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‘Don’t Look Up’ is a bit of a loud mess, but that’s kind of the point

Adam McKay’s satirical sci-fi film has an exceptional cast and a chaotic fast-paced plot that all culminate to scream an unequivocally clear message in your face

<p>Adam McKay's satirical sci-fi movie, "Don’t Look Up," features an almost overwhelmingly star-studded cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill and amongst others.</p>

Adam McKay's satirical sci-fi movie, "Don’t Look Up," features an almost overwhelmingly star-studded cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill and amongst others.

Adam McKay's satirical sci-fi movie, "Don’t Look Up," features an almost overwhelmingly star-studded cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Rob Morgan, Mark Rylance, Cate Blanchett and Timothée Chalamet amongst others — even including pop singer Ariana Grande and rapper Kid Cudi.

The film follows doctoral astronomy student Kate Dibiasky, played by Lawrence, and her professor Randall Mindy, played by DiCaprio. After Dibiasky discovers a comet headed for direct catastrophic impact with planet Earth, the pair attempt to warn president Janie Orlean, played by Streep, and eventually the media. Dibiasky and Mindy are met with apathy and the public initially does not take their message seriously — the issue becomes reduced to its potential impact on polling numbers and internet memes — and the public quickly moves on to other news. 

However, attention to the impending comet picks up as those in positions of power realize how they could use it to their advantage. For example, Orlean believes that addressing the comet would increase her likeability as president, and CEO Peter Isherwell, played by Rylance, wants to risk mining the elements in the comet to use for his technology company rather than safely destroying it. 

As Dibiasky and Mindy continually protest against Orlean and Isherwell and become the voice of reason in the midst of the chaotic political landscape surrounding the comet, the film reflects rage towards this greedy, ignorant mentality, as well as the failure to address what appears to be obvious problems.

With the fast pacing of the movie, its subject matter and so much star power dominating the screen, "Don’t Look Up" is a hard film to look away from and nearly demands attention in every scene. While acting from the cast was all around praiseworthy and distinct to their respective characters, the standout was Rylance, who played the role of the eccentric billionaire eerily well and encapsulated true corporate insanity. Rylance’s and others' performances often mirrored and mocked current political and media figures in ways that were not subtle, even feeling like direct criticism and disdain at some times. 

The parallel between characters and events in the movie to those in the real world make apparent that the film is an allegory for the world’s treatment of scientific crises, whether that be climate change or COVID-19, and how the lack of prioritization is detrimental. 

However, the film attacks these issues in an equally dark and humorous way — the kind of comedic satire that makes audiences burst out laughing only for them to realize moments later that it is sadly and seriously bleak, as well as uncomfortably accurate to the real world. This kind of humor, while keeping the movie with its intense subject matter light-hearted at times, also helps the film establish its sarcastic tone criticizing the present world and culture. 

Unfortunately, it feels like "Don’t Look Up" bit off more than it could chew. With numerous commentaries on politics and the media, ideas are not fully fleshed out and character development is placed in the backseat for the sake of the message. The fast-paced plot also feels chaotic, moving from one part of the story to another rather quickly without letting all of the concepts sink in. The film ultimately does not quite achieve the poignancy or depth it was aiming for by the end of its 138 minutes. However, the anger can be veritably felt and the almost messy nature of the movie feels in line with the current political landscape.

Despite all of its flaws, the movie is blunt and wastes no time getting to its point, which it expresses repeatedly and as unsubtly as a comet heads straight towards Earth. Anyone watching the credits roll will understand what the film wants to say — some people will not accept reality and prioritize the clear issues first, even when all one needs to do is simply look up. 

"Don’t Look Up" was released Dec. 5 in theaters and Dec. 24 on Netflix.

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