Don't Look Up

Don't Look Up ★★½

Fatally Flawed

A reminder just in time for Christmas that we're all going to die, the human race and all life on Earth will die, and, heck, while we're at it, why not mention that the universe will eventually expand to the point that all life will be impossible, stars will collapse, matter will be of no matter, the end. "Call it a 70% chance that happens," to paraphrase the U.S. president in "Don't Look Up," "and let's just move on."

The comforting thing about comets or asteroids on a collision course with the planet is that theoretically there's ways to prevent such an extinction event. Plus, we're "sitting tight and assessing" the situation. A more random or unexpected cosmic threat--say, a solar flare, for instance--or, on Earth, a supervolcanic eruption, not so preventable. Or, we could go the more gradual route of the collapse of civilization from climate change or a pandemic, which is rather the launching pad for Adam McKay's satire from the ongoing-Covid, ongoing-global-warming, billionaire-astronauts, stupid-phoned, Trumpian post-truth world (but, of course, focused mostly just on the U.S.). It's pretty spot on, and I do enjoy a good disaster flick, if not a repetitive political reminder, but mostly this isn't very funny. It doesn't help that McKay's style comes across as smug.

Even more so than it did in "Vice" (2018). Not just the 13% or so of Americans who still approved of Dick Cheney at the end of his term, nor only Trump supporters and anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists, here, the entire potential global market for the movie is painted as stupid, sociopathic, or otherwise feckless. And, at most, all any of this was ever doing was preaching to the choir. Quite cocksure for the guy who was making Will Ferrell vehicles not so long ago. As Leonardo DiCaprio's astronomer demonstrates, fame from legitimacy in the eyes of one's peers can do a number on one's ego. Shoot, social media has demonstrated even the prospect of celebrity can make people fools. You'd think McKay thought he were Steven Soderbergh--the director vindicated by "Contagion" (2011), that is, not the guy who makes movies on phones or manages to make the Oscars even more unwatchable.

Anyways, some of it's amusing, but the Howard Beale-esque screaming gets tiresome, and all the insert shots and details added to Meryl Streep's president to differentiate her from Trump or make her party affiliation unmentioned--a picture of the Clintons here, a smoking habit there--is pointless. She's Trump; we all know she's Trump. It's very obvious. Even more so than that Mark Rylance's "businessman" is Elon Musk planning to save people trapped in a cave and to solve global warming by wasting more energy on mining cryptocurrency than is spent to power many countries, as he, meanwhile, tries to figure out how to leave the planet. A lot of this movie is bloated, blunt, and broad agitprop, which isn't my preferred comedy. It's enough to make one yearn for the nuance of a Farrell gag from one of those silly prior movies. It's too much like the "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact" (both 1998) star-studded blockbusters that it mocks, but meaner, when it should be more akin to "Dr. Strangelove" (1964). It might be better if McKay gave up on the black comedy and instead leaned into depressing dramatization. "Don't Look Up," in that respect, gets closer to hitting the mark.

(Added to my list of pandemic-related titles.)

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