Don’t Look Up: Flawed, entertaining, too long

Kind of like The Power of the Dog was my third experience with Jane Campion, Don’t Look Up was my third foray into Adam McKay.

Or, rather, my third foray into Oscar-nominated Adam McKay films. I’ve also seen some of his work from before he was critically acclaimed including both Anchorman and Stepbrothers. (In a nutshell: Not a fan of the former but though the latter was pretty funny.)

When stacking the three Oscar nominated movies against each other, I thought Don’t Look Up was better than Vice but didn’t live up to the standard set by The Big Short. I learned recently that The Big Short is based on a book by Michael Lewis, and I think having some source material to rein him in probably did McKay some favors. Because his follow-ups to that first nominated movie have been…kind of annoying?

There are parts of Don’t Look Up I really enjoyed. There are parts that even made me laugh out loud. But this move is two and a half hours long and that is at least an hour too long. In general, I think satire is hard to maintain for a long story because it can get old fast. And if you’re doing really nice pointed commentary, you probably don’t need two and a half hours to do it. (Prove me wrong if you have a good counter example!)

This particular movie does not need to be two and a half hours long.

My spouse and I sat down to watch this and initially we had a pretty enjoyable time. The beginning is kind of a romp. There are some good jokes. Then, the story hit a point where we thought it was probably about over. I checked my phone to make sure.

Comet streaking across night sky over cliff face and water.
I, for one, welcome our new overlord, the planet destroyer.

There was over an hour left in the movie.

We promptly turned the TV off and went to bed.

When we finished the movie the next night, my main complaint was that it was too long. Most of my favorite bits making digs were taking aim capitalism. I completely believe that if a planet destroying comet were streaking toward earth, some tech company would claim they could get minerals off it that would make people a lot of money. That completely tracked.

Afterward, I did some light reading on the movie and learned that the comet is a metaphor for climate change. I couldn’t tell if the fact that I hadn’t realized that made me dumb. Maybe. But one of the critics I listened to made me feel a little better on this front when he argued that the metaphor isn’t a particularly good one.

A comet hurtling toward the earth that will hit in six months and kill us all is a different kind of threat than slight changes in global temperature that are happening on a much longer timeframe. Plus the effects of climate change are much messier and more opaque. We’re seeing those effects now, but they’ve been happening for years and a lot of us are just starting to connect the dots. Plus, for a long time, people didn’t think they were going to have to deal with the fallout on climate change so there seemed to be no immediate incentive to prevent it. (Joke’s on us there.)

I think if I had known the intent was to comment on climate change going in, I might have had different opinions watching the movie. And, honestly, I think they would have initially been more critical.

After sitting with it for awhile, my opinions are not super favorable. Not because I actively dislike the movie but because I saw it a couple months ago and haven’t really thought about it since. (This is partially because some of the other nominees for Best Picture have taken up much more of my brain space.)

But I will give the movie credit for writing an original story and trying to say something. I do love it when original screenplays get made into films. (Exhibit A in this case being Knives Out.)

It’s just that maybe this one shouldn’t have been nominated for an Oscar.

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