Look Up, Down and Everywhere

So I finally got some time to watch “Don’t Look Up.” Most of the reviews I’ve seen that come from the Business As Usual/American Way of Life/Endless Growth advocates dismiss it due to obvious conflicts of interest. Most of the smarmy, overly-positive reviews come from “Green” Tech advocates – the other side of the same conflict of interest coin – yes, coin is the operative word! I also found it lacking- from a Biocentric, Power Down/People Down/Consumption Down perspective.

The many de rigueur comparisons to Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove are just criminal! Not even close. The Ron Perlman character is a pathetic attempt at mimicking a composite Gen. Buck Turgidson, Brigadier General Jack D. Ripper and Maj. T.J. “King” Kong!

My main takeaway – now we need something similar with a clearly Democratic President and a Democratic Party pimping endless growth with all the same lies, etc. I think making Meryl Streep’s president an obvious Trumpist narcissist (with Jackson’s and Nixon’s Portraits on the Oval Office wall and her own Donald “Uday” Trump, Jr., son, as Chief of Staff, no less) gives smug Pius-driving liberals the chance to, well, be smug and ignore the message just as much as the 90% stupid people the film seems to think is the ignore ratio. I guarantee there will be little in the way of the film instigating lifestyle corrections from the film’s loudest liberal supporters. They’ll be (and are) jetting around the planet spewing carbon, as usual. (Uday, however, does utter some of the film’s best lines.)

The best part of it? Cate Blanchett’s role just nailed the materialistic, ecocidal shallowness of US Culture. Steals the show, imo. (Another Best Supporting Oscar may well be on tap. A Nomination is assured.)

There also would be way more people who would respond like the comet’s discoverer, Kate Dibiasky, from the get go. Like Greta Thunberg, whom she is clearly a stand-in for, she’d have an army of supporters. There would immediately be huge protests and government crackdowns.

Three “inferior” countries’ last gasp planet-saving efforts literally don’t even get off the ground! All three countries – China, Russia and India – were cut out of the spoils to come from mining the comet, of course.

The overwhelming anthropocentrism is also a huge flaw. Only the threat to or greed of humans mattered. There are more non-human (though non-terrestrial) animals in that last scene than in the entire rest of the movie.

I liked that smarmy eCon/Bezos/Branson/Zuck “Green” Tech/Social Media Billionaire character best – actually, the most believable of them all. Another friend (also named Michael Donnelly – there’s a pack of us) notes that the billionaire reminded him of Marshall Applewhite Jr. the leader of the Heaven’s Gate cult – right down to the refusal to look anyone in the eyes or have them look him in the eyes! The comet aspect adds to the connection, as 39 cult members, including Applewhite, committed ritualistic suicide believing that would be their ticket to another planet on a spaceship that the cult believed was following Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997.

There also would be no way the narcissist president would have invited the scientist on the billionaires’ escape rocket. I doubt the fat cats would even have invited her! And just how lame was that escape plan anyway? Not only did a huge number of them die en route, the requisite worker drones were all in one pod that disintegrates before landing. And, who in hell would step out on an unknown planet buck naked with no weapons?

I liked it, was entertained, laughed out loud, loved some of the clever references and was very pleased that, as is the actual terrestrial case, the mining and greed are based on “Green” tech rare metal extraction. The acting is good (though nowhere near on par with Strangelove’s). But, I also found the film mediocre overall. Too much over-the-top farce passing as clever satire for me.

It’s scattershot messaging will NOT lead to any major reordering of our carbon-intensive – what Dick Cheney called our – “non-negotiable American Way of Life.” Neither will it change the minds of the Endless Growth advocates; won’t change the rush to extract minerals from and cover over more habitat for electrons; won’t end new Oil Leases or end our tens of billions in subsidies for the billionaires’ “Green” energy scams, rockets and other space junk any more than Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” did.

Since Gore’s film appeared in 2006, atmospheric carbon pollution has risen inexorably from 382.09 parts per million (ppm) to 414.24ppm at the end of 2020 and NASA projects it to rise to 419.5ppm by the end of this year and to 900ppm by end of the Century, despite COVID.

It was already over the 350ppm that scientists say is the top number this version of Earth can endure when McKibben chose 350 as his clearly ineffective organization’s name. By the time 15 more years have passed without any real personal and government course correction, it will be over 454ppm.

Look up, down and everywhere. Buckle Up.

PS: Nice to see Michigan State astronomers get some love. (Though, admittedly it’s been a long time since I walked to class there on a sunny, zero degree windy day; that scene where Kate gets grabbed by the FBI on campus looks like some other U to me.)

PPS: never did find out just why the General ripped off the scientists for the free White House snacks.

MICHAEL DONNELLY has been an environmental activist since before that first Earth Day. He was in the thick of the Pacific Northwest Ancient Forest Campaign; garnering some collective victories and lamenting numerous defeats. He can be reached at pahtoo@aol.com