I was not looking forward to Netflix’s Don’t Look Up. It’s not that I thought it was going to be a bad movie. It had an all-star cast led by Leonardo Dicaprio and Jennifer Lawrence and it was supposed to be a film filled with dark satire, which is usually something I’m drawn to. I even like the setup of the entire film. However, after watching the trailer, I just felt that something was slightly off and I just couldn’t put my finger on it. After watching it, I did put it all together why I was so hesitant to see it. Like the scientists who charted the path of the comet, I could already foresee Don’t Look Up as something not as great as it should be.
But before we do get to the review itself, I would just like to mention that this review will be a SPOILER FREE review. Yes, it’s been made available on Netflix for a couple of weeks now so I’m actually getting this review out much later than most. But still, maybe some of you are just getting around to seeing it now after the holiday rush. So, yeah. SPOILER FREE review.
Don’t Look Up tells the tale of a couple of astronomers who discover a new comet. While initially excited about their discovery, their elation turns to horror when they calculate the comet’s path and it’s on a collision course to Earth. This leads the duo to try to warn the proper authorities to, hopefully, fend off this catastrophic event. But, in this age where popularity, inept policitians, government bureaucracy, people with agendas and power hungry corporations, can we get it all together to save the planet?
There are two things that Don’t Look Up did that really impressed me. One would have to be the star-studded cast they brought in and I feel this movie would be unwatchable without them. Leonardo Dicaprio and Jennifer Lawrence headline the film and they do a good job acting their hearts out. That’s not to say the rest of the cast don’t pull their own weight because they all do. They all do a good job with their characters and giving them the required amount of ridiculousness so you can easily identify who they’re supposed to be in the grand scheme of things. I particularly like Rob Morgan and Dr. Oglethorpe as he gives really low-key reactions when everyone seems to be going crazy. It’s a nice juxtaposition to the insanity.
The second impressive thing about Don’t Look Up has to be the production. Maybe I’ve gotten so used to Netflix productions looking a little bit on the cheap side, with the special effects looking a little substandard or the sets not looking particularly believable. It does look like Netflix shelled out much more than they usually did here as things do look like there’s a grand sense of scale.
Unfortunately, those are the only two bits of high praise I can give Don’t Look Up. Everything else about it either feels middle of the road. One of my biggest gripes with the film is its 138-minute runtime. I have no qualms about watching a movie that’s over two hours long. But it has to earn the runtime and Don’t Look Up doesn’t. There’s a lot of bloat in the story and it could have been easily trimmed out. In fact, a lot of the side stories, while there for character development and drama, feels unnecessary and even detracts from the message of the movie.
And while I have praised the all-star cast they got for Don’t Look Up, a lot of them don’t really add much to the story or, in the case with Cate Blanchett’s morning news host character, adds unnecessary superfluous story elements to an already bloated movie. There are some characters that just pop in and out of the film and it can get really distracting. Like with its super-long runtime, these characters could have been cut out and the film wouldn’t suffer from it.
Don’t Look Up also feels disjointed in tone but not in the way you might expect. Yes, it’s a satire and you’re not supposed to take it all that seriously. But even as the date of the comet’s impact draws near, you never see anyone change in the slightest. Everyone seems to just be going along their business despite it drawing to the planet’s impending doom. You never really feel the gravity of the situation because of this.
And that’s my biggest issue with Don’t Look Up. The hidden message about the film is how climate change will eventually destroy the world and how indifferent we all are to it. It’s supposed to make you panic and finally make you realize how close we are to doom before it’s too late. But hardly anyone in Don’t Look Up actually get hit with the reaction the filmmaker wants you to feel. It doesn’t really hit you hard enough to metaphorically wake you up from the supposed dire situation we’re all in.
I do wish it actually dove headfirst into the satire and, because of this, Don’t Look Up is particularly funny. Like I said, I enjoy me some dark humor but, for some odd reason, the film plays it a little too safe. It does try to make fun of a lot of stuff but a lot of it is very tempered and measured. It’s almost like it backs off at the moment before the target of the joke might feel offended they’re being made fun of. It lacks a lot of biting commentary and humor because of how inoffensive it feels.
I wouldn’t say Don’t Look Up is a bad movie. It’s competently made and the the cast do give excellent performances. However, it never does feel like it goes as hard as it should on the commentary and humor. It’s also too long for its own good. Because of this, I can’t really recommend Don’t Look Up as something you absolutely must watch. I say skip it unless you have watched absolutely everything on Netflix already.
Have you seen Don’t Look Up? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!