Don’t Look Up, Deconstructed
Don’t Look Up, the newest craft-work from Netflix, is a Hunger Games meets Independence Day type flick, with a pinch of Christopher Guest, if he’d jumped the shark on cleverness. Here’s the skinny: MIT Doctoral candidate from Michigan State Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) and Doctor Randall Mindy, (Leonardo DiCaprio), discover a comet the size of Mt. Everest heading toward earth all-but-guaranteeing (Scientists don’t say 100%) worldwide destruction.
The Oval Office
Armed with this information, the two head off to D.C. to speak with President Orlean, (Meryl Streep), who plays the republican “king”-pin send up version of Donald Trump as a woman (a mash-up of Madame Secretary and a loose-fitting SNL-sketch that got optioned as a character piece).
The ‘casual vibes’ of the Oval Office course through the Chief-of-Staff Jason Orlean, (Jonah Hill), who quips acerbic witticisms about Dibiasky’s apparel, and general pedigree, “Michigan State?”. Jason is President Orlean’s son, and the overlord-inbred-nepotistic vibes of the Oval Office arrive through Jason’s Oedipal MILF jokes, and ‘it’s cool-to-be-rich and cruel’ hyperbolic understatements.
In what could have been a scene from Idiocracy, the administration decides to ‘sit-tight’ on the imminent cataclysm until some lascivious ‘sexts’ land POTUS in the hot seat and they decide to move on the “end of the world thing’ because mid-terms are coming up in three weeks and she’s trailing in the polls. Unfortunately, that means a higher-up at NASA has to tender their resignation in disgrace, a not-so-subtle insight into how ‘wrongs-get-righted’.
DiCaprio as Doctor Mindy, plays the ‘scientific darling’ of the Capital, and once tapped as a go project he and Dibiasky, must go on The Daily Rip, to “talk about a new comet in the sky”. They are told to “keep it light”. The Daily Rip is co-anchored by Tyler Perry as Jack Bremmer, and Kate Blanchett’s character, Brie Evantee, and although bold and perhaps the most refreshingly ‘in-character’ components to the film, still feels like a carbon copy of the media as played out in Hunger Games, even Blanchett’s character’s name Brie Evantee has an echo of Katniss Everdeen in its ear.
While on the show Dibiasky has a Network style, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not gonna take it anymore’ moment much to the co-hosts’ chagrin, and Doctor Mindy plays it cool and ends up in the good graces of Brie Evantee, which later spins into a love affair, while also enjoying the good graces of the viewing public (ironically the character that needed media-training ended up playing well and the character that didn’t turned in a memetic-internet $#it storm).
At this point the ‘comet-narrative’ turns into an onion for rhetorical lens critiques, Don’t Look Up vs. Just Look Up party political lines form, with an outlier for the comet is a hoax niche. Perhaps unironically, the images of the comet are eerily reminiscent of the Navy’s Trident II (5d) missile launch on Nov. 7th, 2015, and SpaceX’s Falcon launch on Dec. 22nd. 2017. This tonal overlap is highlighted by the CEO of BASH Peter Isherwell (where actor Mark Rylance plays a darker eccentric-CEO reprisal of his work in Ready Player One), which comes off as hybrid of SpaceX’s Elon Musk mixed with Google’s over-reaching data arm.
The movie at large is a heliocentric opus aimed at string pulling populous minds by inverting political tropes through an opera of disinformation. The crux of this motif is demonstrated in the treatment of the ‘comet narrative’.
The Don’t Look Up side of things echo-trump rallies with Streep Egyptian-walking across the stage to crowds full of “just a bunch of red necks”, and the Just Look Up side of things showcases pop star Riley Bina (Ariana Grande) alongside rapper Kid Cuddi, doing what felt like a formulaic reboot of Katy Perry’s performance of Dark Horse with Juicy J at the 2014 Grammys.
In the former crowds of “ignorant” right-wing “racists” chant “Don’t Look Up”, whilst the comet careens over the top of the sky. This is a loose pairing of the movie’s opinion of climate-change deniers at a Trump rally. In the latter, Pop Star Grande is essentially dressed as the common digital depiction of the Coronavirus, singing a popcorn treatment of Just Look Up. This is a memetic homage to the Coronavirus and how evident its influence should be, though tacitly implying it is also ignored by the participants at the Orlean Rally.
After a love affair and a confrontation with his ex-wife Doctor Mindy returns to The Daily Rip and also has a ‘mad-as-hell’ moment. From there, he ends up in the back of a car with a bag over his head to be ‘taken off the grid’.
