“Don’t Look Up” is setting records, but does it live up to the hype?


Courtesy of Netflix

Rob Morgan, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence (clockwise from left) are part of the star-studded cast of “Don’t Look Up,” Netflix’s newest hit

Christie Lanfear, Staff Writer

Released just over a month ago, “Don’t Look Up” has since broken the Netflix record for the most viewing hours in a single week and has become the company’s third most-watched film. In other words, this disaster comedy movie featuring the all star cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep is skyrocketing in popularity. But, does it deserve the hype? 

Upon first glance, “Don’t Look Up” seems rather simplistic, perhaps balancing on the edge of receiving the dreaded ‘popcorn’ classification. After all, the plot begins with a graduate astronomy student from Michigan State University named Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) making a potentially catastrophic discovery—a comet that will obliterate Earth is quickly approaching. After confirming her calculations with her advisor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio), Dibiasky and Mindy present their findings to the President of the United States, Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep). From there, chaos ensues. 

Despite this premise being nothing new, there are some thought provoking and extremely impactful themes woven into this movie’s plot that give it more depth than others of its type, which I’m sure has been the driving force of its popularity. 

One of the main messages of “Don’t Look Up” is related to social status and college education—the idea that the individual delivering the facts is equally, if not more, important than the facts themselves. A major conflict that Dibiasky and Mindy face in the film is simply convincing the public and the president that their discovery is real and needs to be addressed. Instead, the two characters are snubbed on the basis of not being from an Ivy League university. One character even responds to their information with: “[We’ll] get some of our people on it. Some Ivy Leaguers, no offense”. Bringing this issue to attention was definitely not a mistake. The film director and writer Adam McKay recognized the unwarranted exaltation placed upon Ivy schools in the real world and incorporated this theme into the plot, raising awareness about the importance of analyzing the facts themselves to see through any societal biases. McKay’s message went through loud and clear due to the fact that the catastrophic events are partly down to the inability of some characters to look past Dibiasky’s non-Ivy status. 

Another theme of “Don’t Look Up” is the public’s habit of making light of serious situations. In the movie, Dibiasky and Mindy appear on a popular morning talk show, attempting to present their findings in a way that the public will listen to and absorb. However, they get shot down when the presenters attempt to dismiss their facts to make the situation light-hearted. When Dibiasky loses her patience in an upset outburst, the public have a field day and memes of the event go viral. Her words before exiting the interview are “maybe it’s supposed to be incredibly terrifying… and upsetting…and maybe we’re supposed to stay up all night every night crying.” Despite her grave words and warnings, no one seems to listen. Even Dibiasky’s ex-boyfriend responds to the interview by calling her a “crazy chick.” McKay drives home his message of the dangers of a superficial culture that values flash over facts, with the remainder of the movie unfolding as a result of the public’s ignorance.

At the center of the film is the issue that is staring at society square in our collective face: a changing climate. McKay puts an interesting twist on the situation, with the elites of society escaping from the disaster on Earth to a far away planet. The characters emerge from their spaceship in almost an Adam and Eve manner, stepping onto the new planet naked and without any knowledge of their new environment. A completely fresh start, so to speak. What happens next—the closing scene of the movie—is rather shocking and satirical, but I will let you experience that comedy for yourself. 

I could go on forever about this movie; the messages that it sends to viewers are so impactful and thought provoking. Even if one doesn’t agree with some of the ideas, it is still a quality movie that is definitely worth your time. I encourage you to go watch, and then reflect on the themes you felt were included. I promise that “Don’t Look Up” is definitely not a ‘popcorn’ failure and 100% lives up to its high expectations.