In Adam McKay’s Netflix Pre-Apocalyptic Film, Don’t Look Up, the entire planet is about to be destroyed, but no one is taking the warning seriously. The humans are busy building their media image, fulfilling their capitalistic agenda, and most importantly, winning elections. The film quickly sets up the conflict as it introduces the impending chaos. Two underdog astronomers, Dr. Randall Mindy and Kate Dibiasky discover a comet that will strike Earth in 6 months. The duo struggles to warn their government about the impending danger, but their warnings are “comically” ignored.
Through the rib-tickling ‘Don’t Look Up,’ writer-director Adam McKay depicts a satirical narrative with a moving message in the end. Let’s explore the film in depth.
‘Don’t Look Up’ Plot Summary
Dr. Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio) is an astronomy professor at Michigan State University. One night, a Ph.D. candidate, Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence), spots a comet (Comet Dibiasky, named after Kate) in the outermost part of the solar system. As Randall tries to calculate its distance from the Earth, he figures out that the five to ten kilometers wide comet is headed directly towards the Earth. It will hit the planet in six months and 14 days, causing an apocalyptic event.
Randall quickly informs the Kennedy Space Center about the comet. Jocelyn Calder connects Randall to Dr. Teddy Oglethorpe (Rob Morgan), head of the Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Oglethorpe understands the gravity of the situation and quickly calls Randall and Kate to Washington, DC, to have an emergency meeting with Janie Orlean (Meryl Streep), the President of United States.
President Janie and her son, Chief of Staff Jason (Jonah Hill), mock the three Musketeers, Kate, Randall, and Oglethorpe, and disregard their “the world is ending” warning. After the trio failed to convince the president, they presented their findings to The New York Herald. The editor casts Randall and Kate on “The Daily Rip,” a pop-culture gossip show. However, the hosts, Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer try to sugarcoat the warning to make it suitable for the viewers. Kate gets hysterical and swears on the live show. The internet-wannabes turn Kate’s genuine warning into a trending meme that diminishes all their possibilities to warn humanity of impending annihilation. The world will undoubtedly end, and only Randall and Kate can save it. But will anyone listen to them?
Major Spoilers Ahead
Why Did President Janie Orlean Sabotage the Strike on Comet Dibiasky?
Presidents are obsessed with winning “elections,” and they will go to any length to avoid defeat. President Janie Orlean sent obscene pictures to her Supreme Court nominee, Sheriff Conlon, who was already a part of an ongoing investigation. The media targeted the president, and thus, to save herself from scandal and divert media attention, Janie announced the preemptive strike on Comet Dibiasky. She projected the image of a president “who cares” and decided to use nuclear explosives to destroy the comet.
The missile could have been launched with remote technology, but Janie wanted to brand a hero. She brought a racist war hero, Benedict Drask (Ron Perlman), who took command of the mission “American Savior” in full Star Wars mode. Janie organized a grand fireworks display for her countrymen because only extravagance helps win elections. On the launch day, missiles and the space shuttle were successfully launched. But before they left Earth’s atmosphere, someone in authority had a change of heart.
Peter Isherwell (Mark Rylance), CEO of cellphone company BASH and the third richest man, was the Platinum Eagle level donor for Janie’s election campaign. His team of intellectual idiots discovered valuable mineral deposits on the comet Dibiasky. These minerals would have given them a technological advantage over their arch-nemesis, China. And thus, to fulfill his capitalistic agenda, Peter decided to break down the comet into smaller meteoroids with the help of advanced, untested drones called BEAD. Evidently, Janie couldn’t refuse Peter’s life-threatening mineral harvesting plan “because who would have funded her election campaign otherwise? Everyone failed to see that there would be no more men, land, or elections left to exploit once the comet destroyed the planet.
‘Don’t Look Up’ Ending, Explained – Why did BEADs Mission Fail?
Peter Isherwell had illegally stored the users’ data who used his BASH cellphones. Well, realistic enough. Through this data, Peter manipulated or threatened people who raised their voices against him. Though he was light-spoken, his actions were extremely tyrannical. Characters like Peter, Janie, Brie, and Jack were all concerned about their public image and, thus, instead of speaking the truth, they “manipulated the truth.” They sugarcoated everything because humans today don’t want to face harsh realities.
On the other hand, Kate and Randall just wanted people to take the warnings seriously. They tried to say things that were scary but were real. But humans weren’t ready to face reality. They loved their bubble, cellphone realities, music videos, and whatnot. The generation that was more concerned about the breakup and marriage of a pop singer had already triggered their doom.
When Randall shared his concern about the scientific peer-review process of BEADs, Peter threatened Randall with user data he had illegally collected on him from 1993. Peter told Randall that he would die alone and that his death would be unremarkable and dull. Throughout the film, Randall, an underdog, desired some recognition for his work, and Peter’s prophecy of his death based on algorithms broke something inside Randall. Randall had cheated on his wife, June, and lost his family. Thus, he decided to make amends.
Randall told the media that the BEADs mission could fail and the comet would lead to their extinction, but no one paid heed to his warnings. Randall, Kate, and other conscious citizens sought help from other nations. However, after a massive explosion at the Russian Baikonur launch complex, BEADs became their last hope.
Somehow, Randall felt that a survival mission in the hands of fascist and stupid leaders was meant to fail. The end was inevitable, so he decided to spend his last moments with his closest ones. During the BEADs mission, the drones exploded while cutting the comet into small meteoroids. In his egotistical pride, Peter and his team of Nobel laureates refused to get a scientific peer-review of the drones. The intellectual idiots, blinded by their own knowledge, failed to foresee the impending doom. Extinction could have been avoided, lives could have been saved, but some people wanted to be greedy and become rich.
The comet was too close to Earth’s orbit, and it became too late for another strike mission to save the Earth. Doom was at the doorstep.
Peter Isherwell and Janie Orlean, along with other rich dudes, escaped from Earth on a spaceship, set out to find another Earth-like planet that they could destroy. Janie asked Randall to come along, but he refused to join them. He wanted to spend the last moments with his family and refused to leave anyone behind for his own survival. He wasn’t as greedy as Peter and Janie. In her greed and struggle to save her own soul, Janie even left behind her only son, Jason, in the BASH HQ.
The comet hit planet Earth, leading to the mass extinction of all living beings.
‘Don’t Look Up’ Credits and Post Credits Scene Explained
In the end credits sequence of Don’t Look Up, Peter’s spaceship found an Earth-like planet in the Goldilocks Zone, and their cryo-chambers landed on the planet’s surface. As they came out of their pods, they sighted eight-legged animals with features Peter believed were called Bronteroc. The Bronteroc attacked Janie with its beak and killed her on the new planet. The fates of other humans seemed dark as well. The Bronteroc would probably kill them all, or they would have to live in hiding for their survival.
Peter accurately prophesied the death of Janie based on algorithms, but in Randall’s case, he was wrong. The tech genius failed to understand the mystery and magic of human transformation. Randall realized his mistake and sought forgiveness from the people he loved. Hence, he didn’t die alone. Instead, he died with his close ones around him, sharing joy and blessings that pseudo-intellectuals like Peter might never be able to understand.
The post-credit sequence of Don’t Look Up showed that Janie’s son, Jason, survived the apocalyptic event and probably became the last man on Earth. He requested his dead fans, with no cellular connectivity, to subscribe to his profile and check out his new survival selfie. Because that’s the most important thing to do during an apocalypse.
Don’t Look Up is a 2021 Pre-Apocalyptic Comedy Film written and directed by Adam McKay. It is streaming on Netflix.