Thursday, July 27, 2023


Film: Nope
Format: DVD from Sycamore Public Library on the kid’s television.

I’ve been in St. Louis since last Saturday. Like last year, I’m pet sitting my daughter’s dog while she is on vacation with her boyfriend’s family. I’ve been watching sitcoms mostly for the week while I’ve been grading papers, but now that I’m pretty much done with my papers for the week, it was time to sit back with a movie. Naturally I brought some discs with me, and I figured this would be as good a time as any to finally catch up with Nope, Jordan Peele’s third film.

Musicians often have a sophomore slump because all of their best songs that they’ve worked on for years go on the first album, and the second one ends up feeling rushed. Movies tend to drop off in the third film these days—think of all of the trilogies you can. With rare exceptions like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the third movie tends to be where things drop off. It’s true of most genres, goes back at least as far as the Star Wars trilogy, and is true of unconventional trilogies like Edgar Wright’s Cornetto trilogy. It’s also true of Jordan Peele’s first three movies.

We’re going to spend most of our time with the Haywood family, who train horses for movies and television shows. As the film starts, Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) is struck by something from out of the sky and killed. The film picks up six months later with his son Otis Jr., who goes by OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) carrying on the family business with the help of his sister Emerald (Keke Palmer). When one of their horses reacts badly on a set, the Haywoods find themselves in financial trouble, and make ends meet by selling some of their horses to Jupe Park (Steven Yeun), a former child star who runs a Western-themed park. Jupe is a survivor of an ill-fated television show that featured a chimpanzee that went berserk on set, maiming most of his costars.

It is slowly revealed that what is hovering over the area is a very large UFO that hides in a cloud that is noticeable mainly because it doesn’t move. The Haywoods recruit Angel (Brandon Perea) to set up cameras around their ranch, and what they find is a lot more disturbing and sinister than a simple alien invasion. I won’t spoil where this goes without putting it under a spoiler tag.

There are some really good ideas in Nope. What Jordan Peele does in terms of the reality of the alien is a lot more interesting than it could have been, and it’s surprisingly inventive as an idea. It does go to a sort of natural conclusion, but the film is smart enough to give us a few surprises along the way, especially with how the various characters interact with what is living in the cloud. And, of course, it’s cast really well. Kaluuya is the presumed star of the film, but it’s Keke Palmer who seems to be having the most fun of everyone involved.

It's not a perfect film, though. For one thing, Nope takes a very long time to get going. Aside from the interesting opening, we’re not really getting a lot more than just hints at mystery for the first hour or so of the film. Similarly, the entire section dealing with Jupe Park and the chimpanzee seems to be there merely for spectacle and doesn’t have a tremendous amount to do with the actual story. Yes, there’s some allegory here, but we spend a lot of time on this that probably didn’t need to be spent this way. There is one thing I want to talk about that requires a spoiler tag, though, so if you haven’t seen Nope, you’ll want to skip a bit.

* * * NOPE NOPE NOPE * * *

One of the bigger issues is what happens with the alien. We learn what the alien is, of course, and its appearance as essentially a flying saucer kind of makes sense, even if it requires a little bit of squinting to get there. It does feel very gossamer, though, not unlike the Rover beach balls from The Prisoner television show. And eventually, it goes through a sort of Pokemon evolution that really isn’t explained. It looks pretty, but it doesn’t make any sense.

* * * YEP YEP YEP * * *

Ultimately, Nope is fine, but it doesn’t live up to the promise of Peele’s first two films. It’s clearly in third place, and by a lot. I hoped for better.

Why to watch Nope: It’s better than Cowboys and Aliens.
Why not to watch: It won’t create a rush on science fiction Westerns.


  1. I liked the film as I love what Peele is doing visually while Keke Palmer fucking made the film for me as she just has all of this energy and drive.

    1. Keke Palmer is 100% the best thing in this movie.

  2. I think I am mostly with you on Nope. There was a lot of potential, a lot of mystery and a tremendous amount of coolness, but the monkey thing felt like a sidetrack that did not lead anywhere. It is okay to go tangential, but not, it is does not come back to meet the main storyline. There was also something undefinably off about the alien. Cannot explain it, so your description is probably better. I felt a bit unsatisfied leaving the cinema.

    1. It's disappointing to me mostly because of how good Peele's first two movies were. This seems like a huge step down from where he was.

