Meryl Streep, Kit Harington-starrer Extrapolations tackles the terrifying reality of climate change
Scott Z Burns’ limited series on Apple TV+ presents the frightening side of climate change and an ironic take on human greed.
Friday March 17, 2023,
4 min Read
Cast: Meryl Streep, Sienna Miller, Kit Harington, Tobey Maguire, Tahar Rahim, Edward Norton, Forest Whitaker, Indira Verma, Daveed Diggs, Marion Cotillard, Adarsh Gourav, David Schwimmer, Matthew Rhys, Heather Graham, and others.
Scott Z Burns is considered almost ‘prophetic’ for having written ‘Contagion’—a hauntingly predictive film about the playout of a global pandemic similar to COVID-19. Little did he wonder then that his Apple TV+ limited series on the direct consequences of climate change on our everyday lives, featuring a laundry list of recognised actors, would get a sizable scaled-up cinematic treatment.
Burns’ Extrapolations has found ample size and breathing time to narrate a frightening story, essentially a wake-up call, about a rapidly changing environment and global warming.
With three episodes already featured on Apple TV+, Burns' signature interconnected storytelling has narratives from different characters, dealing with multifarious adaptations to climate change.
Starting with the year 2037, Extrapolations covers developments till the year 2070. The series begins on an ominous and almost violent protesting note by a young girl leading people outside the COP42 summit. While countries struggle with a total lack of potable water, and Europe shuts its gates to refugees, a multi-billionaire Nick Bilton (Kit Harington) controls everything from Big Tech and Big Pharma to Big Genetics through Alpha, his super corporation.
“As a man whose house is on fire is incredibly easy to negotiate with”—a line from the series—Bilton conceals his hunger for control and profit over natural resources while presenting a charitable side by sharing water cleaning patents.
In a grim reminder of the current macroeconomic system profiteering from all waste and pain, we see a ridiculously dumb and rich property developer, Junior (Matthew Rhys), seeking to build a casino in the melting Arctic Circle. Without giving out spoilers, his ‘natural’ end feels deeply satisfying.
In the mix is a diplomat representing less developed nations at the summit, who has to deal with a personal emergency when his biologist wife, Rebecca Shearer (Sienna Miller), goes into early labour.
Navigating forest fires, unbreathable air, and unbearable heat in Tel Aviv, Israel, through a young rabbi Marshall Zucker (Daveed Diggs), the tone of a planet robbed of nature and close to its end is set up through the constant outpour of news.
Extrapolations shows us leaps of technology that help communicate with animals. The unnatural motive to play natural selector by the overwhelming super corporation makes up for a terrifying and heartbreaking mother-child tale in 2046.
Miller as a biologist, coping with loss and trying to save life on the planet as she deals with a losing battle, delivers a moving performance, even as Meryl Streep brings her unmatched signature calm to this chaotic, burning world as Eve Shearer.
The mind-numbing impact of a planet where glaciers in Greenland have melted—spanning from Miami to Mumbai, Yunnan province in China to Australia—provides a sense of gripping urgency in the background. One would be reminded of the grim scenes from the movie 2012, as tsunamis engulf major global cities and the Mount Everest. Although, the scenes in Extrapolations are much more refined.
As a series, Extrapolations makes a scant effort to mellow its message. The earth is burning, and with its star-studded cast, Burns has effectively set out to send a resonating loud message to people—Listen! Pay Attention!
The slow-paced and slow-burn series echoes through its patient storytelling, with the absolute necessity for everyone to wake up before it’s too late.
Interspersing dialogue with frightening statistics between its lead characters—for instance, a third of life is dead on the planet by 2046—it also underlines the futility of technology and know-how-driven salvage operations.
When a frightening decision is taken by the global climate summit, this choice directly impacts the number of people and animals that get to live.
Children are born with new disorders. There are limitations on time spent outdoors for everyone. Through the efforts of its major characters that repeat in these episodes, a person’s will to live and thrive and the unlimited human greed compete to exist—even as our planet definitely continues to die.
This series is not set to entertain its audience. Instead, it is asking everyone to listen up and trigger change. Extrapolations is a triggering, shocking, and informative viewing experience.
Edited by Suman Singh