“Don’t Look Up” Is “Dr. Strangelove” for Climate Change

If you are wondering Whether we do anything about global warming before it destroys civilization, consider this ominous fact: It hardly occupies any space in popular culture.

This contrasts with the influx of films and books in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s about nuclear war. Any old person will remember “The Day After”, “War Games”, “Planet of the Apes”, “99 Luftballons” and many more, where nuclear terrorism was the main theme or background.

All of this helped generate a global anti-nuclear movement, which in turn generated a larger audience for anti-nuclear culture, which in turn strengthened the movement—all in a virtuous circle. In other words, we avoided atomic Armageddon in part because we spent so much time imagining it and so excited about not actually trying it. But with global warming, there are few indications that we can ever imagine it. We stumble carelessly in the fog, with little understanding of the catastrophe towards which we stumble.

That’s why the new movie “Don’t Look Up” is so good news, unless you’re hoping that humanity will wipe itself out and be succeeded in 50 million years by super-intelligent squirrels.

The source of nuclear war culture in the United States was Stanley Kubrick’s book “Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb,” released in 1964. It broke into an open space into which countless other creators rushed. “Don’t look” has the potential to do the same for global warming.

Dr. Strangelove is usually called a ‘black comedy,’ but that doesn’t do it justice. Alternatively, you could say it’s a Vantablack comedy, the blackest comedy the human mind has ever invented. “Don’t Look” may be the first film in 57 years to equate it, in both darkness and laughter.

“Don’t Look” is directed and written by Adam McKay and based on a story written by him and journalist David Sirota. (I’ve been friendly with Sirota for a long time.) McKay has established himself as one of America’s funniest filmmakers with work like “Old Glory Insurance” – People Who Deny the Existence of Robots May Be Bots themselves – “Anchorman,” “Talladega Nights: A Ricky Bobby Song,” and “The Other Men.” Then he veered in 2015 to make “The Big Short,” which talks about the collapse of the housing bubble, followed by “Vice,” about the bland rise of former Vice President Dick Cheney to brutal power.

With Don’t Look Up, McKay captured all his talents and all the strength he’s accumulated to bring together the world’s biggest movie stars to take on the most important topic in existence.

If we take the movie literally, it is about a huge comet heading straight towards us. It’s about the same size that it hit the Gulf of Mexico in the Cretaceous and Paleogene extinction event, which wiped out three-quarters of all species on the planet. Before that comet, dinosaurs ruled the Earth, and our evolutionary ancestors were tiny, mare-like creatures that wandered around trying not to eat. Since the comet, the tables have turned, and every year we eat 65 billion chickens, the remains of persecuted dinosaurs.

But as Mackay said, this is “the thinnest disguised metaphor in the history of metaphors.” It’s actually about our deep commitment to cooking ourselves to death. The movie begins with the sound of boiling water and features two polar bears.

This is “the thinnest disguised metaphor in the history of metaphors.”

Pretending to be guilty, however, makes it possible for “Not Looking” to fit into the standard movie format that the average movie-goer will love. Instead of depicting the slow degradation over decades of an ecosystem until human life becomes unbearable, we will all be dead in exactly six months and 14 days. Even if the end point is the same, our minds can accommodate an instantaneous global conflagration more easily than the gradual deterioration caused by sunlight and an invisible molecule.

The two main characters are scientists, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, in a desperate attempt to get the world to take the danger of a comet seriously. (Beyond that, it’s best to go in without knowing anything else about the plot.) DiCaprio wears semi-normal clothes, while Lawrence appears to have taken a short detour to art school before starting her astronomy doctorate.

Meryl Streep plays a president who looks a lot like Donald Trump, except without the emotional depth and sympathy. Jonah Hill is her son and chief of staff, who told a crowd of supporters that “There are three kinds of American people: There you are, the working class. We, the cold rich. And then With them. “

A teaser for Don’t Look Up features Jonah Hill as Jason Orlean, and Paul Guilfoyle as Gen. Themes, Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell, and Meryl Streep as President Janie Orlean, among other cast members.

Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix

Mark Rylance is Doctor Strangelove in the movie, as weird and scary as the original but updated for the age of billionaires in tech. Rylance portrays “the third richest man in history” as some kind of capable kid, soft, weak, mushy, and completely unaware that anyone else is real.

The rest of the actors are from the same top acting. It seems that everyone with more than two lines has won an Oscar. And the entire production crew works to this level of excellence, from editing (by Hank Corwin), cinematography (Linus Sandgren), music (Nicolas Brittle), production design (Clayton Hartley), and visual effects (Raymond Geringer and Dion Wood).

Together they achieve the near impossible. Almost all successful comedies last 90 minutes or less, because after this point the audience usually gets some kind of fatigue with humor. “Don’t Look Up” is 145 minutes long but remains funny to the absolute end, and gets one of the biggest and most satisfying laughs in the final credit sequence. This section may also deserve an entry in the Guinness Book of Records for the most naked elderly people ever to appear on screen.

It’s 145 minutes long but it’s still funny until the absolute end.

On the surface, the movie’s joke storm’s primary target is America’s nihilistic media and its inability to focus on life and death for more than two seconds. But if you watch closely, you’ll see that “don’t look” visualize this as a common human struggle from which no one can escape. NASA’s top official in charge of planetary defense has been caught up in celebrity gossip. As the clock ticks, DiCaprio’s character honestly argues with the people in the movie version of Twitter.

In fact, the phrase “not looking” includes a direct criticism of itself. At one point, Lawrence says, “Destroying the entire planet probably isn’t fun. It’s probably supposed to be terrifying.” In a long talk near the end, DiCaprio tries to explain, “Not everything needs to seem so smart or charming or likable all the time. Sometimes we just need to be able to say things to each other. We need to be able to to hear things.”

DiCaprio also asks, “What the hell happened to us?” The answer the film suggests is that cable television and social media have successfully penetrated human cognition, destroying our ability to pay attention to anything at all or even understand what is real outside of our small screens. And we will never be able to stop global warming without constant attention to reality.

Like most comedies, “Don’t Look Up” is probably the best showing in theaters. But be prepared: As in “Dr. Strangelove, the depth of comedy in “Don’t Look Up” is matched by a deep, hidden sadness. The film’s ending is unbearably poignant. In particular, Lawrence offers one line that the filmmakers clearly explain why There may be a few movies that will make you laugh more and some that will make you cry more, but if you add laughter and crying together, it’s hard to think of anything that puts more emotional points on the board.

The good news, if anything, is that when the lights finally come on, you’ll realize we’re actually only half an hour left for this story. We can still save ourselves if we want to. And part of that has to be more human ingenuity like this, in the service of understanding the terrifying destination we are heading to.

Leave a Comment