Iin another life, Do not seek could have really taken the world by storm. Film critics and moviegoers have spent years mourning the death of studio comedy. Here’s a movie that served both – a starring vehicle for Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, and Meryl Streep that addressed what may be today’s most pressing problem: the global climate crisis. Do not seek rose to the top of the Netflix rankings after its release on Christmas Eve and has been praised by many in the scientific field for its meaningful messages.
But not everyone was convinced of his greatness. Critically, the film fell like a flank steak at a vegan barbecue, currently holding a paltry 55% rating on review site Rotten Tomatoes. The reason is not a great mystery. It’s just not that good. The Guardian described it as “Worked” and “self-awareness”. Rolling stone called him “The awakening of a man, the sheep howl in the abyss” and “a disaster film in more than one way”. Many others weren’t nicer.
What’s interesting, however, is what happened next: the backlash. Do not seekFans of and some of its creators this week have taken to social media to defend its dubious merits. It was a case of good versus evil: virtuous environmentalists versus arrogant critical elite. But moral conviction shouldn’t isolate any movie from fair and honest review – especially when that movie is a big, pugnacious comedy like this. If you threw the ax at An inconvenient truth, it would be reasonable to ask if you had an agenda. If you hated Do not seek, you probably just have a sense of humor.
There is nothing in Do not seek‘s premise which is particularly reprehensible. For those who haven’t devoured it over the holiday season, the film focuses on a duo of astronomers (DiCaprio and Lawrence) who struggle in vain to convince the world of an impending doom: a giant comet rushing towards the sea. Earth. A number of infuriating factors hinder the salvation of the planet – a venal, outraged and unmistakably Trump President (Streep), an impartial tech billionaire (Mark Rylance) and the entire superficial US news media infrastructure personified. by a talk show. welcomes Brie Evantee (Cate Blanchett) and Jack Bremmer (Tyler Perry). This is all perfectly well intentioned – but the execution is too broad and patronizing. Streep is ugly, as is Rylance, whose calamitous, feathery performance seemed to beg her friends in the theater world to stage an intervention. And for a comedy, perhaps his biggest offense is that there is hardly any laughter. It’s no wonder that critics have taken up arms.
The vast majority of people who watched Do not seek will probably be blissfully oblivious to this tedious talk. For media junkies, however, the past week has been a frenetic tennis match of dyspeptic thoughts and tweets, with the hot economy buzzing as the market ends. Stock markets. Forbes, for example, published an article titled “Why mocking critics don’t like Do not seek, but climatologists love it “. The film’s screenwriter David Sirota jumped into the debate, re-tweeting an article titled “Critics of Do not seek Missing the whole point “, and stating,” You are not ‘smart’ in making fun of people trying to fix things … This snark culture is part of what kills the world. “
The director of the film, Adam McKay, did the same. McKay was best known for his broad 2000s laughter festivities like Presenter and Half brothers before switching to overtly political pseudo-comedies like The big court and Vice. As executive producer of Succession, he’s been partly responsible for the cutest TV satire – and best series, period – for years. But after Do not seekcriticism of, he swayed out, writing: “If you don’t have at least a little embers of anxiety about the climate collapse (or the faltering US), I’m not sure. Do not seek no sense. It’s like a robot watching a love story.
The point is, movie critics aren’t meant to assess a film’s moral worth. They are just meant to judge it as a work of art or entertainment. Thoroughly fair and worthy films can also be terribly directed, just as great films can sometimes have problematic elements. It’s not a situation of either one, mind. Jaws was a film that eloquently conveyed the insanity of the government’s stubbornness in the face of a public safety crisis. It was also extremely fun to watch. Still, it’s rude to confuse disliking a film’s creative merits with opposing its axiomatically pleasing message. (A generous read would suggest that’s not what McKay and Sirota say, although many fans of the film have been much more explicit on this point, blaming critics of climate crisis denial squarely.)
Do not seekThe comedic aspirations of are clear – the gags fall flat but keep coming, a bunch of lemmings under the face of a cliff. But its supporters seem to want the film to be judged not as a satire but as a manifesto. It reminds me of Stewart Lee’s sarcastic reply to an audience applauding a political joke on his part: “I’m not interested in laughter. What interests me is a temporary liberal mass consensus. Even if we were to review the film specifically through the prism of its rhetorical effectiveness, however, it is short. Yes, many of his satirical targets deserve a kick, but Do not seek offers little hope, little to energize viewers into activism. It’s as dark and desperate a portrait of the environmental crisis as Paul Schrader’s First reformed – although he doesn’t seem to know.
It is difficult to suppress the feeling that we are completely powerless in the face of the climate catastrophe in the UK. Climate protesters are often vilified in the media; much of the global political establishment appears unwilling to embark on the kind of radical change needed to save our planet. In this sense, the central metaphor of Do not seek is scary. But that doesn’t make it a good movie. We don’t have to pretend otherwise, just to appear fair – indeed, movie critics have a professional obligation not to. It really is that simple.