Adam McKay (USA, 1968) directed several silly comedies for actor Will Ferrell, mostly produced by Judd Apatow:
Talladega Nights - The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006),
Step Brothers (2008),
The Other Guys (2010),
and Anchorman 2 - The Legend Continues (2013).
The Big Short (2015) was his first major film, another satirical comedy.
The biopic Vice (2018)
Don't Look up (2021) is a satirical and apocalyptic romp that makes fun of the Trump era,
the era of post-truth, of social media, of selfies and "likes", of political gridlock, of Silicon Valley, of tech oligarchs, of covid skepticism, and of post-nuclear international madness. It is not the deepest of movies, it is more like an extended "Saturday Night Special" skit, but it is possibly a faithful document (if not documentary) of the society of the early 21st century.
The president is clearly a female version of the incompetent, idiotic, corrupt Donald Trump, and the "don't look up" movement is modeled after the
anti-science movements of the covid era.
Kate is a young astronomy student at a state university, not one of the most prestigious. One morning she detects a new comet in the Solar System and alerts her
miggle-aged professor, Randall. Initially Randall's team is excited and celebrates the finding, but Randall calculates the trajectory and gets alarmed.
He asks everybody to leave the room and then tells Kate that the comet will
hit the Earth in about six months, and the comet is big enough to annihilate
life on Earth.
Randall alerts NASA and NASA flies them in a military plane to Washington,
escorted to the White House by NASA official Teddy. Teddy tries in vain to
chief of staff Jason (who happens to be the president's son) that the matter
is urgent: they are told that the president, an elderly woman named Janie, is busy with more important matters, although all they hear is a "happy birthday" celebration and that she's
nominated a former male pornographic model to the Supreme Court.
While they wait to be received by the president, they make phone calls to their dear ones.
Kate has problems with her boyfriend Philip, a journalist who works for a popular online media.
Randall has a wife and two children in a stereotypical middle-class suburban home.
When they are finally admitted to the president's office,
Randall's science bores the president and especially her son before Kate
explains in simple words that the Earth will be destroyed in six months.
Nonetheless, Jason makes fun of the story and the president demands that
more prestigious universities doublecheck the data.
Kate and Randall are shaking, terrified by what is going to happen, but the
president and her son are impatient to get rid of them. The president ask
what they want her to do and Teddy explains that the USA should nuke the comet.
The president smiles and decides that they should just "sit tight" and wait.
When they leave (obviously disappointed that the president doesn't care if the Earth is blown up in six months), Teddy urges Kate and Randall to leak the news
to the media. He arranges for them to be invited on a popular TV talk show.
The morning of the live show, Randall and Kate are dressed up and prepped to
be telegenic. Then they have to wait backstage while more popular guests
are invited by the two frivolous hosts, Jack and Brie, to share their stories.
The audience (including Randall's own family) listens raptly as a pop star
who has just broken up with her boyfriend forgives him live on TV.
When it's finally Randall's and Kate's turn, the hosts treat the matter lightly
and don't let Randall finish his tragic but boring scientific warning.
Kate loses her temper and shouts into the camera that everybody is going to die.
The result is that social media are flooded with comments on the two scientists,
and virtually nobody cares about the comet. Many mock Kate as a hysterical
fearmongering whiner, and Kate's boyfriend breaks up with her on social media.
Some praise Randall for looking handsome. Nobody comments on the
fact that the Earth will be destroyed in six months, especially since
the director of NASA, an incompetent politician (another woman), denies the findings.
After the show, a data analyst shows Randall and Kate the audience reaction to their appearance: humiliating.
Luckily for them (and for the Earth) the media discover that the president
had a sex affair with her Supreme Court nominee (to whom she sent pictures of her own genitals), the president and her son
become suddenly interested in Randall, Kate and Teddy: all three are arrested
by the FBI and dispatched urgently to Washington. The president has decided
to break the news of the comet to the world, and she does so in grand pomp,
announcing the mission to nuke the comet
with a grotesque patriotic display including fireworks and choir, with Randall
standing next to her. Randall is re-invited on the talk show and is given
the opportunity to explain the science and how real the threat is. Furthermore, sex-starved TV host Brie seduces him: when they sleep together she tells him of
her aristocratic family and that she's divorced twice.
A national hero is selected to pilot the rocket towards the comet, although Randall tries feebly to suggest that it could be done as an unmanned mission.
The takeoff of the rocket is shown live on television. The president, her son Jaon, TV host Brie, NASA officer Teddy. Randall and Kate watch from the White House and all seems to go well (Kate is shocked to see Randall and Brie kiss openly),
until Peter, the billionaire founder of high-tech company Bash, walks into the room
and commands the president's attention. The president walks out with him and
then aborts the mission: both reporters and scientists are dismayed to see the rocket turn back to Earth.
