How “Don’t Look Up” Reveals Our Reactions to Christ’s Return
Editor’s note: This review contains mild spoilers.
“There’s a 100 percent chance that we’re all going to die!”
That’s the stark message of the Oscar-nominated film Don’t Look Up, which tells the story of two astronomers attempting to warn the world about a comet that will soon destroy the entire planet—but who are instead met with scorn and ridicule.
The apocalyptic black comedy has been nominated not once, not twice, but four times for the upcoming Oscars: Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, and Best Score.
After watching it, I understand why it’s been so raved about: it’s dark, funny, ridiculous—and it hits a raw nerve. While the movie satirises the current debate over climate change, I couldn’t help but notice its parallels with how we react to Christ’s return, which is just as—if not more—certain and apocalyptic. (After all, that’s how we got the word ‘apocalypse’: it’s the “uncovering, disclosure, revelation” of the end times, marked by Christ’s return.)
Here’s how Don’t Look Up captures our reactions to this imminent reality:
1. We don’t believe that Christ will return one day.
Upon discovering the comet’s trajectory towards earth, astronomy PhD candidate Kate Dibiasky and her professor Dr Randall Mindy attempt to warn the president about its impact, which would have the power of a “billion Hiroshima bombs”. However, their urgent pleadings for immediate action are met with disbelief, indifference, and mockery from the country’s top leader.
The same thing happens when they go on a morning show in a bid to convince the public. It quickly goes downhill when their solemn speech is overtaken by frivolous banter and jokes from the hosts, prompting Dibiasky to lose her cool. This sparks off a slew of Internet memes making fun of her rant.
It’s a funny but tragic scene, because it shows how we can often treat the hardest truths with inappropriate—and dangerous—lightness.
In Matthew 24, Jesus warns that His return will be preceded by signs of the end times. After which, “All the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory” (v. 30).
On one hand, the reality of Christ’s return may seem terribly far-fetched when we’re surrounded by the immediacy and mundanity of everyday life. On the other hand, we may come across as delusional when we try to share about Christ with others.
The question is, do we really believe in Jesus and His promised return? If so, how far are we willing to go to point others to look up—in spite of the cost?
2. We drag our feet in preparing for Christ’s return.
When Dibiasky, Mindy, and Dr Teddy Oglethorpe, the head of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office, inform the president about the impending comet-killer, her response stuns them: “I say . . . we sit tight and assess.”
Despite knowing that there’s a 100 percent certainty of its impact, President Janie Orlean and her son and Chief of Staff, Jason, have absolutely zero sense of urgency. Because of their lackadaisical attitude, precious time is wasted that could’ve been spent preparing for and diverting the comet.
We may believe that Christ will return. But we may also fail to prepare for it. Time and time again, Jesus emphasises the need for us to keep watch and be ready for His arrival, which will happen when we least expect it to (Matthew 24:42, 44).
I confess I find it hard to accept that Christ could return within my lifetime. After all, I’m still young, I’ve got things to do, and I’ve got the rest of my life to do them . . . right?
Yet 1 Thessalonians 5:1–4 warns us:
You know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief.
So, what does being prepared look like? It means to “be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet”, and to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5: 8–9, 11).
May we not drag our feet in preparing for Christ’s momentous return, but to be vigilant in our faith, hope, and love for Christ.
3. We’re distracted by worldly desires.
Throughout the film, Dibiasky and Mindy attempt to raise awareness of the comet in whatever way they can—from leaking the news to the media to organising a campaign on social media urging people to “Just Look Up”. Yet more often than not, they’re met with nonchalance, mockery, and accusations of alarmism, driven not only by disbelief, but also by people’s competing desires.
President Orlean initially refuses to acknowledge the comet because she’s preoccupied with her political ambitions and popularity ratings. She eventually chooses to act on it, but only when it becomes politically expedient for her. Then, when she finds out about the potentially lucrative value of mining the comet for its assets, she immediately aborts the mission at the very last minute.
When Mindy asks what trillions of dollars matter if they’re all going to die, he’s met with derision.
Earlier on in the movie, when Dibiasky and Mindy go on live television to share their findings, they’re told to keep it “light and fun”. Their interview is squeezed between entertainment segments of a pop star’s breakup and live reconciliation with her cheating boyfriend, which captivates viewers’ attention far more than news of their imminent death.
Another telling scene shows the unveiling of a new mobile phone called BASH LiiF, which promises “life, without the stress of living.” One of its features is it automatically responds to any negative feelings—such as sadness, fear, or loneliness—with funny animal videos and scheduled therapy sessions, so that “these sad feelings never ever ever return.”
As I watched it, I confess that I could see the same competing desires at play within me: how I often find solace in silly videos than in my Saviour, how I worry over my bank account instead of trusting in my Provider, and how I seek to curate my image rather than to reflect the image of Christ.
Our lukewarm response to the gospel of life stands in disturbing contrast to how we so easily embrace the messages of this world—plunging ourselves into vapid celebrity gossip, scandalous political controversies, and mind-numbing social media.
First John 2:15–17 exhorts us:
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.
Just Look Up
Don’t Look Up is a chilling reflection of how we simply don’t want to hear bad news, even if it’s true. And when confronted with it, we can choose to deny it, drag our feet, or distract ourselves instead.
The refrain of the movie tells us to just look up to what’s plainly there.
As believers, would we look up and prepare for Christ’s return, as God’s Word repeatedly tells us to?
Or will we continue to choose, every day, every moment, not to look up, instead fixing our gaze on our worldly desires?
As the comet is about to impact earth, a scruffy and surprisingly likeable character, Yule, leads the protagonists in prayer over their last meal:
Dearest Father and Almighty Creator, we ask for your grace tonight, despite our pride; your forgiveness, despite our doubt. Most of all, Lord, we ask for your love to soothe us through these dark times. May we face whatever is to come in your divine will with courage and open hearts of acceptance. Amen.
Like Yule, may we humble ourselves in repentance before our Father and Creator, not just on the last day of our life on earth, but every single day He graciously gives to us before He returns or calls us home.
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