Movies: Don’t Look Up is a brilliant black comedy for our times

Meryl Streep plays the American president more concerned with her re-election chances than with the future of her species.

This is a clever and brash satire about an America so consumed with celebrity worship, trashy infotainment, social media popularity and political gamesmanship that it refuses to take seriously the impending destruction of the planet by a huge comet.  Climate change is never mentioned in the movie, but the parallel is obvious.  Leonardo di Caprio plays the scientist with the irreversible conclusion that a huge rock is on its way to destroy the Earth in six months time.

Despite its obvious relevance, “Don’t Look Up” has been met by an avalanche of bad reviews throughout the traditional and social media.  It is as if nobody wants to confront the reality of the world in the 2020s.  The explanation is likely that the bitterly satiric stance threatens political complacency in America and, by extension, the whole world.  We Simply don’t want to believe the end could be nigh.  We prefer to think that big business will save us: profits over planet is our watchword!

The movie’s early scenes depict the discovery and the trajectory of the comet and are not played for laughs.  In fact, the initial disbelief is mirrored in the old 1950s film When Worlds Collide which also includes the eventual final and fiery destruction of the world we know.  The two scientists in question, one played by DiCaprio, are soon whisked off to see the US president in the Oval Office.

‘Don’t Look Up” takes an ultra-cynical but funny look at the end of the world.

She is played by Meryl Streep who is much more interested in her personal sex life and winning a second term as president to be unduly concerned with minor matters such as the end of the world.   She personifies the rotting soul of America.  If you see a connection with Donald Trump, you are not alone.  Even when told the huge rock will have the power of a billion Hiroshima bombs, she asks DiCaprio to stop breathing so0 heavily as it makes her feel uncomfortable.

As in When Worlds Collide this movie ends with a favoured handful of the rich and powerful escaping by space satellite to another planet.  On arrival, they are delighted to find that the temperature is fine although there is slightly more oxygen in the atmosphere than they are used to.  Soon a group of ostrich-like, colorful creatures approach the space ship and one bold soul (thinking they are friendly) strokes one of them.  The beast promptly bites her head off as the whole group advances menacingly towards an unexpected feast.  The film ends with the human group leader urging “Whatever happens, don’t pet them.”  Indeed.