A recent headline from Common Dreams announced that “Don’t Look Up” is now the most-viewed film on Netflix worldwide.
I don’t watch a lot of television, and as I’ve aged, I seem to have lost the patience necessary to sit through most movies, but my children all raved about “Don’t Look Up,” and then my FaceBook feed was filled with people recommending it in glowing terms, so I made an exception.
What was it that Arte Johnson used to say on “Laugh-In”? Veeery Interesting! (young people, Google it.)
The new feature film “Don’t Look Up,” a dark comedy satirizing the complacency and mendacity of elites in the face of an existential threat to human civilization, is now the most popular movie on Netflix worldwide, according to data compiled by FlixPatrol.
The basic story revolves around the discovery of a large comet by academics at a midwest university. They realize that it will soon hit earth, wiping out most of life on the planet. Rather than deal with that reality, and launch an effort to destroy the comet (which turns out to contain very valuable minerals), the government partners with big business in an effort to recover those minerals, and as that effort fails, enlists celebrities and others in a campaign to tell people “don’t look up.”
So they don’t.
Most reports about the film describe it as a commentary on mankind’s reluctance to take climate change seriously, but the social criticism goes far beyond that. The numerous major stars who play roles in this very negative portrayal of today’s American society have produced a story firmly focused on the worst aspects of contemporary culture–the media’s love affair with celebrity and sex, our obsession with credentials rather than competence (the unwillingness of government officials to believe the scientists until their results have been confirmed by professors at “elite” universities was a nice touch)–and so many other distortions amplified by the current media environment.
Meryl Streep, as a female version of Trump, personified the utterly ignorant, poll-driven, self-engrossed politicians that currently litter our political landscape. And Mark Rylance, playing a mega-rich Silicon Valley tech guru, is a cringe-inducing reminder of the real-world, self-aggrandizing tech billionaires who prioritize the elevation of their personal fame and profit over any concern for society or humanity.
Critical evaluations of the film have been sharply divided. Roger Ebert hated it; Neil DeGrasse Tyson dubbed it a documentary.
I will admit to being somewhere in-between. I found the satire in many places far too broad, evidence of a determination to “hit them [the audience] over the head.” Artistically, Ebert has a point– the film would have benefitted greatly from some judicious cutting. That said, Tyson is also right–in so many unfortunate ways, it is a documentary.
it’s hard to disagree with a commenter to one site who observed that the movie wasn’t limited to a critique of our disinclination to address climate change–“I totally disagree. This flick was a satire about our culture and was right on the money!”
As another commented “I mean, when hundreds of thousands of people die from a virus and people still claim it’s a hoax… the notion of people not believing scientists and astronomers seems pretty plausible (regardless of the validity of the scenario).. We live in a strange world right now.” No kidding.
Maybe we need to be hit over the head…Repeatedly.
At the very least, the fact that so many people have watched a movie that is a searing if somewhat over-the-top criticism of today’s culture–and the fact that so many of them (even among the critics) strongly agreed with the message–is probably a good sign.