Review of “Don’t Look Up”

This past week I watched the movie “Don’t Look Up.” The quick summary is that two low-level scientists discover a comet that is headed straight for earth and its impact would destroy all life. They are met with resistance, “meh”, and spin with a “Don’t look up” rally. The world is destroyed in the end because no one listened when they should of.

First off, there’s a ton of talent in this movie. You can see the list of stars who participated in the film. Pretty impressive to gather that many stars all in one movie, especially since it’s not a Marvel Movie.

Second, the movie is listed as a comedy. There aren’t many laugh out loud moments. I think it’s listed as comedy because it takes life and stretches it a bit. Although not too far. As one comedian put it this week – We’re at the stupid stage of human history. I did appreciate the humor that ran through the film – especially Kate trying to figure out why a three star general would charge her and her colleagues for free snacks.

But most of the humor is pretty dark – more of a scathing indictment than humor. It was actually quite maddening and sad at the same time watching the film. Maddening because the film portrays the stubbornness that exists in our nation – refusal to do anything that goes beyond our personal enjoyment. Maddening because of the outright abuse and exploitation that exists in our systems. Sad because the people who should watch this won’t.

Watching this drew me to Scripture actually. I was reminded of Isaiah 5 where God speaks through the prophet:

Ah, you who drag iniquity along with cords of falsehood,
   who drag sin along as with cart-ropes, 
who say, ‘Let him make haste,
   let him speed his work
   that we may see it;
let the plan of the Holy One of Israel hasten to fulfilment,
   that we may know it!’ 
Ah, you who call evil good
   and good evil,
who put darkness for light
   and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
   and sweet for bitter! 
Ah, you who are wise in your own eyes,
   and shrewd in your own sight! 
Ah, you who are heroes in drinking wine
   and valiant at mixing drink, 
who acquit the guilty for a bribe,
   and deprive the innocent of their rights!

(Isaiah 5:18-23, NRSV).

You can substitute in Woe for Ah to get the effect.

This is a movie that shouts “Woe to you…”

And there is no good news in this film. I think that’s part of the challenge with it. It’s designed to be uncomfortable, to be maddening, to be sad. The creator of it wants you to feel that way so that you’ll do something in response. If it ended with a happy ending, then it would have relieved the tension for you. You could slink away feeling good about yourself and the world. They don’t want you to feel that way. They want you uncomfortable. Because the situation we face is. Our reality is coming apart at the scenes.

Woe to us. But will we do anything? We haven’t yet. Could a film possibly cause people to wake up?

Climate Change and weather disasters, gun violence especially with youth being killed, corruption, lies, profits over people, resistance to mitigation efforts for a contagious virus, threats of war, violence, abuse, brokenness, etc., etc., etc. These are the things that we face. Maybe we turn away because it’s just too much to face all at once. But that is reality.

The difference between “Don’t look up” and Christianity is the sense of hope. The movie offers no hope. Or rather hope that humanity will change. My hope isn’t in humanity changing on its own. The only change that comes is because God changes us, transforms us. It’s similar to the description about prayer that I’ve read before – first you pray, then you act.

I did appreciate the small element of faith in the film. An unlikely character expresses his faith by leading those gathered in prayer for a final meal together. This was actually my favorite part of the film. A sort of last supper. The most authentic part of life coming out – being together is what matters, not fame, fortune, being right, pleasure, etc. Just relationships that matter, and putting oneself in the hands of God. In that sense, there was hope in this film.

Not hope in humanity, but hope in God. Because too often humanity doesn’t offer a bright future. But God always does.

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