A year has passed since Jordan Peele first let the world know the ominous title of his next movie; ever since, we’ve all been wondering what the heck Nope was going to be about. Each trailer pulled back the curtain a little bit, but when the film finally opened this past weekend, all was revealed. And it was a lot.
Written and directed by Peele, Nope is about a brother and sister (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) whose family owns a legendary horse ranch. When something mysterious begins to appear in the skies above the ranch, the siblings decide to document it, hoping to gain fortune and glory. What they find is more than they bargained for, but also something they’re perfectly suited to tangle with.
Below, io9 writers Germain Lussier and Sabina Graves dive into Nope’s spoilers, theories, themes, and more. Did we mention spoilers? Here’s one of these:
Germain Lussier: So we were both in San Diego for Comic-Con this past weekend which is why this discussion of Jordan Peele’s latest film, Nope, is a little late. Our apologies to our readers.
And yet, while covering the con, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I found Nope highly entertaining and infinitely thought-provoking. To me it’s a movie you can enjoy just as a straight-up summer blockbuster, or you can peel it back layer by layer and uncover treasures all the way down to its core. I don’t think it’s Peele’s best film, but damned if it isn’t great. What did you think about it?
Sabina Graves: “Peele” back layer by layer. Yes, I agree—I couldn’t stop thinking about it during SDCC either. Namely because a few folks were saying you catch more upon a rewatch, so I’m definitely hoping to catch it again on IMAX, and am looking forward to that full experience again.
Germain: Damnit. “Peele.” That’s a good one. So what specifically have you been thinking about since you saw it?
Sabina: Its themes and a lot of the visuals. On the road to San Diego there was a super low cloud or fog nestled between some of the hills we drove by that looked eerie and I was like “NOPE!” In all seriousness I was really moved by what it was trying to say about the entertainment industry and how it was embodied by this alien monster. I’m also very freaked out about aliens so it was totally effective for me. “Space Jaws.”
Germain: Yeah, that third act was very Jaws meets Close Encounters conceptually. And thematically I agree. The Haywoods feel like a family that already has been sucked in and spit out by Hollywood. They struggle to get work, are always hustling, and it’s like they never get any favors. Even the way Em (Palmer) pitches herself on another job shows that. The same goes for Jupe (Yeun), this child actor who still wants fame and success, and all of them see this alien ship/being as their way out.
I will say, however, though it doesn’t quite fit in with that theme of the problems and struggles of the film industry, I really, really, really wanted to see Em and OJ (Kaluuya) get that “Oprah” shot. I mean, I guess they did with that photo. But my thinking is, in the next scene that we never see, no one would believe them. Which is basically perfectly in line with those themes.
Sabina: I thought it was clever to have the shot come out of the well that it was an “O” shape. I think that final moment really spoke to how it’s really luck and having an eye even with the most rudimentary tools that can define you, or in this case give Em that victory against the alien. Because we see it take down old school cinema, modern cinema, the Nightcrawler energy influencer on the bike, and such.
Germain: Right. Like it has power over electricity and therefore technology but simple things, like a crank on a camera, it’s not ready for. More to think about there too.
Speaking of “more to think about,” it seems like in the past week the thing most people have been talking about, and rightfully so, is “Gordy’s Home.” The movie starts there, goes back to it, and not only helps fill in a backstory but draws some very interesting parallels. A week, and several theories later, I’m still thinking about Peele’s intentions here. What’s your take?
Sabina: It’s so unsettling! I think it was a way to show that Jupe thought that he could wrangle a predator then, and that he could do it now in the case of the alien ship. At least plot-wise. Thematically, I think it speaks to our obsession with the grim side of fame that sort of lives in infamy with big tragedies in entertainment.
Germain: A) I’d love to see the spinoff of the couple that spent the night there. B) Jupe name-dropping Chris Kattan as almost a God-level comedic genius (which I’m not mad at) was arguably my favorite moment of the movie. That and the Scorpion King sweatshirt.
But in all seriousness, I do agree. It’s Peele’s fun, fucked up away to show how nature doesn’t always bend to the will of man. Lots of times we are beholden to it. And that, even subconscious knowledge, helps us buy more into not just Jupe’s choices but OJ and Em’s.
Do you have any thoughts on the shoe? I read a great piece in the LA Times that said the fact the shoe was standing up may have been Peele’s hint that Jupe’s memory of this event was unreliable. Not sure if I believe that theory, or what it adds, but it was very smart and interesting.
Sabina: The shoe brings to mind a lot of how this idea of a souvenir or visiting the location of the place where it happened, like the Manson murders, really intrigues and draws people. To me it does speak to Jupe as an unreliable narrator hyping up this shoe, but also serves as the seed to his idea to bring an audience to his spectacle, to be the place where it happens—seeing an alien eat a horse but the tragedy there is that it eats everyone—which HIGHLY disturbed me with the sounds and visuals in the gullet of the creature. But ultimately, he unwittingly sacrificed himself and his crowd to become the new site of a tragedy. If that makes sense. Jupiter’s Claim became the shoe.
Germain: Oh 100% agree about the gullet scene. I was not expecting that at all. I think, if anything, we needed more of that after though. I would’ve loved to see a bit more inside the creature. But I do see what you mean. Jupiter’s Claim is the new myth. It’s already started with the TMZ reporter and the reporters we see at the end. It’s the new symbol that’s going to carry the evil of this tragedy.
Sabina: Can I also say Steven Yuen was so great in this and just the ensemble really brought it—even when the middle felt a bit meandering. I was into it because I cared so much about Em and OJ. Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya were totally in sync with each other as siblings. And Michael Wincott’s spoken word “Purple People Eater” was perfectly spooky. Also we got that scary pop song during the alien’s poltergeist moment.
Germain: I feel like this isn’t that fun of a read because we just keep agreeing but yes. The cast is excellent and I think one of the things that does hold the film back every so slightly is what you say. That second act, while interesting and entertaining, just doesn’t match up to the rest of the movie. I think that’s just cause Peele is being so ambitious and attempting to get so much in there that it holds it back a bit.
To me I think that’s why, while I love all three very very much, I put this below Get Out, but above Us, among Peele’s features so far. Get Out is a tightly constructed masterpiece and Us is beyond fascinating and innovative but its concept is so big and weird that it just left me with too many questions. Love them all, but I put Nope in the middle. What about you?
Sabina: Get Out is such a stellar debut and one of the greatest films of our time. It did set the bar for Peele’s horror in a way that I think hasn’t quite hit that expectation since. I mean Us was very much filled with scares and unease too. We’re seeing it with Nope in that its opening and middle of the film’s sequence where the alien eats the people at Jupe’s culminating with the bloody Poltergeist moment on the house are the only two big scares. (Not counting the kids in the alien costume fake out. They did get me though.) But then the whole last act abandons that? It goes for more ethereal and Arrival-esque abstract rather than like Jaws eating Quint.
Germain: The kids got me too. But I was okay that the film was less “horror” and more “thriller.” Like I said at the top, to me this was Peele’s big budget summer blockbuster. An alien comes down from the sky to terrorize a town. So the fact that it blended genres and gave us plenty of edge of your seat moments, along with those introspective thinking moments, worked for me. If you aren’t always expecting the horror, the horror can be more effective.
Sabina: And I think that’s why I’m still thinking about it. Sure, I was hoping for that Peele tone but the different take on horror it had really has stuck with me, and I can’t wait to watch it again.
Nope is now in theaters.
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