OTT Review: Don't Look Up is dystopian but deliciously so

How will superpowers deal with climate change, even if they get a telescopic heads up? You don’t know whether an impending disaster is a natural one, or a manmade one


Sushmita Bose

Published: Thu 3 Feb 2022, 11:22 PM

Like most other pressing “issues” confronting us, climate change/global warming (call it what you will) has been a hotly-debated topic that has ended up with polarised opinions. In the ensuing din of noise and voices, everyone is missing the woods for the trees. Don’t Look Up is an attempt to hit us with reality — in the form of a dark comedy — as a comet hurtles towards Earth with an intent to cause extinction-level devastation.

Budding astronomer Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) realises there’s something amiss in the cosmic pattern when she chances upon a large comet on an Earth-bound orbit, so she and her professor Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) try to mobilise resources in an attempt to get the White House’s ears.

Now, conventional — or, as it turns out, fantastical — wisdom, as espoused by movies such Independence Day or Armageddon, has it that when it’s a life-or-death/do-or-die matter, powers-that-be put aside differences to come together as a collective body to Save the World. But that’s clearly a fallacy. In the current climate, even when faced with the prospect of annihilation, there are egos to be pandered to, grand delusions to be factored in, and waning attention spans (and the ability to simply listen) to be taken into consideration.

On the back of those, there are political machinations, chest thumping missions, the fraudulence of democracy (and its data)… and, finally, an overriding need for greed.

Buoyed by a stellar cast (Meryl Streep as a female equivalent of Trump-esque proportions is a treat to watch) and a screenplay that relies on interplay rather than inference, this is a hard-hitting blow to the all-round capitulation of every single institution — and there’s a very special shoutout to the media, which appears to be leading the race where inane stakes have been propped up as benchmarks (the all-out effort to dumb down in order to secure “hits” rather than any focus on quality of journalism) — at the altar of the self. The great thing about the movie is the darkly comic overtone that makes the eerie landscape so much more relatable.

Like director Adam McKay did with The Big Short (and the world of banking, finance and economic collapse), Don’t Look Up employs engaging explanations of serious — at times, traditionally undefinable — niches by way of analogies and dummy’s guides.

What I found interesting about the criticism of Don’t Look Up (there was a lot of it, its reviews were totally polarised) was how there was an orchestrated move to nitpick on technicalities (eg, how NASA, in real life, does not structurally operate like the way it’s been projected in reel, or how the movie’s astronomical knowhow was suspect etc), while missing the point: have we lost our prowess to recognise a good thing or a bad thing without getting political — or egoistical?

More tellingly, will we stop in our tracks to read a news report on ‘Is the world ending?’ Or, will we be sidetracked by an Instagram feed on the latest celebrity breakup?

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