, Vice (2018) which portrayed the sinister ruler of the Bush era, Vice President Dick Cheney, and now Don’t Look Up, an entertaining warning about a disaster that will destroy the world. In all three films, McKay paints a picture of the insanity that has gripped American society and its system. The difference with Don’t Look Up is that it is based on “events that have not yet happened,” rather than actual events. However, perhaps due to the fact that the subject matter has not yet become a thing of the past and McKay sees it as a much more serious issue, the director has softened his usual sarcastic style in this film. Nevertheless, his satirical approach to American politics, big capital that has become intertwined with it, and modern society remains on point. The connection between the film and Sagan’s ‘Pale Blue Dot’ is introduced from the very beginning. In fact, we hear a reference to Sagan from Randall’s mouth in the early scenes.

The film takes a mocking look at the traditional and social media, which currently react to impending disaster with an arrogant and dismissive attitude, and the self-centered modern society that feeds on it. It mercilessly attacks the modern man who is spellbound by today and forgets to ponder about tomorrow. It’s worth remembering that McKay wrote this story to draw attention to global warming and its potential consequences for humanity.

McKay’s Satirical Approach

Final scene from the movie Don't Look Up, featuring characters restlessly eating dinner.

Adam McKay is currently one of the most mischievous liberals in Hollywood. With his comedy partnership with Will Ferrell, he gave us a series of absurd comedies, occasionally parodying genres while poking at conservative American values. Unfortunately, many of these films were mediocre. When their partnership ended, McKay started making much smarter comedies, reflecting the mindset of American liberals, coating the decay of American society and values in the darkest of humor. How many things can be more painfully funny than the Republican President Orlean in Don’t Look Up, whose obvious conservatism has appointed his son as the White House Chief of Staff, worrying more about the upcoming elections than the comet that will destroy the Earth in a few months? The final scene with the family reunion and dinner table prayer (although McKay’s previous films have featured rather unserious and absurd dinner prayers) and the conservative touches at the table with the scientists are a bit confusing. It is not the right final point for a director who wants to convey the message of listening to science.

Don’t Look Up may not be the best film of Adam McKay’s post-Will Ferrell trilogy, but it may be the one with the most significant messages globally. However, it would have been better if the messages were not so openly conveyed.

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Last modified: July 8, 2023