I’m not really a movie person. I used to be, but these days I have about as much patience to sit through a two hour movie as I do waiting for pizza rolls to cool off. That said, it takes a lot for me to watch something new.
When I opened Netflix to watch the newest season of “After Life,” a movie caught my eye. I saw Jonah Hill’s cute face and Jennifer Lawrence in a cool, but particularly uncharacteristic haircut. I had to investigate.
The movie “Don’t Look Up” follows Kate Dibiasky, an astronomy Ph.D. student at Michigan State, and her professor Randall Mindy. The pair discovers a “planet killing” meteor headed directly toward Earth, calculating the comet will strike in approximately six months.
Please note, there will be spoilers ahead. So if you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and look away — if I could go back and watch the movie completely blind, I would.
For those who remain, I’ll provide a brief synopsis. After discovering the comet Dibiasky, Mindy and NASA Planetary Defense Coordinator Teddy Oglethorpe go on a rampage urging the media and political figures to take the threat of the comet seriously. Unsurprisingly, the comet does eventually hit earth, killing all except a few wealthy elite who escape on a space shuttle in a cryogenic freeze headed for new life elsewhere.
Though “Don’t Look Up” was written in 2019 and intended to be an allegory for the effects of climate change, it has striking parallels to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, the fictitious Presidential administration launches a campaign against the scientists urging that her supporters “don’t look up,” serving as the film’s namesake. This parodies climate deniers, but also anti-vaxers and those who believe the pandemic is a hoax.
Throughout the film, I felt an eerie sense of earnestness. I felt it when the film depicted the saccharine reaction to the meteor from cable news outlet “The Daily Rip,” or the feckless leadership from the President of the United States and her role in thwarting the only legitimate mission aimed at destroying the meteor. She did so in exchange for harvesting it for its raw — and deeply expensive — materials at the request of billionaire donor and tech CEO Peter Isherwell.
What I thought was most poignant, however, was the commentary on the corporate elite and their disproportionate influence on modern politics. The comet’s harvestation plan by Isherwell’s company BASH gained clearance upon personal request to the movie’s President, literally turning around the more reliable scientific mission already in place. In every initial media segment where Dibiasky and Mindy tried to urge the public to take action, they were overshadowed by pop culture events or diluted in sheer denial — until it was too late. The film even displayed how public figures — like Mindy or Dibiasky — could be canceled and then vindicated quickly after depending on subtle changes in public opinion.
Writer and director Adam McKay said he wanted “Don’t Look Up” to have a sense of reality amidst the absurdity surrounding it, according to a Variety article. McKay didn’t want a “guaranteed happy ending” and instead chose to “break that traditional three-act Hollywood thing that we know so well” describing his decision to destroy the Earth.
Though some of the satire was perhaps a little campy or heavy-handed, it certainly woke me up to a reality that in many ways is already here. The night I watched it, I finished the movie at around 3 a.m. and couldn’t fall asleep. I felt a deep uneasiness that still hasn’t really left.
It’s because this course of events isn’t inherently out of the question. In fact, considering previous administrations and recurring adherence to capital, I’d say they’re likely.
So even though the film received mixed reviews, I highly encourage you to give it a try. But fair warning, it might freak you out a little.
Natalie Gabor (she/her) is a senior studying journalism with minors in business marketing and philosophy. She hopes to one day find a career that tops her brief stint as a Vans employee.