  3. ***Obviously, massive spoilers for Nope in the comment to follow***

    I also was confused as hell as to the importance of the Jupe storyline when I first saw the film, and I had to go online & read a few other takes and analysis to finally get a good picture of that half of the film and what it has to say about the themes of the film overall.

    Jupe was the only survivor (or at least the only untouched survivor) of the sitcom incident, and as an adult literally centered his career around that fact, commercializing it to such a degree that would lead him to think he could do the same & be able to handle/survive the UFO for sensationalist success. Of course, the reality of what he was dealing with comes back to bite him and the crowd at his park in the worst possible way.

    A similar thread happens with Em and Angel on their first attempt to get video footage of the UFO (the "Oprah shot", as Em puts it); they end up trapped & terrified inside the house as the creature rains blood & debris on them in a show of agitated combativeness, because they were trying to take advantage of the sensation having video footage of it would bring them without really having a real idea of what they were dealing with.

    The film is ultimately about the commercialization of spectacle; trying to take personal advantage & gain of something just for the monetary success that could happen without having any thought or consideration for what you're doing or using to get it. It's when OJ takes charge, having figured out the reality of the UFO & treating it like the territorial animal it really is, that the group ends up succeeding at their goal, with Em getting the shot from the well camera, along with her, OJ, and Angel surviving their encounter with the creature.

    The problem with all of this, to loop this back around to your post and to the other comments that were similarly lost on several points, is that it does not come across at all while one is watching the film. The way Peele shoots the film, both overall and in how he handles the Jupe side-story, basically serves to shift the viewer's perceptions about these narratives almost entirely onto the mystery of what is going on, both with the UFO and the Jupe narrative, and as a result, none of the film's themes on spectacle and the reckless & extensive commercialization of it comes through whatsoever. The focus of the actual filming and the editing of the resulting film is not on what it should be, and so a lot of viewers (myself included) came out half-satisfied & more confused about aspects of the film than we should've been. After looking into it a good deal, followed by a second viewing, it made much more sense to me now that I knew what I was supposed to be getting from it, but the fact that I had to go outside the film & do homework on it in order for it to make sense in the first place is more on Peele and the film for not having it all there & where it should be.

    1. Interestingly, I had basically the opposite complaint with Peele's previous film; with Us, it seemed like he was so dead-set on the metaphor of the Tethered/doppelgangers that he lost sight of actually tying it all together in a way that made sense with the surface-level narrative that was going on. Too many things didn't line up & fit together for the film as a whole to work, and so it felt like the application of the metaphor was stifling the actual story that was being told.

      It seems like Peele's films, or at least his scripts, are something like three or four good script revisions away from what they ultimately should be. Get Out worked on such an inherent level that I feel like Peele never really learned how to hone a script further to make sure it's the best version of what it's trying to do; both Us and Nope could've been much more solid & successful (and thus more satisfying) in their aims, if the pre-production had stayed in the gestation phase another month or two.

    2. I liked Us well enough. With both that film and Get Out, th deeper meaning isn't that hard to follow. Both of them are pretty up front about what the film's metanarrative is. It's fair in a lot of cases to blame the audience for not getting the deeper meaning, but that's not always the case.

      With Nope, I think it's on him. Everything makes sense here about why the monkey story would be included, about why Jupe acts the way he does, and ultimately with what happened to him and his ranch based on that. But that's incredibly opaque. I'm capable of reading a lot into a movie and finding out a deeper meaning, but you have to dive through several levels of things to get to that read--and it does make sense as the ultimate purpose of that subplot--but that's a lot more work than most audiences are going to want to put in.

      We as the audience shouldn't have to go back and ask the filmmaker questions about what he meant. That should be in the damn film. It's easy to interpret both Neo in The Matrix and Luke in Cool Hand Luke as Christ figures because all of the symbolism can be pointed to without a lot of effort. Here, it's a lot of work to get to that ultimate meaning, even if it seems obvious once you're told about the intent.

      That's on Peele, and it's why I think Nope is a distant third to his other two films.

  4. I liked Nope quite a lot (definitely more than Us) but agree with some of the criticisms here, especially how long it took to set up. I really liked that the plot seemed like a tribute to Close Encounters but turned into Jaws in the most horrifying way. And while I agree that the relevance of the monkey scene was very opaque, I thought that it was done so well that it really haunted me. As did the scene with the show crowd not realizing the danger they were in until . . . yikes.

    1. I don't really know what it is that has me not as excited about this as I want to be. I liked Us because it felt new in a lot of ways. This felt forced, like it really needed a couple more rewrites.