Don’t Look Up is a good old fashioned, modernist film—with a clear moralistic message. The trouble is that it is the wrong message.
*Spoiler alert: This article contains details of the plot and ending to the movie “Don’t Look Up.”
There was a time when comedians got lots of laughs mocking the religious eccentrics who stood at street corners with sandwich boards proclaiming ‘the end of the world is nigh’. Not anymore.
Now such catastrophism has gone mainstream – or at least Hollywood. It’s not just the end of the world disaster movies – but the fact that we are supposed to take them seriously. Hollywood is preaching to us – with all the subtilty of a flying mallet.
Netflix’s latest ‘blockbuster’ movie is a prime example. Don’t Look Up, despite being a flop in cinemas, is one of the most viewed films on Netflix and has been garnering a lot of column inches in the press.
Sadly reviews, like so much else in our society, have been politicised. If you agree with the point being made in the film/sermon, then you will love it. If you disagree then you will hate it. But Don’t Look Up is also fascinating from a Christian perspective.
Let’s start with the good.
This is a well-made movie, with some decent performances from Leonardo DiCaprio as the scientist who can save the world, and Meryl Streep as the Trumpesque President who dooms it. It is meant to be humorous and sometimes it is.
There are also interesting if exaggerated perspectives on the role of celebrity media, big tech and the human propensity in the face of disaster to ignore reality and turn to false idols instead.
From a Christian perspective there is one scene in which, without a hint of satire, the doomed humans turn to prayer. The troubled teen who was ‘raised evangelical, but found his own way’ volunteers to pray as the world is about to end. It is far too beautiful a prayer for such a satirical and dumbed down movie.
Because despite the good, this is one of the dumbest and most inane films I have seen in a long time. Don’t Look Up reminds me of the worst kind of Christian movie, where the actors seem to be deliberately ham acting the most cliched Christian characters they can find, and the plot reads as though it came from a Jehovah’s Witness children’s magazine!
It would be difficult for me to spoil the plot, because if you haven’t gathered what the whole film sermon is about after five minutes, I despair. But if you want to put yourself through the two hours and 25 minutes of torment, don’t read the next few paragraphs.
The simple plot is that Earth is threatened by an approaching comet which two scientists try to warn the US president about. The president is more concerned about her poll ratings and seeks to deflect away from the approaching reality.
Evil money grabbing capitalists (including a big tech zillionaire) see the comet as an opportunity to do some mining for precious minerals; ordinary people are more interested in celebrity gossip on their mobile phones; TV hosts are dumbed down, inane and self-obsessed; the FBI are clowns; and we even have a racist, homophobic space pilot.
Of course, the earth is destroyed – but at least 2,000 people escape and take a 27,000-year flight to another planet, where, as the elect emerge from their cryogenic sleep, naked into their new paradise, the president is eaten by a dinosaur.
The purpose of the sermon is clear. Adam McKay, the writer, director and producer leaves us in no doubt: “This movie came from my burgeoning terror about the climate crisis and the fact that we live in a society that tends to place it as the fourth or fifth news story, or in some cases even deny that it’s happening, and how horrifying that is, but at the same time preposterously funny.”