Don’t Look Up has become a monster hit for Netflix. Adam McKay’s dark comedy about humanity’s inept response to a ‘planet-killer’ comet has become the second most-watched film on Netflix of all time (after Red Notice), was named one of the ten best movies of 2021 by the American Film Institute, and received best picture nominations at the Golden Globes and Critic’s Choice Awards.
All of which makes it somewhat surprising that a lot of critics and those working in media absolutely despised it. McKay, editor Hank Corwin, and composer Nicholas Britell sat down with Variety to discuss the unexpected reactions.
Corwin admitted that:
“I was surprised at the personal nature of the attacks. I have a thin skin. It was hard to rationalize reviews from some people I respected.”
McKay goes into more detail on how some critics received it:
“I think we were all quite shocked. The reviews were pretty much 50-50, and that’s fine, we’ve all been through that. But I was shocked by the really intense anger that some critics had. We had been screening the movie and had gotten no reactions like that ever. Generally speaking, test audiences were laughing. So when reviews came out… That’s not to say they’re incorrect. Of course responses will be complicated and passionate. When it was released on Netflix, I was equally shocked by the passionate, positive responses. I’d never seen anything like that. People crying, laughing. So across the board, with the critical reception, the audience response, there was no middle ground. And eventually it became “We’re in 2022, of course those will be the reactions.”
The obvious reason why contemporary media hated the movie is that it’s a truly vicious satire of them specifically. Don’t Look Up is a parable about how we’re sleepwalking into climate catastrophe, with a portion of the blame down to client journalists who don’t want to rock the corporate boat. Or, to put it another way, nobody likes being forced to look in the mirror.
Fortunately, Don’t Look Up quickly found momentum on social media and has gone on to exceed Netflix’s expectations. The Academy Awards nominations come on the weekend and this is likely to pick up a number of nominations and is a contender for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay gongs.
Beyond that, Don’t Look Up may be destined to end up on the list of classic films the critics slated. Remember, The Shining, Blade Runner, Fight Club, and Psycho all opened to bad reviews.
Don’t Look Up is available to stream on Netflix.