In July 2022, the highly anticipated film Nope marked the third directorial venture by Jordan Peele, known for his groundbreaking works Get Out and Us. The sci-fi horror film, which boasts an imaginative narrative, has left audiences and critics alike engaged in discussion. That’s because you need Nope explained regardless.
Peele, in collaboration with renowned cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema, pushed the boundaries of conventional cinematic storytelling. You would likely need to re-watch it a few more times before you can sit down and formulate a commentary about it. But if you don’t have the time, then we’re here to make it easier for you; we’re here to have Nope explained to you in bite-sized pieces.
It’s a departure from the monster movie norm
Jordan Peele’s reputation as a director known for weaving intricate narratives filled with historical and societal references precedes him. Peele, in the past, stated that humanity is the monster in his films, emphasizing his penchant for infusing significant themes into genre-based storytelling.
However, with Nope, Peele has hinted at a departure from this approach. He even expressed his desire to create a spectacle, referring to it as “the great American UFO story.” The film’s primary plot is relatively simple, fitting neatly into the thriller/horror tradition of a group of individuals battling a menacing monster like so many popcorn monster flicks before it.
Is Nope scary?
Nope offers moments of tension and suspense, keeping audiences on the edge of their seats throughout the film. The transformation of Jean Jacket, the extraterrestrial creature, and the unsettling events that unfold serve to create a sense of fear and anxiety. However, Nope is not a traditional horror film, and its scares are more rooted in psychological and existential elements.
It explores how traumatic experiences can shape individuals and drive them to confront their darkest impulses. While Nope may not be a conventional horror flick, it undoubtedly delivers a gripping and thought-provoking cinematic experience.
It could also be a critique of Hollywood
While Nope appears to embrace the label of a summer popcorn movie, it subtly weaves in elements that suggest a deeper exploration of Hollywood itself.
The film pays homage to various cinematic genres, from Westerns to horror, sci-fi, and even buddy comedies.
Yet, the characters in Nope are not merely fans of movies; they are obsessed with the act of filmmaking and documenting life. For OJ, Emerald (Keke Palmer), and Angel (Brandon Perea), the UFO’s existence is validated only if they capture it on film.
Their interactions with the creature primarily occur through screens, and they create an elaborate obstacle course, not to capture the beast physically but to use the footage for fame and fortune.
The film’s climax elevates the act of filmmaking (or even, dare we say, voyeurism) to a central focus. As the monster ascends into the sky, Emerald deploys a giant inflatable cowboy, an iconic symbol of Classic Hollywood, as an air-bound weapon. She feverishly snaps her camera in pursuit of the perfect shot, poetically turning the “final shoot-out” trope into an artistic endeavor.
The clichéd cautionary tale of capitalism is present
Inevitably, Nope can lead us to contemplate capitalism’s role within its narrative, like so many films these days. The movie explores the dangers of commodifying the untamable for profit, which is explored through Jupe’s dogged persistence in profiting from the UFO, just as the business of his childhood career commodified a dangerous chimpanzee.
The creators of the fictional sitcom Gordy’s Home chased viewership ratings blindly, disregarding safety measures, which eventually resulted in a horrific incident. The Haywood family, whose legacy hinges on transforming majestic stallions into show ponies for commercials, also represents one facet of this theme.
Jupe embodies the capitalist mindset here. He sees the alien as an opportunity for fame and fortune, planning to monetize its existence through a show called “Jupiter’s Claim.”
However, in his pursuit of profit, he mirrors the disregard for safety and ethics exhibited by the industry figures he once worked with. The film suggests that the desire for sensational spectacles, driven by capitalist motives, can lead to disastrous consequences, making it a cautionary tale.
Director Jordan Peele subtly hints at this interpretation through a Bible quote in the film’s intro, which foretells the casting of “abominable filth” upon humanity for their obsession with money and spectacle. In this context, you can see the alien’s destructive rampage as a form of retribution for humanity’s fixation on profit and entertainment.
Who’s the villain in Nope?
The question of who the true villain is in Nope remains open to interpretation. Jean Jacket, the enigmatic UFO, serves as a source of terror, wreaking havoc on the Haywoods and the surrounding area. On the other hand, Jupe’s exploitation of both the horses and the alien for personal gain casts him in a morally ambiguous light.
The relationship between Jean Jacket and Jupe highlights broader themes related to the American dream and the consequences of pursuing fame and notoriety at any cost. The film ultimately challenges viewers to consider whether the true villain is external or internal, residing within the depths of human ambition and exploitation.
Nope insists on ambiguity
Nope explores themes of violent surveillance, exploitation, and the human tendency to turn traumatic events into spectacles for personal gain.
In an age dominated by social media and the relentless pursuit of attention, Nope serves as a cautionary tale about the potential consequences of prioritizing fame over ethics and empathy.
The film’s open-ended conclusion leaves room for interpretation, inviting viewers to reflect on the choices made by the characters and the broader implications of their actions.
Peele himself has acknowledged that sometimes, viewers simply seek entertainment. However, he also recognizes the power of cinema as a tool for reflection and conversation.
Nope invites audiences to engage with it on multiple levels—it’s a thrilling spectacle that also sparks discussion about Hollywood, surveillance, capitalism, and the importance of preserving marginalized histories.
In the end, Nope might not be the enigmatic cinematic puzzle that Get Out or Us were, but it succeeds in luring audiences into its confounding embrace, leaving you with much to ponder long after the credits roll.