‘Don’t Look Up’ movie captures reality of climate crisis


Courtesy of Netflix

“Don’t Look Up,” a satire directed by Adam McKay, emphasizes the detriments of ignoring the current climate crisis.

Lucia Gravel

The recent Netflix hit “Don’t Look Up” provides a powerful climate change metaphor for audiences. The movie broke Netflix records for the most hours, over 152 million, a movie has been viewed on Netflix in a week.

Directed by Adam McKay, the satirical comedy follows a low-level astronomer Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) and PhD student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) as they discover a comet headed directly to Earth and the events that follow as they attempt to warn the world of the impending danger. In the film, scientific peers and later NASA confirm the scientists’ findings, which leads a frantic attempt to warn the White House.

Much to the scientists’ horror, their warning is brushed off by President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her team, as they are told to “Sit tight.” The pair then turn against the orders of the president to the media to warn as many as possible of the “planet-wide extinction event.”

After appearing on a talk show, the world begins to both panic and doubt the findings, highlighting the problem of the spread of misinformation, which has recently negatively affected real problems, such as Covid-19 and voter fraud. The scientists struggle to get politicians to act on the crisis and the public to believe them.

It is easy to lose the powerful messages of this movie in its witty dialogue. In addition to the emphasis on the issue of the social spread of misinformation , the movie specifically zeros in on the twisting of the grave reality and pressing matter of climate change.

As the scientists’ findings begin to hold ground in the media and among the general public, the government agrees to lead a mission to deflect the comet from the planet. However, the mission is stopped by a greedy tech billionaire, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos-inspired, Sir Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance). The billionaire proposes a different mission — one that would let the comet hit Earth, but in smaller fractions and in the ocean. This mission is driven by the billionaires’ desire for valuable tech resources and shows his disregard for the danger it may pose among ordinary people.

One of the main reasons for the movie’s success is casting director, Francine Maisler, who filled the movie with A-List names, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry. To someone who has not yet watched the film, it may seem that the actors were thrown together, but in my opinion, this is not the case. The actors each play their parts with ease and expertise. It is easy to forget you are watching some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

One character that holds direct real-life significance is President Janie Orlean. The character’s past as a reality-tv star, turned politician and anti-science ignorance, led me to see her as a reincarnation of the last U.S. President, Donald Trump. Other elements of the character that Orlean shares with Trump include hiring her unqualified son, Jason Orlean (Jonah Hill) as Chief of Staff, as Trump did when appointing son-in-law Jared Kushner, the influence of her leadership by economic gain and her specific disbelief and ignorance regarding climate change.

In the film, the scientists launch the campaign titled “Just Look Up,” as the comet is now visible in the sky, making it hard to deny the reality of the impending disaster. The President Orlean follows this with a campaign of her own, “Don’t Look Up,” urging her followers to ignore and deny the crisis. This in itself is both a reference to climate change and highlights the similarity between Orlean and Trump.

The climate crisis we are now facing is undoubtedly real, confirmed by experts in the field across the globe, including NASA, and the effect on our planet is increasingly visible. The message “Just Look Up” can be applied to the comet in the movie, but equally to the climate crisis. Just look at our Earth — the effects of climate change are real. Global leaders such as Trump continue to spread lies about the climate crisis, stating that it is not real. This, again, correlates to the message “Don’t Look Up” from the film, as the president is encouraging people to ignore the reality around them.

“Don’t Look Up” calls attention to the ignorance of those in power to the climate crisis, and to the harm of the spread of false information. We have the resources to slow and stop the climate crisis now, so why aren’t we?