Randall, who has just been appointed the president's chief scientist, listens in
disbelief the private briefing in which billionaire Peter explains that the comet is rich in
worth trillions of dollars and that his engineers have already prepared a plan
on how to split the comet in many smaller meteors that will drop in the ocean and then be recovered for mining purposes.
Randall feebly objects that the idea has not been "peer reviewed" as proper science should.
The president and her son are fascinated by the money and approve the plan.
Teddy, Randall and Kate discuss the ridiculous scheme in a bar and Kate tells
everybody what is going on, causing a riot.
Kate is forced by the government to sign a document promising to stop any political activity. She is even rejected by her parents as a radical activist.
Randall, instead, is used by the government to calm the public with TV commercials.
Meanwhile, his affair with Brie continues. His wife has learned of it and travels to Washington to confront them. Brie makes fun of the wife's drama and asks her to make it brief. The wife walks out and returns to her suburban family.
Kate gets a humble job in a supermarket and is recognized by a group of
punks who idolize her. She lets them shoplift the store and then joins them in their lazy philosophizing outdoors.
Randall dares doubt Peter's science and Peter feels insulted that a scientist would date doubt his own engineers, the ones who have given the world powerful A.I. smartphones. Peter reveals that those engineers have developed an app that can predict what a person would die of. It predicts that Randall's death will not mourned by anybody, but the app also predicts that the president will be killed by a Bronteroc, an animal that doesn't exist.
Randall realizes that he is being used for a suicidal scheme and, live on Brie's TV show, shouts that the president is an idiot and that everybody is going to die.
Randall gets fired by both the president and by his lover Brie.
The comet finally appears in the night sky. Kate sees her first, lying down outdoors with the punks. Then Randall, now homeless and jobless, sees it while driving around and even blocks traffic: everybody around him gets out of the car and stares silently at the comet in the sky.
Randall and Kate talk on the phone, for the first time since she was silenced,
and share excitement which soon turns into fear.
They unite with Teddy to organize a grass-roots movement on social media titled
"Just Look Up" to make people aware that the politicians and billionaire Peter are playing lottery with their lives, driven by pure greed.
As the president and Jason hold rallies to discredit the "Just Look Up" movement, the comet becomes a divisive issue worldwide, with people marching in the street demanding to look up and people believing the president that science should not be trusted and nobody should look up at the evidence.
At the same time, "Just Look Up" becomes an idealistic call to action.
While the president speaks to her followers, Randall and Kate organize a benefit concert with two pop stars.
Later, when Peter informs Randall and Kate that China, India, and Russia had worked on their own plan to nuke the comet but the launch has failed.
Now they have to really hope that Peter succeeds: his rockets are the last hope to save the Earth.
A demagogue and Jason hold another "Don't look up" rally but this time the masses do do look up and see the comet and boo them off the stage.
Peter's rockets take off with much fanfare but fail one after the other.
Initially, Peter tells the people in the control room that everything is fine because his scientists have taken into account the possibility of mistakes and shot more rockets than needed, but it soon appears obvious that too many rockets are failing.
Peter walks out pretending to go to the bathroom.
The president soon follows him promising to be back soon.
Her son Jason remains in the room, confident that she will return, while all
the people in the room panic and rush out to join their families.
Ditto on the various TV stations where hosts keep talking while staff runs away in front of the cameras.
Now it's clear that the end of the world is coming.
It turns out that Peter had prepared spaceships for a selected number of VIPs and in case of failure there was a plan B to head to the nearest habitable planet.
Meanwhile, Randall heads home and is welcome back by his wife. They prepare a last meal.
The president calls Randall from the spaceship and offers him a seat on the spaceship but Randall refuses and prefers to die with his family.
It's only the spaceships they take off that the president realizes that she forgot her son in the control room.
Randall, his family, Kate, her boyfriend and Teddy dine together, chatting casually while the comet approaches, and staying calm even through the first explosions. Then the screen goes back.
The film continues during the ending credits.
Some 22,000 years later, the cryogenically suspended VIPs who left Earth on Bash spaceships land on the nearest planet that has an atmosphere comparable with the Earth's.
The VIPs walk out naked into the new paradise. The president admires a new species of bird but the bird instantly snaps her head and kills her.
Peter now knows what a Bronteroc is.
Then we see other Bronterocs attacking the naked humans and presumably killing them all.
At the very end of the credits the film continues to the real ending.
Jason survived the catastrophe and makes his way out of the ruins, He calls for his mom and then pulls out his smartphone
trying to post on social media a picture of himself smiling.
The camera flies out in the sky and shows an endless stretch of ruins and no sign of living beings.