Contributing writer for The Artifice.
Junior Contributor I
Does Don't Look Up do it's job as a satire?
Adam McKay, one of the great modern comedy feature writers (Step Brothers, The Big Short, Anchorman), has stirred up controversy with his latest Oscar nominated feature, Don’t Look Up. In a world that appears to be going more and more insane with each passing day, the premise of Don’t Look Up should be the type of concept that resonates with the majority of the population. And looking at its success with the Oscar nomination and its popularity on Netflix, clearly it did. It narrowly missed the streaming service’s record for the highest watch time of a film in its opening 28 days, at 360 million hours.
So then, how does a film this so well-perceived by the Academy and popular with the masses manage just 55% on Rotten Tomatoes, 49% on Metacritic, and a relatively underwhelming 7.2 IMDb? The feature isn’t perfect, and perhaps the star-studded cast and wealth of talent behind the scenes had some expecting the impossible. But gripes over story and weren’t what prompted such an adverse response from reviewers. Something else that’s rubbed a portion of viewers the wrong way. In creating this satire, Adam McKay poked the bear and pissed off the very people he’s trying to appeal to: climate change deniers. Negative reviews of this film almost always circle back to the same critique, which is the perception that McKay is attempting to preach true knowledge to his (it’s not exclusive to them, but for simplicity’s sake) conservative audience that they are laughably naïve and easily swayed by politicians that would sacrifice them in a heartbeat to turn a profit.
To come to a conclusive judgement on whether Don’t Look Up hits or misses the mark of a great satire, we must do an objective deep dive into its character. Does it hit too close to home for people to accept, or is it simply so absurd that we can’t help but laugh at it, and not in the way McKay intended?