Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up has spurred conversation with viewers skewed to either loving or hating the film. A highly satirical tale aimed at climate change, some negative pushback can be a result of viewers not being able to sit with an uncomfortable truth. For Coloradans, the film’s cautionary tale is all too familiar.
The story opens with the main conflict: scientists discover that a comet the size of Mount Everest is hurtling towards earth. As you watch the chaos unfold on the screen in front of you, you may feel like curling up into a ball on your couch. The film delivers the desired effect — It reminds you of the human condition. It reminds you that we’re all going to die.
Don’t Look Up is a brutally satirical depiction of mankind’s ignorance and avoidance of the reality of climate change and the devastating effects that are nearly mathematical certainties. As a viewer, you sit with the feelings of despair and anxiety as the characters Kate Dibioski (Jennifer Lawrence) and Dr. Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) discover that the world will end in front of their eyes. Unless they act fast, earth’s fate is certain. After meetings with the President (Meryl Streep) and the head of NASA, they quickly learn that the people who can make decisions can’t comprehend the impending doom or don’t want to raise the alarm bell for fear of losing the popular vote. This parallels the feeling that many of us had following the disappointing outcome of the Glasgow Climate summit which reminded us that humans are too selfish, stupid, and preoccupied to take proactive measures to reduce global emissions. Lawrence’s character relays this message when she announces on a national news broadcast: “I'm sorry. Are we not being clear? We're trying to tell you that the entire planet is about to be destroyed.” Kate Dibioski (Lawrence)
As the comet hurdles ever closer, the world's population becomes further divided between the people who recognize the problem and those who deny it. The crowds chanting “Don't look up” (as in, they don't believe the comet is real) is awfully reminiscent of a MAGA Rally yelling “stop the steal” as they cling to their false viewpoint. All these people needed to do was look up to have all the evidence needed to recognize their impending doom. Except, recognizing the problem is only the first step in the equation, they must also take action to stop the comet before it’s too late. Just like we must begin taking action to combat climate change, species extinction, global deforestation, water scarcity, and the list goes on…
Unlike the comet, the effects of Climate change will not kill us in one collision. Still, the effects of climate change are displaying across the world at an increasing rate. In Colorado, the “comet” is showing its head as lengthened and more severe droughts, fueling unrelenting wildfires. Don’t Look Up premiered on December 5th, 2021 just 26 days prior to a tragic fire event that scorched our state and destroyed nearly 1,000 homes. According to Verisk analytics, 17% of all structures in Colorado are in an area of extreme fire risk. We can consider these events to be the first signs of the metaphorical comet’s tail in our skies, forewarning the true impact.
Perhaps McKay could care less about the reviews but rather is interested in viewers receiving Don’t Look Up’s message loud and clear. So I challenge you, even if it feels small, to watch the film and sit with the ending. Recognize the issues that we are facing, and take the first step. This could be as small as eating less red meat or making your next Netflix pick an educational documentary like Seaspiracy. We have to start somewhere and then learn to scale these actions. As a young person, I aspire to shape the future and the decisions that we make going forward will have an impact. If we can educate ourselves , be open to discussion, and agree on the most basic concept of what’s good for our planet, maybe we can avoid the same fate as the characters of Don’t Look Up.
“We really did have everything” - Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan)