Power of the Stars doesn’t make a wonderful movie. While a movie like “Red Notice” went on to become one of Netflix’s most viewed movies and had star power like The Rock, Gal Godot and Ryan Reynolds, it is not the only presence of star power. who made such a fun movie.
Conversely, the streaming service’s “Don’t Look Up” has a lot more star power with Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep, and more, but it’s a mixed bag of ‘a movie that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. And when it comes to disaster movies about a space rock coming to destroy the Earth, the 90s did better.
That was in 1998. America received not one, but two films about space rocks coming to destroy the planet. “Armageddon”, which is the last good film from Michael Bay, and “Deep Impact”, which is the last overall film (RIP) from director of photography Dietrich Lohmann.
These two films clashed at the box office that year, with “Armageddon” claiming more money and “Deep Impact” claiming slightly better reviews, at least if you watch Rotten Tomatoes.
So when another film about a deadly space rock coming to Earth appeared on the horizon with so many big names attached to it, how could I not compare it to its previous counterparts?
“Don’t Look Up” is not an apocalyptic film about a looming global killer. Although it certainly would have been a better movie if it had been. Instead, mixed in with “Don’t Look Up,” there’s a bunch of political commentary that’s about as subtle as a Saturday Night Live skit during the 45th Presidency. The only real difference is the budget and star power.
DiCaprio and Lawrence play the Michigan astronomers who detect a comet several miles wide that will kill all life on Earth. And they have about six months until he arrives. So far, so good.
And if the movie had just focused on DiCaprio and Lawrence, again, that would have been a lot better. Their performance is excellent, with Leo playing an astronomer named Dr Randall Mindy so anxious that he suffers from extreme panic attacks when under pressure and Lawrence playing his counterpart, Dr Kate Dibiasky. Her character rightly screams at people who don’t take Deadly Comet seriously and questions why the company is the way it is in its last six months of existence. They are both wonderful.
They are joined by Rob Morgan as Dr. Clayton “Teddy” Oglethorpe, and together the three go on a massive media tour to convince society that this deadly comet is coming to kill them. That alone would be a great premise.
But “Don’t Look Up” is loaded with this frustrating political commentary with Streep playing President Janie Orlean, a Trumpian replacement who plays the political successes of 2015-2020. Hill plays Jason Orlean, his son and an obvious replacement for one of the 45th President’s own children.
The common gag in “Don’t Look Up” is: “Hey! America is really divided, ”as if stating the obvious was a lot of humor. But that ends up weighing everything down. If director Adam McKay wanted to make a movie with political commentary, he should have studied Jason Reitman’s “Thank You For Smoking” instead of Barry Levinson’s “Man of the Year.”
Perhaps the most puzzling inclusion in this movie is Mark Ryland, who plays a Steve Jobs knockoff named Peter Isherwell. And what’s odd about his performance is that he basically took his character, James Halliday, from 2018’s “Ready Player One” and played the exact same role here, just with more lines. It’s a curious and superfluous choice in a star-packed movie.
That’s not to say “Don’t Look Up” is a horrible movie. He just doesn’t seem to know if he wants to be a political satire, a disaster movie, or maybe, strangely enough, a sentimental movie with some sort of moral lesson in appreciating what you have in life. But he doesn’t do any of those things well.
Compare all this confusion to a movie like “Armageddon”. It’s not high art and it’s downright silly at times, from Bruce Willis shooting Ben Affleck for sleeping with his daughter to playing Evel Knievel with a space vehicle on a deadly asteroid. But Bay knew exactly what kind of movie he wanted to make, a cheesy action thriller where a bunch of drillers go to space and save humanity from a killer space rock. Every detail of this film corresponds to these themes and stories.
Could you say that “Don’t Look Up” took a harder route trying to tackle multiple themes? May be. But he doesn’t nail down any of those particular themes. I would say that the simple road chosen by “Armageddon” has been crossed with more success.
(I’m going to go ahead and let you know that I’m also a bit biased towards “Armageddon” as it stars Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton as the leader of NASA).
Then you have “Deep Impact”, which tries to bring a little more seriousness to the subject of an asteroid destroying the planet. There are no thugs drilling in space. Instead, the film features Morgan Freeman as the president of a nation trying to survive in the face of annihilation.
You see, 90s moviegoers have a favorite between these two movies (that’s “Armageddon” to me), but I’m here to suggest that they’re both better movies than “Don’t Look Up”.
DiCaprio and Lawrence are both fantastic actors, and I wish the movie just focused on them trying to warn people about the meteor without all of the SNL material swirling around the story and causing it to swell to two. hours and 25 minutes.
The political jokes in “Don’t Look Up” were so on my nose they broke my dick.