This film had one of the strongest debuts that Netflix has ever seen, so I had to give it a watch eventually. I put it off for ages because I was worried that I would never recover from the themes. Also, I’m not sure how much I care about Adam McKay. I liked The Big Short but didn’t like Vice quite so much. And when I say that I liked them, I mean that I thought they were clever but wasn’t sure how much I enjoyed them. It all just seemed a bit too clever. Given the subject matter of his latest film, I had no idea how I would react.
Adam McKay’s latest film has caused a bit of a stir. It’s certainly divided opinion in a big way. The film showcases the events that lead up to a comet striking the Earth. The comet is of such size that it will cause the destruction of the Earth. It’s a not so subtle metaphor for climate change and the imminent threat to humanity. In Don’t Look Up, the media and American government are indifferent to the threat and only act when it works in line with their needs. Sound familiar?
Well, this has prompted plenty of people to criticise the film for virtue signalling. They saw Don’t Look Up as a smug Leftie satire full of actors trying to make themselves look good. On the other hand, the people who loved the film saw it as a scarily accurate representation of our current society. They have been praising McKay and his cast for turning the spotlight on this problem. They have also tuned out any criticism as people who didn’t understand the point of the film. That they are exhibiting the same behaviour as the people it is satirising. That could be fair enough but is also the kind of schoolyard tactic to automatically win an argument. Yeah, you think it’s stupid but that just shows how stupid you are.
My opinion? Both opinions are true and false. Don’t Look Now does capture the current climate pretty well but obviously amp up the humour. It’s a shrewd and self-assured piece of satire. However, it has been done in such a way that was always going to alienate people on the Right. It absolutely knew what it was doing. You never get the sense that this was written to persuade people but to mock those who don’t agree with it. Something that does make it kind of smug and superior.
In terms of the film itself, the basis of the story is good. Two academics are thrust into the limelight and have to face the realisation that nobody cares about the impending doom. They take a journey from Michigan State University to the Oval Office with a brief stop at a popular network news show. They meet a fantastic bunch of people along the way. These include the egotistical President and her Chief of Staff son; the TV presenters who insist on keeping the news “light”; the awkward tech billionaire; and an international pop star. There’s certainly quite a lot going on.
Probably a bit too much. The film struggles to keep everything in check and make good use of everything. The film is long and it gets a little repetitive. I’m not sure that you can justify the run time and you could find things that could have been cut. However, it’s fun. Fun and pretty devastating obviously. It’s weird that the end of the world could be so full of jokes. Still, I can’t say that this is a particularly memorable film. Give it a few months and we won’t still be haunted by this.