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Monday, January 3, 2022

Don't Look Up (2021) Netflix Movie Honest and Full Review: Spoiler

Don't Look Up (2021) Netflix Movie Honest and Full Review

Quick Glance

Director: Adam McKay

Writers: Adam McKay(screenplay by)  David Sirota(story by)

Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio  Jennifer Lawrence  Meryl Streep

IMBD Rating: 7.3/10

Gener: Comedy  Drama  Sci-Fi

Don't look up is the new movie that just dropped on Netflix and in theaters, it's an unusual, almost a weird movie, but it's incredibly timely and it focuses on what I think is one of the most important issues of our time. 

It involves science and communication with the public so it's right up our alley. I'm gonna try not to drop too many spoilers but we're gonna be talking about the movie, about several of the scenes, so if you haven't seen it and you want to go in completely naive maybe pause this, go watch it first and then come back. 

StoryLine & Movie Review

The story revolves around an impending disaster: a huge comet hurtling towards earth that will basically destroy all life "this comet is what we call a planet killer".The movie follows the two scientists who discovered the comet and figured out its trajectory. 

A professor in astronomy played by Leonardo DiCaprio and his graduate student played by Jennifer Lawrence. A lot of the tension and the comedy comes from this cultural clash, these two academics, these two nerds, basically trying to communicate the terrible news to the public and really struggling to get anybody to take them seriously. 

In one of the scenes, they're about to go on tv to finally break the news to the public and this government official is giving the astronomer some advice, saying 'look, you want to state things very clearly and remember, no math!'.And the scientist, very exasperated as the train doors shut, says 'but it's all math!'. 

So that's one of the running themes, the scientists are terrible communicators and the public isn't really listening. the two academics face three main barriers when it comes to conveying their message. The first one is politics. 

They actually get called to the white house to brief the president and in the movie, they made the president a woman which is really cool, unfortunately, they also made her a complete fool. Merryl Streep plays a ditzy politician who only cares about her political image, the midterms, and the optics. 

Merryl Streep plays a ditzy politician

Much of the comic relief also comes from jonah hill who plays a spoiled, out-of-touch advisor who just happens to be the president's son. 

I thought the movie was really funny although, in my opinion, the comedy loses a little bit of punch because the story is so close to reality the second barrier to communication of scientific information in economics and corporate interests, represented by a steve jobs-like tech visionary that only cares about his company and his profits and the third barrier is competing for the public's short attention span the scientists manage to go on a popular tv show but the social media reactions focus on how dreamy the astronomer is and how crazy and unhinged the graduate student seemed. 

Memes and remix videos go viral but they almost never focus on the substance of the message the scientists are trying to deliver to humanity. Throughout the movie, the public keeps getting pulled in every direction except the one that matters. 

Celebrity gossip, pseudoscientific denial of the facts, and constant politicizing of the science.Every distraction under the sun. Eventually, the comet becomes visible to the naked eye and by this point, the scientists are becoming a bit more communication savvy so they start a campaign called 'just look up'. 

Politicians immediately hit back with a counter-campaign called 'don't look up'. Very transparent satire of denial of facts as if not looking just makes bad things magically go away but so common in our society from covid to climate change denial. 


My favorite part of the whole movie is that they made the scientists very human, very flawed. The movie did not make the mistake of portraying the scientists as all-wise sages sitting atop a mountain dishing out pearls of knowledge. 

The two academics have very poor social skills and the professor has a crippling level of anxiety. He ends up getting distracted just like the public. Over the course of the movie, he continuously gets seduced, both figuratively and literally, by all the shining lights around him. 

He has an affair with a tv anchor, he struggles to control himself during a critical launch operation and he even ends up selling out and featuring in corporate propaganda. 

Now, I'm not going to spoil the ending for you, I'll just say it's not the typical Hollywood ending that came as a pleasant surprise. To me this movie hits very close to home because everything we do here is about science communication, trying to bring science directly to the public. 

How do you make a world of bar graphs and p-values and confidence intervals and communicate that in an engaging way to a general audience? The information can be completely life-changing but if we can't package the story in a digestible way nobody cares. 

We see that very clearly in my field of medicine, with an epidemic of largely preventable chronic disease just ravaging western society. We have the solutions but we can't communicate them effectively. And we see it of course with this pandemic, that has now killed millions of people all over the world. 

Many of those deaths, probably most of those deaths, are preventable. Scientists have come up with a number of vaccines in record time and we can't get a large chunk of the population immunized. First scientists warned us that letting the virus circulate through an unvaccinated population would beget more aggressive variants, and sure enough, we got delta. 

Then scientists told us you've got to vaccinate everybody, not just the rich countries because variants will arise in Africa, in other parts of the world and then they'll make their way over here and sure enough we've got omicron, that started in Africa and now it's here wreaking havoc. 

Currently, 73 percent of covid cases in the US are omicron. So the crazy comet movie with DiCaprio, not that far from reality. If we can't figure out how to get politics and greed and ideology out of the way, we don't stand a chance against viruses or climate change, or the obesity epidemic. 


And scientists bear a massive responsibility to improve their communication skills. Tell people the truth without patronizing, without sugar-coating, treat the public as adults.


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