Jordan Peele, director of Get Out and US, is back at it again with a new film. Peele’s new film NOPE is an exploration of sci-fi and western cinema. Peele utilizes his signature style to explore themes of ecology, race, labor, and toxic pop culture.
The film stars Keke Palmer and Daniel Kaluuya who play siblings running a horse ranch. After the death of their father, they discover intriguing phenomena in the sky and get wrapped up in the horror and excitement. The film follows the stories of the two siblings but also the backstory of another character and his traumatic life story.
Peele’s Get Out provided us with a new kind of thriller–one that also reveals a deeper meaning than what’s on the surface. Get Out gave Peele the opportunity to tell the stories of Black History through the lens of a horror film. Peele successfully did so by tying in the theme Black history into the main storyline. In Nope, his storytelling is more nuanced and he isolates many storylines into one.
I won’t lie, Nope is a confusing story. The movie seems to follow many themes that create a choppy storytelling experience. By the end of the movie, you’re left wondering how to interpret this film. For this reason, many people have speculated about the movie’s intentions and what some of the themes might mean. For instance, Peele named the main character O.J short for Otis Jr. However, this led many people to speculate the relation of the name to O.J Simpson and how the two people relate.
Nope strays away from Get Out and Us as it follows a more novel type of storytelling. Nope is an imaginative story that almost feels like a bad dream. The cowboy thriller meets sci-fi type movie carries a deeper meaning but also a great deal of confusion. As the viewer, you are left wondering what it all really means.
So, what does it all mean?
Nope primarily explores the dangers of capitalism in Hollywood and the lengths one will go to be known and be in the spotlight. Along with this, themes of race play an important role throughout the movie. The main characters pride themselves on their family background. Emerald Haywood played by Keke Palmer, states that her great, great, great grandfather was the Black man riding the horse in the first motion picture. She highlights that many people are unaware of who her grandfather is and his impact on motion pictures. Another example of a historic Black figure receiving no recognition.
Along with this, according to the American Press, Peele drew from the films Jurassic park and King Kong as they emphasize human addiction. In Nope, Peele includes the backstory of June played by Steven Yuen, and his tragic story of the chimpanzee Gordy. Gordy star of the show “Gordy’s Home”, went mad on set killing many but ultimately sparring Jupe’s life. Jupe takes this experience and profits from it. Peele highlights the idea that you cannot control wild animals for entertainment. The character Gordy represents themes of Black history and the enslavement of Black individuals. You cannot control people or animals for your own profit or entertainment.
A.O Scott of The New York Times, described the movie: “Nope” addresses such matters in a mood that feels more ruminant than argumentative. The main target of its critique is also the principal object of its affection, which we might call — using a name that has lately become something of a fighting word — cinema”. Scott argues in favor of Peele’s storytelling and directing and highlights Peele’s right to artistic expression.
However, what really constitutes a movie as good? With the many genres of directing and storytelling, it seems unfair to place Nope into just one category. However, should a good movie leave the audience questioning its intentions? Is Nope considered more of an artwork than a movie?
In my opinion, Nope is a difficult movie to follow but invites the viewers to summon their own interpretation. As the viewer, you have to work hard to understand Peele’s vision. As consumers, we prefer movies that allow us to sit back, relax, and be entertained. However, rarely are we given the opportunity to interpret for ourselves. Nope is not an easy movie to follow, and if you are willing to watch it, you have to be prepared to dissect every hidden meaning. Otherwise, you are left wondering if it was a bad movie, or if you just didn’t try hard enough to understand it.
Peele is an artistic genius for his ability to pack a plethora of themes into one film. Using others for entertainment and control will always backfire. The dark nature of capitalism is fueled by our constant need for power and recognition. Peele’s display of these themes is perfectly executed throughout the movie. He is opening new doors for horror movies.