Wed. Jul 24th, 2024


Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up is a satirical comedy that resembles idiocracy, where he cannot help but delve into the government’s response and human reactions to the Covid-19 pandemic. Behind the veneer of a story based on a journalist’s report on climate change or global warning, it’s possible that when McKay initially wrote its script, he never intended or even knew there would be a pandemic. However, the world’s handling of the pandemic, both in America and globally, seems as if the audience has been written into a director’s script. Human reactions to the pandemic, just like to the film itself, have given McKay significant influence. The joke lies in the behavior of people who inhabit Earth.

Fortunately, the film goes beyond being just a story that accuses humankind of stupidity. Behind its dark-comedy exterior, McKay has not provided a definitive answer but rather an idea about valuing life more and reducing the ego associated with living in a mortal world.

The Underestimate of McKay

McKay has earned a reputation as a director who can explain many complicated concepts in a humorous yet simple manner. In The Big Short, he successfully elucidated the events of the 2007 to 2008 financial crisis, along with economic and banking terminology, while maintaining a solid comedic tone. Consequently, even those in the audience who were initially uninformed about the crisis were not only captivated but also enjoyed the drama.

It becomes intriguing when director McKay employs a similar approach to address the issue of climate change, portraying it through a sci-fi trope involving a comet hurtling towards Earth. He does this to draw attention to climate and comet-related concerns that people often underestimate, either because they seem distant or are still perceived as too imminent.

For an astronomer, discovering a comet is a notable achievement, and naming a comet after oneself is equally prestigious. However, the celebrations surrounding Dr. Mindy and Kate Dibiasky’s discovery must be cut short. The reason being that, based on their calculations, a massive comet is hurtling towards Earth and is set to bring about the planet’s end in approximately six months. To be precise, it will lead to Earth’s destruction in about six months.

As a result, Dr. Mindy and Kate find themselves in a race against time, urgently needing to report their findings to the president with the hope of taking preventive measures. However, the reactions of the First Lady, other interested parties, and even certain segments of the community were not at all what Dr. Mindy and Kate had expected.

The Society and Its Government

Essentially, the president is only concerned about her image. She takes action only if it translates into gaining votes for herself, after which she readily celebrates. The media also tends to gloss over important events, prioritizing ratings instead. People often fail to recognize the significance of crucial matters, becoming more engrossed in gossip and admiring Dr. Mindy’s good looks on television. In such a social environment, Don’t Look Up offers a chilling portrayal of idiocracy and satire, becoming the primary source of entertainment.

Crises that should be promptly addressed by both the community and the government end up being protracted and delayed. This isn’t solely due to distrust and underestimation; the government tends to prioritize its own interests over the well-being of the people. People are also manipulated, leading them to make foolish and misguided decisions.

This is where the audience can easily draw a parallel with the government’s handling of a severe pandemic, much like the questionable practice of selling essential items to high-ranking officials. It’s entirely justified for the audience to associate this with the government’s decision to sell items that should be as fundamental as free food.

McKay crafted the film for an American audience who may have had concerns about the competence of their government, which, ironically and humorously, resonates with non-American audiences equally well.

Political Correctness

Just a slight adjustment is needed to make the film relatable to a global audience. Jonah Hill assumes the role of president, with Meryl Streep serving as the influential figure often humorously referred to as his mother. Mark Rylance portrays the billionaire tech character who compels everyone to install an artificial app to safeguard Earth from comets. While this may sound like political correctness, it is, in fact, all about politics. McKay has crafted the film with a clear emphasis on his disdain for these elements. However, not everything needs to be political.

He underscores that discussions about reality can be worse, as the government might not be as intelligent as people assume, let alone being malicious. Amidst all this, the more vital concerns revolve around the planet’s safety, the well-being of people, and their health. The film addresses these concerns in an intelligent, satirical, and remarkably accurate manner, while still maintaining a sense of humor.

The Respective Satire

Beneath its satire, the film aims to depict both the best and worst aspects of humankind. It’s not incorrect to say that McKay’s portrayal is so relevant that it appears to reflect the face of humanity itself. He presents it as a spectrum, highlighting how easily people’s social markers can turn them into memes. Regardless of whether individuals use it to demonstrate their intelligence with technology, the film doesn’t take sides.

While the initial focus on humanitarian concern doesn’t necessarily translate directly to solving the problem, it serves as strong evidence of unity when everyone becomes aware. Don’t Look Up unfolds a plot that satirizes idiocracy, where scientists Dr. Mindy and Kate are not infallible in their attempts to warn everyone. They each have their respective faults as well.

Kate Dibiasky

There are choices that Dr. Mindy and Kate make but ultimately end up learning from. Leonardo DiCaprio portrays Dr. Mindy with a full range of emotions. The audience witnesses the transformation of a professor who had never published a journal, was nervous about being the center of attention, yet was eager to prove himself. He eventually found purpose and recognition, but it was short-lived.

Characters like Kate also serve as moral compasses and experience their share of drama. Jennifer Lawrence, portraying Kate, is a seasoned survivor of bullying. On the other hand, DiCaprio’s character falls victim to a natural disaster. However, it’s Kate, played by Lawrence, who is most deeply affected by the events. She was the one who discovered the impending catastrophe, but people mocked, ignored, and ostracized her. Achieving such emotional depth while maintaining a humorous tone is no small feat. Kate leads the audience to explore the film’s underlying religious elements crafted by McKay.

The Fear

Elements that may appear rich on the surface carry no less powerful statements. These elements emerge unexpectedly and provide the film’s closest approximation to humanity’s response. The film’s understated approach highlights the hubris of humans who believe they hold power over the world, making such an apocalypse seem all the more dire.

All the actors in the film fully commit to conveying their intended messages. Overall, they breathe life into their characters, even though it may appear absurd. Importantly, they are not striving to come across as silly. The characters’ relatability to real-world events adds to the humor. The humorous irony prompts the audience to question themselves once more: How much longer will we continue to live as ridiculously as depicted in this film?

Beneath the comedy lies an encroaching sense of gloom. There is a fear that our world could end up mirroring what the movie portrays. It places us in the same shoes as the movie characters, who fear the impending comet strike on their world.

The Idiocracy of McKay

Don’t Look Up boasts a plethora of character, idiocracy-driven comedic satire, and dark backdrops, and it doesn’t falter once throughout. The camera isn’t confined to showcasing the ensemble cast in a single frame; instead, it skillfully focuses on conveying multiple layers of intent.

At times, the film might seem to delve excessively into exposition or engage in parallel storytelling, comparing two events simultaneously. However, it shines when delivering comedy or inciting audience reactions. Wisely, the film primarily focuses on portraying expressions and reactions.

Ultimately, the film stands as a poignant marker of the pandemic era and idiocracy. Without directly addressing the virus, it serves as a figure of speech. McKay demonstrates his adeptness in intelligent scriptwriting, adeptly handling the narrative without losing focus while amalgamating various elements. He fearlessly addresses it all, whether as a metaphor or reflection of real-world events, providing a thought-provoking mirror for the audience.


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