In their campaign for truth Dr. Mindy and PhD student Dibiasky, collaborated with Pop Star Bina to get the word out, but after Dr. Mindy could no longer handle keeping his cool, NASA pivoted the narrative away from the Michigan State research, and began calling it ‘Near-miss hysteria’. From this we get a disclosure moment about ‘party politics’, which comes through DiCapprio’s character Dr. Mindy questioning the validity of NASA’s leadership.
Don't Look Up (Educational Clip)
Leonardo DiCaprio's character, Dr. Randall Mindy, says, "It's all corrupt."
The relationship between Big Data, or Big Tech and POTUS is an instrument to demonstrate this corruption. The only way to stop the comet is to blow it up before it gets too close. However during the launch procedure, BASH CEO Isherwell requests a private audience with President Orlean and the rocket takes a U-turn. Turns out the comet is full of valuable minerals, and the best course of action is to let it get closer and then blow it into smaller ‘harvestable pieces’.
During the launch, two spectators discuss whether the rocket is actually headed in the right direction. This is an homage to the hoax-driven b-narrative of the piece, where there remains conspiratorial doubt as to whether rockets are actually exiting Low Earth Orbit.
What movie wouldn’t be complete with out 100% self-reflexive comedic tropes? This aspect to the film, as well as the seizure inducing amount of a social-media sequences, is what caused me to say Don’t Look Up jumped the shark in cleverness at the onset. For those who don’t know “jumped the shark” refers to when a TV Series peaks, and begins to decline. The actual moment referred to is when The Fonzi literally jumped a shark in the popular T.V. series, Happy Days. It has now been long pointed to as a “lost the plot” moment in any creative piece.
Self-aware non-political non-stance-taking self-absorbed Hollywood actor star Devin Peters promotes, Total Devastation, played by non-other than Captain America’s, Chris Evans. Peters has a pin on that points both up and down, because he thinks, “As a country we need to stop virtue signaling, and just get along.”
Hollywood can’t help its but to put a movie promo in the movie depicting the movie we’re watching. Beyond this, the Prime-rib thick irony here is that the entire film, Don’t Look Up, is a massive effort at virtue signaling, which doesn’t do much in the way of unpacking the center of a Venn Diagram between political, scientific, and religious views in America, but rather satirizes one side of the aisle and cryptically evangelizes the other.
With tongue-firmly-in-cheek it broadcasts the message that people who ‘Don’t Look Up” refuse to accept self-evident scientific axioms (portrayed as “red neck xenophobes” falsely interpreting truths as deniable). DiCaprio, in so many words, yells at the top of his lungs, “it’s real we have the data, we have pictures!”
But the satirical onion peels deeper. BASH CEO Isherwell effectively owns the Right-Wing Confederacy of Dunces Oval Office, and puppeteers the political decisions and optics around the party., e.g., deciding not to blow up the comet because of valuable minerals for computer parts.
This trope is an inversion of an existing perspective. Namely, that the relationship between between Big Tech (Facebook, Twitter, Google), and Liberals/Democrats in Washington D.C. is one of complicit cooperation. This elicits the image of Mark having another awkward sip of water during a rather inconclusive congressional debacle surrounding data privacy.
Lastly, the soft concession to religious freedom is an afterthought in the film, and arrives through a b-narrative crush from a young punk who falls for Dibiasky. The young anarcho-punk skater who represents the faction of people who use words like ‘hoax’ is ashamed of his religious views from a social-capital perspective. He asks Lawrence’s character not to tell anybody. Extending this metaphor, DiCaprio’s character Dr. Mindy turns to prayer at the end of the film, even though, he states that’s he’s a scientist (which thematically reads atheist) and therefore not very accustomed to prayer in his family. In a signal of hyper-materialism, the nail in the religious motif coffin was delivered by Hill’s character, Chief-Of-Staff Jason Orlean, who says a heartfelt worldwide prayer for “stuff”.
This hyper-meta self-aware political satire was the brainchild of Adam McKay, which evoked the core signal of Hollywood’s faustian responsibility to agenda-based programming. The ineffectual clown that Chris Evans portrays as he discusses his movie Total Devastation, in the faux interview about the movie you’re watching, who promotes “both up and down and just seeks harmony”, wreaks of the smug superiority felt by its designers.
The movie at large, is well acted, quite funny, and worth viewing but the crystal clear intent, why it was thrust into the limelight as a recent ‘cinematic darling’ of Netflix’s agenda-based repertoire, and so cleverly multi-layered and inverted on all the right pressure points (globalism vs. nationalism, climate change debate, Big Tech vs. Democracy, Materialism vs. Faith, etc), was to be a flagship Scientism propaganda piece riddled with NLP-trauma programming and seizure-esque jump cuts whilst parading the faux class-superiority of Data Wizards Behind the Curtain whom mock the “Dim-Witted Proletariate Sheeple” that believe them, and flaunt their viewpoints through a glass half darkly.