AT LARGE: Netflix movie 'Don't Look Up' is worth a long look

·3 min read
Tommy Stevenson
Tommy Stevenson

The Netflix movie "Don't Look Up" has a plot that is both believable and outrageous. It is also wickedly and darkly funny. If you don't already subscribe to the streaming service, this movie is a good reason to take the plunge.

The movie, which in less than a month is already Netflix's second-most watched show, centers on the discovery of a "planet killer" comet headed directly toward planet Earth. The comet is due to arrive in about six months and if it hits, the comet will wipe out all life on the planet.

Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Jennifer Lawrence try to warn people about a deadly comet in Netflix's "Don't Look Up."
Leonardo DiCaprio, left, and Jennifer Lawrence try to warn people about a deadly comet in Netflix's "Don't Look Up."

The discovery is made by Michigan State University astronomy doctoral student Kate Dibisky (played by Jennifer Lawrence) and her mentor professor, Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio). They sound the alarm all the way to the White House, where they are met with a politicalized apathy from President Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), who, with a difficult election ahead, figures she has bigger fish to fry.

The pair then head to the public through a happy talk morning television show hosted by Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry) both of whom are dismissive until Dibisky blurts out an obscenity-laden warning that "You're all gonna [explicitly deleted] die!"

Meanwhile, the president, who had initially denied the comet's existence, decides to acknowledge it as a diversionary tactic from a sex scandal involving a Supreme Court nominee. She announces that a multinational consortium will use nuclear weapons in an attempt to blast the comet out of the sky.

Morning-show hosts Brie (Cate Blanchett, far left) and Jack (Tyler Perry) don't take the doomsday warnings of Randall (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) seriously.
Morning-show hosts Brie (Cate Blanchett, far left) and Jack (Tyler Perry) don't take the doomsday warnings of Randall (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) seriously.

In a development echoing our current vaccinate/anit-vaccinate divide, the public is split into "look up/don't look up" factions, who take to the streets in often violent demonstrations.

The rockets are launched, but they are called back in mid-flight after eccentric tech billionaire Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), who is obviously modeled after Elon Musk, confides that he has discovered trillions of dollars worth of badly needed rare elements in the comet. His plan is to send one of his own devices to meet the comet and break it apart, sending the pieces to splash down, he hopes, harmlessly in the Pacific Ocean.

That leads to a new political campaign highlighted by the slogan "I'm for the jobs the comet will bring."

Alas, that plan also fails and as the comet continues its planet-killing rendezvous with the Earth, Isherwell gathers the elite, including the president, to board a spaceship, again of his own design. The spaceship, controlled by artificial intelligence, will search the heavens for the nearest habitable planet. The passengers are cryogenically preserved for their journey of thousands of years until that planet is finally found and the elite emerge naked on their new world.

That coda of "Don't Look Up" is spliced into the closing credits and I won't say any more about it so as not to provide a spoiler.

Back on planet Earth, the remaining population prepares for the end, which inevitably comes in an apocalypse personified as the two original astronomers and families sit down for a last meal interrupted by, well, the apocalypse.

Meryl Streep stars as President Janie Orlean, a head of state more concerned about keeping her political power than avoiding an impending apocalypse in "Don't Look Up."
Meryl Streep stars as President Janie Orlean, a head of state more concerned about keeping her political power than avoiding an impending apocalypse in "Don't Look Up."

Writer-director Adam McKay has said that his movie is an allegory for climate change, which is years away, but which also has the potential to be a planet-killer.

The metaphor of the frog slowly dying in the pot that is incrementally brought to a boil seems apt.

And we are all the frogs.

Tommy Stevenson is retired associate editor of The Tuscaloosa News. Reach him at tommystevenson45@gmail.com or 205-292-2236.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: AT LARGE: Netflix show 'Don't Look Up' is worth a long look

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