What the success of ‘Don’t look up’ explains about current cinema | Culture

A president alter ego of Donald Trump, a world that ignores scientists and a technology guru who only thinks about making the most of misfortunes. With those wickers, Don’t look up by Adam McKay, hit theaters two weeks ago and on Netflix on Christmas Eve: the platform bought it from Paramount in April 2020, just when its filming had been postponed to November of that year due to global confinement, and according to its data , last Tuesday he was already leading his service in 94 countries. By the way, satire has become a topic of conversation on the networks: for four days it was trending topic.

All this, despite the unanimity of negative reviews, and hooked on a cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence, but which also contains popular names for different generations of Internet users: Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Mark Rylance, Tyler Perry ( megastar in the US, not so popular outside his country), Timothée Chalamet, Ariana Grande and Kid Cudi. This list covers the ages of any social media user and family members who have seen the film on the platform. By the way, Netflix assures that it has already obtained 111 million hours viewed with it, although, as usual, it does not give more data or specify the box office figures in its previous passage through theaters. In Spain, according to the ICAA, the body that governs cinema within the Ministry of Culture and Sports, has sold 1,825 tickets since its premiere, which in collection represents 12,641.04 euros.

The plot of Don’t look up It begins when an astronomy doctoral student, Jennifer Lawrence, discovers a 9-kilometer-long comet heading straight for Earth. Together with his teacher and mentor (DiCaprio), they warn NASA, and the space agency in turn to the president of the United States, scared at that time by a greater political threat: the mid-term elections that can change the majorities of the Congress and Senate of your country. There are only six months left to save the planet, and the rulers do not seem to realize the urgency. Beyond the scientific aspect, which Javier Salas reviews in the Matter section of EL PAÍS, credible about an asteroid hitting Earth (McKay had the advice of the astronomer Amy Mainzer, a specialist in these celestial bodies), much more doubtful In the way in which the discovery is communicated and in how people react to it, the director warns that his objective is another: the political and social inability to listen to scientific truths, extrapolated to global warming.

Director Adam McKay, with Jennifer Lawrence, on the set of 'Don't Look Up'
Director Adam McKay, with Jennifer Lawrence, on the set of ‘Don’t Look Up’

McKay, who had already made previous political films with comic overtones such as The big bet (2015), on the bursting of the real estate bubble, and The vice of power (2018), the biography of Dick Cheney, George W. Bush’s vice president, handled a handful of ideas to write a script on climate change, until in January 2019 he gave up. “How to tell this story, the largest in 66 million years, since the impact of Comet Chicxulub, which exterminated the dinosaurs, more than the Black Death or the eruption of Krakatoa?” Its producer, David Sirota, a journalist who advised Bernie Sanders in the 2020 election campaign, insisted on how the media does not react to the government’s inaction on global warming. “A meteor could hit Earth and no one would seem to understand it,” he told her, and McKay changed the world disaster.

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Interestingly, McKay and Sirota are convinced Democrats, and despite filling in clues Don’t look up about his ideological position, many network users have not understood. Meryl Streep suffered in 2017 the attack of Donald Trump, who described her as an “overrated actress”, and McKay’s response was to characterize her as president with Trump’s manners, speech and even red caps; a portrait of Richard Nixon hangs in its White House. After several hairstyle tests, Streep was left with the one that she felt closest to republican blondes. And the script is full of phrases with an ideological background: “They want to steal your freedom!”, Say the defenders of #NoMiresArriba, the hashtag promoted by the president’s followers, a message to dismiss the obvious danger. The statement has found a special echo in Spain, and even more so in the Community of Madrid, and is riveted by what the astronomer hears from her mother: “Your father and I are in favor of the job that the comet will create.”

The media are not doing well either. The industry had already been the object of derision by McKay in his prime years as a filmmaker, when he collaborated with Will Ferrel, on The Reporter: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and its continuation, The masters of the news (2013). Spanish social networks have also vibrated with the curious and unexpected similarity in tone and physique between Brie Evantee – a character played by Cate Blanchett – and the Antena 3 journalist Susanna Griso. So much so that Netflix Spain made a joke about it last Tuesday, April Fools’ day, on its Twitter account.

