Netflix’s Don’t Look Up is the star-studded satirical black comedy that mirrors society on what many see as an allegory of the collective inaction of world leaders in the face of an imminent but somewhat abstract existential threat: climate change.
The film replaces this very real crisis with a fictional comet with a point blank trajectory towards Earth. Meryl Streep portrays US President Orleans, who denies that this is a legitimate threat due to conflicting political interests and plays down the looming catastrophe throughout the film. Two exhausted scientists making the discovery, Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dr Randall Mindy and Jennifer Lawrence’s Kate Dibiasky, must take it upon themselves to convey the importance of doing something before all of humanity is wiped out, despite the overwhelming indifference of the public.
While the film has found audiences fairly well, scoring a solid 77% audience score on the global reviewer site Rotten Tomatoes, the critical score on that same site is “rotten”, hitting just 55%.
However, despite this, the film was nonetheless praised by many climate scientists, such as a recent Forbes piece underlined.
Many scientists researching the climate crisis have tweeted their reaction to the film, such as marine biologist Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson. Johnson wrote: “I have never felt so good” seeing DeCaprio and Lawrence warn of an impending apocalypse and “grinning, anxious and nervous sweat” at the scenes of malignant apathy their characters receive in response.
Julia K. Steinberger, professor of social ecology and ecological economics, also questioned whether the film would allow political leaders and media figures around the world to “recognize themselves” as “cheerleaders of the apocalypse. Macabre.
An oceanographer and climatologist, David Ho, also pointed out how the film highlighted the unfairly bad wrap that non-Ivy League school teachers often receive simply for working at a public university.
And scientist Peter Gleick, a fellow of the US National Academy of Sciences and winner of the Carl Sagan Prize for Popular Science, reiterated his premonitory message, also featured in the film, that “There is a reason why which every disaster movie begins with the government ignoring a scientist. “
It should be noted that although the film is fictional and the aforementioned scientists who gave their reactions on Twitter work in a different field of study than astronomy – the field of interest of the film – the producer of Do not seek hired someone with expertise in this area to add some authenticity to the film.
It turns out that writer-director Adam McKay hired well-known astronomer Dr Amy Mainzer as the film’s consultant to make the scenes about the science and the challenges that come with it as realistic as possible, according to Universe Today.
The professor at the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona is actually one of the leading scientists in asteroid detection and planetary defense.
Many moviegoers have interpreted the themes of societal denial of pending and scientifically proven threats as a critical allegory of the response to climate change and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Mainzer explained that the film “has a lot to do with how we as a society take news of science and respond to it.”
âFor me, the film is about how scientists try to take what we learn about the world and pass that knowledge on to everyone so that decisions can be made based on science. It is a really difficult thing to do. But at the end of the day, this movie is a comedy and I hope people who see it laugh a little bit at how all of us – as we try to do our best – don’t always get it right.
Do not seek is on Netflix now.