By Anders Lorenzen
What happens when you ignore repeated warnings by scientists about an
Impending catastrophe? This is the tale the Netflix fiction comedy/drama/sci-fi Don’t Look Up set out to tell.
The film is in essence about a huge comet heading towards Earth which will wipe out all human life, a metaphorical tale which in reality is about the impending climate crisis; the meteor being a metaphor for catastrophic climate change?
The filmmakers are explicit about the connection, in fact, there’s a dedicated website that is a huge resource signposting how individuals can take action on the climate crisis.
An analogy for climate denial
The film has taken the internet by storm and is currently the number one trending film on Netflix and its title ‘Don’t Look Up’ has now become a catchphrase for climate denial.
For and against ‘the truth’
The film heavily taps into the narrative of a polarised society in the US, with Fox News style news shows trying to convince people that the comet is a hoax – by default creating division between those who accept the comet is heading towards Earth and those who don’t.
Desperate scientists versus scheming entrepreneurs
Leonardo Dicaprio plays charismatic scientist Dr Randall Mindy whose character is at the forefront of trying (and failing) to convince the public that the comet is real.
Mindy’s sidekick Kate Diabisky, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a PhD student who tenaciously convinces the government to divert the comet away from the path of Earth, however, this effort is ultimately thwarted by a tech billionaire Peter Isherwell, played by Mark Rylance, more interested in mining the comet’s mineral wealth.
US President Janie Orlean, played by Meryl Streep, is seduced by this idea however the plan ultimately fails, leaving the citizens of earth to embrace their fate while the plutocrats leave on a spaceship to seek out life on other planets.
The most poignant scene in the film is the ‘final supper’ enjoyed by, Mindy and his family, and Diabisky and a few other friends and family as the comet hurtle towards them. Mindy’s final words are ‘we never knew how good we had it’.
Deep and dark undertones
Don’t Look Up – is a satire with very deep and dark undertones. Hollywood disaster films usually feature endings in which the establishment somehow saves the day. What is poignant about Don’t Look Up is that there is no happy ending – the message is stark and clear that if you ignore repeated scientific warnings about an impending catastrophe, disaster will inevitably follow.
For me the film communicates a hopeful but urgent warning that we must listen to the experts, we don’t have endless time, and we can’t just innovate our way out of the climate crisis through risky technologies such as geoengineering or carbon sequestration and otherwise to continue business as usual, as it will be too little too late.
Don’t Look Up is currently streaming on Netflix.