A Review of ‘DON’T LOOK UP’
‘DON’T LOOK UP’ is a 2021 deadpan movie satire on human stupidity in ignoring Climate Change by the popular obsession with social media and “fake news,” and by the extreme narcissism of government leaders and their billionaire patrons. This movie is in the same spirit as Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ was about human stupidity regarding nuclear war.
However, since the full arc of the Climate Change story is several decades long, for dramatic punch DON’T LOOK UP has compressed that timeline down to six months — from first detection to final impact — by being an allegorical satire where the real problem of Climate Change has been substituted for in the movie’s story by a planet-killing comet larger than the Chicxulub bolide of 66Mya heading straight toward Earth.
Mass media, Trump-style American government, Gates-Zuckerberg tech fantasy grandiosity and Bezos-Musk-Branson billionaire space privatization fantasy (the last two types of fantasts being wrapped up in one character), are all deliciously eviscerated in this movie.
The serious message at the heart of this movie is quite simple: pay attention to reality. That was also the same message in ‘On The Beach’ (1959) and ‘Dr. Strangelove…’ (1964). The cast is made up of A-list players, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence playing the scientists who discover “the problem” and try to alert the public, and the government to take action. But, the tech billionaire and the bought politicians see a potential profit-making opportunity instead. The character of Milo Minderbinder embodied the same idea of greed blinding the perception of reality in the struggle for and precariousness of survival, in the novel ‘Catch-22’ (1962) and its great film version (1970). The satire in DON’T LOOK UP is exquisite right up past the credits (hint, hint). Enjoy it.
There are so many inside and throwaway jokes in DON’T LOOK UP (many about Trump and trumpians) that I even thought of seeing it again for a 3rd time, in stop motion, to be able to catch them all and write them all down (at least the one’s I can recognize) for cataloguing in a subsequent encyclopedic “like and subscribe” article of my own, as a do-it-yourself-without-tuition-payments master’s thesis in film studies. But I decided to leave that huge task to the future alien archeologists who will land on Earth to sift through the ruins of our so-called civilization, and decipher our remaining media recordings like today’s Mayanologists have deciphered the glyphs inscribed at Tikal, Uxmal, Chichen Itza and many other Central American archeological sites.
So then, here is just one example. Leonardo DiCaprio’s character — the astronomy professor whose student played by Jennifer Lawrence has discovered the comet — is called “Randall Mindy”. In 2004 during the G. W. Bush Administration there was a big scandal because while Bush and his people (Republicans) and their allied media were all saying that Global Warming Climate Change did not exist, the Pentagon had commissioned a secret study of its worst possibilities — which potential consequences turned out to be something approaching the story used in the 2004 movie “The Day After Tomorrow”: the Gulf Stream Atlantic Current could shut down because of the Greenland icecap melting and flooding into the North Atlantic, diluting the salinity of the cold North Atlantic waters thus preventing the conveyance of Caribbean heat to Western Europe, which in turn could result in an Ice Age type of rebound globally (I’ve described the physics of all this elsewhere: trust me, I’m a scientist).
The Pentagon had commissioned this report in 2004 because they wanted to plan ahead “for the worst”, which is always what they use to get them the most money from Congress (also, there is another sly joke in the movie about a money shystering Pentagon general). Word of that secret Pentagon report leaked out quickly in 2004 and there was a public furor, so the Pentagon declassified it and made it public (you can find it online somewhere). That report was call the “Schwartz-Randall Report”, after the surnames of the author-researchers contracted to produce it. RANDALL = warning the world despite official efforts of being muffled.
Maybe “Randall” is just a coincidence, but I’m inclined to think that the writers of the movie’s story and screenplay, David Sirota and Adam McKay, are much more crafty than just simply haphazardly lucky.
For me another chuckle is the whole idea of framing the social phenomenon of Climate Change denial as if we are all like the dinosaurs 66Mya not looking up at their extinction triggering comet/meteor streaking in, to plunge into the Yucatan then and into the Pacific in the movie.
I wrote that exact idea (climate change = our extinction meteor, ignored) explicitly in an article in 2012, and implicitly in 2013 (they were published at Swans.com). So I figure Sirota, McKay and Leonardo all owe me BIG — but I won’t get paid because that’s not how success works among humankind. And — I admit — it’s even possible that somebody else might have had the same idea before me. But remember, when you do know of a prior statement of “your” idea, that never giving credit for it and successfully disguised plagiarism of it are the essence of career advancement in “the intelligentsia” of our advanced society. (I may be using a little bit of irony here.)