Neither does the sector good-natured It comes out well: its most striking action consists of a concert starring the singer Riley Bina, played by Ariana Grande. Still, many conservative and denial netizens think that Don’t look up supports his ideas, confirmation that each viewer sees what they want to see, said McKay, who insists that in current US politics “neither party has much to be proud of in the last 40 years.”

It’s hard to tell if a movie like Don’t look up gives benefits to Netflix. According to his figures, the film’s budget reached 75 million dollars (66.8 million euros), an amount that seems doubtful, since DiCaprio collected 30 million dollars (about 26.5 million euros) and Lawrence, Despite the fact that their name appears first in the credit titles, 25 million dollars (about 22 million euros) – usually they both earn about 20 million dollars, 17.65 million euros. Meryl Streep’s average salary is close to 24 million dollars (more than 21 million euros), and the rest of the actors, McKay’s salary and the production itself have yet to be added: the accounts do not come out. Only one other movie in theaters can match this cast: Spider-Man: No Way Home, which features Tom Holland, Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire as the Three Spider-Men, and with Zendaya, Jamie Foxx, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfred Molina, Marisa Tomei, Willem Dafoe and Jon Favreau completing the lineup. What is the highest grossing film in the world in 2021 (it already has more than 1,000 million dollars) works commercially in a triple aspect: it belongs to the Avengers / Marvel world, it is another adventure of the arachnid superhero and according to a study of the company PostTrak, 43% of its viewers on the weekend of its US premiere mentioned the cast as the main factor to buy tickets: half of them specifically cited Zendaya, a star for the young generation.

The more the merrier

So the stars still matter, although they are not a determining factor: the disaster at the box office in the United States of The alley of lost souls by Guillermo del Toro (with Bradley Cooper, Cate Blanchett, Toni Collette, Willem Dafoe, Richard Jenkins, Rooney Mara, Mary Steenburgen and David Strathairn) reaches epic status, after grossing from its premiere on December 17 to Tuesday 28 ni six million dollars (it has cost ten times as much). It may be that against him it is a drama with notes of thriller for adults, while the majority of viewers in the United States of Spider-Man they do not reach 34 years (according to their distributor, Sony) and Don’t look up is a satire for the whole family.

The 'Don't Look Up' Oval Office.
The ‘Don’t Look Up’ Oval Office.

On Netflix they do believe in the idea of ​​a more distribution, and have bought the two continuations of Daggers in the back. Or that the marketing The film industry has changed: Ariana Grande has more than 286 million followers on Instagram, a network far from hate that exudes Twitter and much more youthful than Facebook.

TV ads or promotions in traditional media are no longer so important, but what specialists call “adding niches”: achieving stories with castings of all ages, which also include celebrities who drag viewers before the screen heterogeneous. As Telecinco does in Spain, the platform has converted Don’t look up (which is still another of the ten long apocalyptic films that have been released in the last two years) in the film Christmas event, and it is accompanied by pieces such as the documentary divided into three episodes Seriously Funny, about Adam McKay, which can be seen on the Netflix Film Club YouTube channel.

Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, in 'Don't Look Up'
Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio, in ‘Don’t Look Up’

Yes indeed, Don’t look up it has gotten the most negative reviews of this end of the year. Pete Bradshaw, in The Guardian, more like a sketch of the program Saturday Night Live, yes, of 148 minutes, that to the substance that the series emanates Succession, of which McKay is executive producer. And he misses other titles that in part Don’t look up try to honor: Smokescreen; Network, an unforgiving world The Red phone, we fly to Moscow. Its ending, in which McKay bets on transcendence, sinks away from another comparable apocalyptic film: Melancholia, scored by Lars Von Trier. Manohla Dargis, in The New York Times, recalls the passion of cinema for destroying the Earth in titles such as Meteoro, Deep Impact The Armageddon, before stressing that the rhythm in crescendo that McKay prints does not help the mix of comedy and drama, and that there is little to satirize when world political reality is stranger than fiction. It is true that products like Borat, the Spanish The good boss or the series The Thick Of It they work better because the viewer doubts whether they satirize or reflect a situation. The critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives it a low 55% (after analyzing 218 texts about the film), although its users reach 77% approval.

And finally, Carlos Boyero, who in this newspaper pointed out that it was an “easily forgettable film”, and of McKay wrote: “He is a very pretentious director, convinced that he is extremely clever. But I don’t get the point ”.


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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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