Spoiler alert! The following post discusses important plot points and the ending of “Don’t Look Up.”
With his Netflix doomsday comedy “Don’t Look Up,” writer/director Adam McKay (“Vice”) posits how the American public would react to a planet-killing comet hurtling our way. (Spoiler: It would be kind of the same way we’ve respondedto a pandemic: not great!)
In the new film (now streaming), Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence play astronomers trying to warn America about the imminent apocalypse. But they’re met with distracted indifference about the incoming space body – at least until it sparks division along political lines, including comet deniers. McKay doesn’t mess around with taking his theory to a very destructive conclusion – and, as it turns out, beyond.
In addition to a galaxy of stars including Ariana Grande, Meryl Streep, Ron Perlman, Mark Rylance and Jonah Hill, McKay’s satire is full of increasingly crazy sequences. Here are the five best and nuttiest of the bunch:
President Meryl Streep is not a big fan of facts
After Michigan State professor Randall Mindy (DiCaprio) and PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky (Lawrence) predict the large comet’s direct hit on Earth in six months and 14 days, they and Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office (which is a real thing!) go to the White House to tell President Janie Orlean (Streep) about this extinction-level event.
However, she and her people – including her idiot chief-of-staff son, Jason (Jonah Hill) – couldn’t care less. Randall warns the comet has “the power of a million Hiroshima bombs,” but Orlean dismisses the dire threat since midterm elections are three weeks later, and this kind of news would lead her party to lose control of Congress. “I say we sit tight and access,” a grinning Orlean says, leaving the brainiacs in the room shocked and awed.
The USA fails to ‘Armageddon’ the situation
Eventually, the government can’t ignore the fact the fact that a comet’s headed our way. When a brewing sex scandal involving the president and her disaster of a Supreme Court nominee (a former nude model) threatens her approval ratings, Orlean sends a racist mercenary “war hero” (Perlman) into space to blow the comet off course as a PR move. But his Space Shuttle literally turns around, and the mission is scrapped, when super-weird tech guru Peter Isherwell (Rylance,channeling Steve Jobs) discovers the comet contains trillions of dollarsworth of precious materials used to make cellphones.
The new plan: send up drones to explode the comet into manageable pieces that land on Earth and then mined so rich people can get richer. Kate accidentally tells a shrimp restaurant full of customers what’s happening, and ends up causing a riot.
Leonardo DiCaprio has his ‘Network’ moment
After their first White House meeting, Kate and Randall go to New York City to leak the comet news. They’re booked on a morning show and the smiley hosts (Cate Blanchett and Tyler Perry) don’t take them seriously, either: Pop star Riley Bina’s engagement (Grande) to her ex, DJ Chello (Scott Mescudi, aka Kid Cudi), is much more interesting. Kate freaks out on air and becomes a meme, but Randall (whose favorables are off the charts) is labeled “America’s sexiest scientist.”
Later, the married professor becomes a media phenomenon, has an affair with Blanchett’s character and becomes Orlean’s chief science advisor, until he sees how completely unscientific Isherwell’s plan really is. Randall then goes back on the show and launches into a curse-filled screamfest that’ll feel familiar to fans of the “I’m mad as hell” rant from “Network”: “If we can’t all agree at a bare minimum that a giant comet the size of Mount Everest, hurtling its way toward planet Earth. is not a (really) good thing, then what the hell happened to us?!”
Ariana Grande performs an apocalyptic anthem
Just weeks before impact, the comet’s divided America: Those who can see it in the sky join the #JustLookUp movement and come to grips with their fate, while in response, Orlean leads a right-wing fake-news campaign with the slogan “Don’t Look Up.”
She doesn’t have a young pop diva in her corner, though. At the “For Real Last Concert to Save the World,” Riley debuts a pop song alongside Chello called “Just Look Up,” a cleverly written, over-the-top bop with lyrics like “Get your head out of your (butt), listen to the goddamn qualified scientists/We really (messed) it up, (messed) it up this time.” (Fun fact: It’s shortlisted for the original song Oscar so it’s bound to earworm you now or later.)
Folks get a comeuppance several millennia in the making
When Isherwell and Orlean’s last-minute comet-splitting mission fails miserably, Randall’s family hosts a last “thanksgiving” with Kate and her new skater boyfriend (Timothée Chalamet) as the comet wipes out everything.
Meanwhile, Isherwell and Orlean board a spaceship (with 2,000 other wealthy people) programmed to find the nearest inhabitable planet. The ship floats through space as the credits begin to roll, and 22,740 years later, it lands in a new home. The naked bunch of survivors walk out and Orlean (whose bare butt is a body double, for the record, not Streep’s) goes to touch a cute and colorful ostrich-like creature. The thing then eats her face and kills her. Whatever you do, don’t pet them!” Isherwell says as a hungry pack of these beasts surrounds them.
The film catches up with one more character at the very end: Jason Orlean, whose mom left him behind on Earth, somehow emerges from the rubble with smartphone in hand. “What’s up, y’all? I’m the last man on earth,” he wearily says while streaming to absolutely no one. “(Stuff’s) all (messed) up. Be sure to like and subscribe.”