So for sure I love the movie, everyone in it did an absolutely superb job, and I can see every actor got a kick playing their characters, and played them to the hilt. I particularly like the Jennifer Lawrence character, not because of the young cutie pie factor the movie marketeers undoubtedly wanted her to bring into the picture, but because she spits flaming bullets at all the usual culprits, shredding those assholes, and she does right by her portrayal of Millennials, who are always being dumped on with betrayals by media depictions of them, and by the “old fuck” financial string-pullers vampiring off them.
My wife says I am like the “Randall Mindy” astronomy science guy (I do have an expired science Ph.D., from Princeton no less, and a Millennial kid), but I’m not such a nebbish, I don’t need mood pills, and there’s no way some Cate Blanchett type (the old people’s cutie pie for this movie) is going to gush on me, as shown humorously in the movie with Leonardo and Cate (I most definitely am not gush-worthy).
So all in all, a great great movie (because I agree with it), worthy of a Stanley Kubrick had he’d been alive to make it (call this one Dr. Strangelove II), a credit to all the multimillionaires and Oscarites who acted out the parts with verve in front of the cameras, and will get to crow about it in their charity foundation websites or hit songs, later — not a tax writeoff I can get, but oh well — and there is even a self-parody joke about this movie within this movie! DON’T LOOK UP is especially a credit to the story and screen writers, however-much they stole ideas from others or thought them up all on their very own (as if we all really lived in an intellectual vacuum).
So, great film, and great that we’ve at least gotten this far in really doing something “actual” on climate change. The sky’s the limit and we’ve now finally almost gotten to liftoff. The alien archeologists will really love this show.
DON’T LOOK UP (trailers)
From my friend Peter Byrne:
‘Don’t Look Up’ doesn’t hide its lineage. It looks up in admiration to Kubrick and Strangeglove. But it’s very much of today. That’s its virtue. Women are to the fore and none-white skin. Forget the Cold War. We are much more concerned with the White House. Our contempt is for all politicians and the corporate gurus controlling us. We love and we hate the screens that engross us. Unfathomable stupidity has got itself a voice. We can no longer hold off triviality save by solitary confinement minus electronics. All that has multiplied satiric targets no end. ‘Don’t Look Up’ has to fire scattershot.
I imagine myself face to face with the lawyers of the producers. “Swans what?”, they say. “Did he write those articles about a comet?” “No, but…” “Did your man—and we respect his scientific endeavors, but the print of Swans was so small—did he go into shady presidential maneuvers?” “He stuck to the main point.” “No comet, no comment.” “The climate change catastrophe…” “Dreadful, but we hardly mentioned that. Maybe next time.” “He was clear about the evidence and that humans are simply too stupid to take action in time. He said we’re doomed”. “Well, pessimists weren’t wanting, even in 2013. We fleshed it out, made it a story, you know, music, suspense, stars. Look at the box-office numbers, up, up, and up. Now you have a good day for yourself.”
The Righteous And The Heathens Of Climate And Capitalism
12 March 2012
Changing Climate For Unchanging People
28 January 2013
The Atlantic Overturning Current Is Slowing
12 April 2018
Climate Change at the Movies
3 January 2020
An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security
Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall
Click to access SchwartzRandall2004.pdf
Terrific, Manuel. Hope millions watch it.
Now at Counterpunch”
Don’t Look Up: See It
BTW, another joke in the movie: the tech guru is noted as having bought the Gutenberg Bible, and then losing it. In the 2004 movie ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ the survivors of the big chill are huddled in the NYC Public library and are burning books to keep warm. One of those survivors is hugging a Gutenberg Bible to ensure it does not go up in flames. MG,Jr.
MGjr Climate 2012-2013
28 December 2021
My friend, Olyn:
The day after watching Don’t Look Up, I was really happy. I think it was for a couple reasons. I watch very few films because the images and messages stick with me and arise spontaneously in waking and sleeping moments for quite some time. So I limit myself to extraordinary films and this was one of them. But why was I so happy? I think it was because the film was cathartic in its anger and exposure of what is not far off the mark of the general stupid numbness our culture has come to. It was also the relief of the virtual “other shoe dropping” — finally the extinction of the human madness. I wasn’t sad for the earth itself. Impact events are just part of the reality of being a planet. I know that not all life was extinguished. Deep shafts in the earth and deep sea vents probably weathered the impact fairly well. Life would arise and diversify and flourish again. Eventually the sun goes red giant and earth is a desiccated ball, then a cinder and finally absorbed into the body of the expanding sun for reassignment as part of the plasma and so on. Two days after viewing the film, my overriding feeling is gratitude for the time I’ve been given for the adventure of human form.
I’ve noticed that the usual suspects are panning the film since they are targeted for exposure and ridicule by it. Namely, so far, media outlets of various stripes. I hope it gives the creators of the film satisfaction to hear the sound of “OUCH” in the voices of the targets. I don’t believe anyone or anything will substantially change because of the film, but I enjoyed the emotional release it gave me.