Thank you Stephen! Yes, indeed, we wouldn’t want the rest of Janet’s response to get lost for she leads us quite nicely into the discussion we promised: the mythic dimension of the film, and especially, Peter Isherwell.
Although often called the “anti-hero” of the film, Mark Rylance’s Peter Isherwell is a reprise of the same heroic character he played in Spielberg’s Ready Player One (2018), where he became James Halliday, the saintly high-tech billionaire who designed and owned the OASIS, the virtual space into which ordinary people could escape from their own, otherwise miserable socio-economic reality. Having already died at the beginning of the movie, James Halliday assumes its archetypal role as the god-head of this virtual universe. It is only in the virtuality of the OASIS that we can meet the genius billionaire the way we would meet God. As the figure of the Old Wise Man, Mark Rylance can freely take on the mythic garbs of James Halliday, the Supreme Wizard and master mind of the OASIS.
In Ready Player One, the scene of the “First Key” in which the young hero of the film encounters James Halliday, makes clear that the billionaire figure stands in the symbolic place of God, calling itself the Anorak.
Although I didn’t want to get too side-tracked, this little excursion into Ready Player One with Mark Rylance not only helps us to grasp the archetypal dimension of Peter Isherwell as the God and hero of cultural capitalism, it also helps us understand the fundamental blasphemy committed by the film. I believe this is the real reason Don’t Look Up so incensed critics across the conservative-liberal spectrum. Where Ready Player One is a complete deification of the system as the old wise billionaire, justifying a succession of power to maintain a status quo, Don’t Look Up brings down this deified statue of the billionaire, with the pathos of true comedy, like so many statues of Christopher Columbus have come down.