Don’t Look Up is Netflix’s latest much-heralded big release, starring some very big names. A new take on the asteroid headed towards earth disaster movie, this tongue in cheek, satirical romp has some great ideas and funny moments but ultimately becomes a little too tiresome and ridiculous.
Directed by Adam McKay (The Big Short, Anchorman), the film follows astronomy doctorate student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), who discovers a previously unknown comet. Her professor, Dr Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), calculates that the comet will impact earth in just over 6 months and cause an extinction-level event. They contact NASA, and along with Head of Planetary Defence Coordination Dr Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), they report their findings to the White House. Unfortunately, President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her son Jason (Jonah Hill) are very unsympathetic to their findings and prefer to sit back and assess while the President gets through the midterms.
Oglethorpe urges Kate and Randall to leak the news to the media, and they are invited onto a popular topical talk show hosted by Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry). They don’t take the threat seriously either, and Kate explodes at them, leaving her to be mocked online and the impeding comet receiving little attention in the news. However, after facing a public scandal, President Orlean changes her position and announces the comet threat in a bid to improve her ratings, even approving a project to launch a spaceship to impact and divert the comet.
After the project is forced to turn back following an interruption by tech CEO billionaire Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), Kate and Randall’s lives are shattered. Randall tries to recover his marriage after his affair with Brie, while Kate retreats to the country to take solace in teenage skater Yule (Timothée Chalamet). Yet once the comet becomes visible in the sky, the world changes and Kate and Randall must help while the world hopes for a solution.
After seeing The Big Short and how expertly (and hilariously) Adam McKay pulled off what could be a very dry subject, I had high expectations for this, but unfortunately, it falls a little short. The idea is brilliant, and the satirical, tongue in cheek nature of the plot is initially very funny. The reactions (or lack of) from those in power is hilarious, to begin with, and the reactions portrayed on social media are exactly what you’d expect from today’s society. The problem is that the sheer ridiculousness of it all gets very irritating after a while. After the first hour or so, I was beginning to feel like Kate and frustrated and irritated is not how you want to spend watching a film that’s on for over 2 hours. If they’d managed to keep this consistently funny throughout the runtime then it’d be a different story, however, the jokes soon become repetitive and annoying.
It’s clever, it has a decent and script and a brilliant cast. DiCaprio especially is a standout as the anxiety-ridden professor, whose breakdowns as a result of the lack of interest in his discovery are incredibly funny. Mark Rylance’s turn as the tech CEO is also ridiculously bonkers, even if his fake teeth are a bit distracting, and you can’t help but feel for Lawrence’s Kate and really empathise with her plight. It’s just a shame that the tedious, drawn-out storyline spoils what could otherwise have been a highly entertaining take on the disaster movie genre.
The effects are flawless, and the links to modern pop culture and satire are spot on. McKay has also interspersed the action with clips of nature and ordinary life on earth, which bring a sweet but maybe slightly misplaced ideal into the narrative. These also drag the film out even more and a lot of scenes like this could have been slimmed down or cut out completely with little detriment to the plot.
Don’t Look Up had a lot of promise with a stellar cast, but sadly with a storyline and jokes that soon becomes tiresome, it just doesn’t live up to expectations.
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A contract manager moonlighting as a rather discerning film and book critic, with an almost fangirl appreciation for anything made by Christopher Nolan. When I’m not catching up on my latest read or watch, you can usually find me trying out my amateur baking skills – Bake Off here I come!