New to Netflix: ‘Death to 2020’ Review
2020 has been one hell of a year, with so much disaster and mayhem that it almost doesn’t even feel real, and certain avenues of society and life, such as politics and general social discourse, have become so damn ridiculous that it’s quite comical if you can step back and disconnect yourself long enough to be entertained by it. Yes, life has become one big black comedy, and I assume that is what creators Charlie Brooker and Annabel Jones had in mind when making their latest project which dropped on Netflix this past Sunday, ‘Death to 2020‘.
Synopsis of ‘Death to 2020’
The premise to ‘Death to 2020’ should be fairly familiar to anyone that has been paying attention to what’s been going on this past year because, well, we all lived it. It is basically a ‘mockumentary’, or program that “that takes the form of a serious documentary in order to satirize its subject”, and in true Charlie Brooker form, it finds the dark humor in all the most horrific elements of 2020. It covers everything from the United States presidential elections, the murder of George Floyd, the Corona virus pandemic. and the monumentally disastrous response from both U.S. and U.K. politicians to the pandemic.
Narrated by Lawrence Fishburne, throughout the film interviews are conducted with some big stars playing satirized “experts” or the roles of “characters” that have revealed themselves in 2020. Samuel L. Jackson plays a reporter from a paper called the New Yorkerly News with some pretty scathing insight into some of the events of the year. Lisa Kudrow, of Friends fame, plays a conservative spokesperson, similar to a Kellyanne Conway, who takes the idea of ‘alternative facts’ to a new level. And one of my favorites is Cristin Milioti’s character, who plays a soccer mom who embodies every idea that comes to mind when you see the word “Karen”; she plays the role so damn well, it’s actually quite scary.
‘Death to 2020’ shows clips of things that happened during 2020 with the narrator and interviewees giving a bit of their own interpretations. And while at times it is quite funny, it also happens to feel a bit…. unoriginal and trite.
Is It Worth the Watch?
Let me start of by saying that I am a HUGE Black Mirror fan. It started out as a U.K. Channel 4 show before being bought out by Netflix back in 2015, and it was around this time that I discovered it. Black Mirror is pretty much this generations’ ‘Twilight Zone’ – it takes dark subjects that tend to regard the future and/or technology in some way, and human being’s relationship with these things. It’s a show that doesn’t follow a direct narrative, but instead allows each episode to stand alone, with some Easter eggs and reoccurring jokes and themes throughout. While I am not super familiar with his other work, this show has made me truly appreciate the mind and genius of show creator Charlie Brooker, and obviously Netflix feels the same, recently making an investment in Brooker’s new production company ‘Broke and Bones’. ‘Death to 2020’ is the companies first release on Netflix and honestly, a bit of a disappointing way to begin a new chapter while closing the one on this year.
Recently, I’ve seen this “f*ck 2020” sentiment shared around so much, it’s become a bit of a cliché, a meme born out of the most trivial observation of the events that have taken place this past year. Everything from commercials to merchandise like t-shirts, to actual social media memes being share around by millions share this idea that everybody hated this year. And I get it – so much has happened that it almost feels like it’s not real. I remember so many people making comments like “Black Mirror was right!” as this years worst events were unraveling, so the creation of something like ‘Death to 2020’ makes so much sense, and yet… it still feels so unoriginal and a bit boring.
If you are a fan of the show, or are just simply looking for a good laugh, I would recommend giving this a watch, but I don’t do so enthusiastically. Like the announcement for new Black Mirror episodes, I peed myself a little in excitement when this project was announced, but going into it with high expectations left me disappointed. I didn’t walk away from this feeling as though my mind and perception had just been messed with, a feeling I feel in some capacity with most Black Mirror episodes. Instead, I felt I just rewatched everything newsworthy that has already taken up so much of my attention this year already, much to my dismay. Most of us have already been stuck at home, forced to watch this bullshit unravel itself, so watching this special was almost exhausting. While it made me laugh out loud and even cringe a bit at times, I found myself wanting it to be over about halfway into it.
While disappointing, it is not terrible in my opinion. If anything, the acting from the cast truly makes the film, which is a shame because typically it’s Charlie Brooker’s writing and stories that are most memorable. But the star studded cast do make up for a truly unoriginal premise and manage to make it a bit entertaining. Leslie Jones’ character had me dying pretty much anytime she was on screen, which is no surprise because she is an absolutely underrated comedian. And as stated before, Cristin Milioti’s “Karen” character is beyond creepy.
So I recommend checking it out for a quick laugh but do not go into with any great expectations. Maybe puff some loud and kick back for something that doesn’t demand you take it too seriously. And be sure to stick around during the credits for a bit of an interesting wrap up to the film.