Especially in the big blockbuster space we don’t get many original films these days. I enjoy a formula film as much as the next person but it is exciting when you have a filmmaker consistently putting out bold and exciting new movies and studios giving that filmmaker the money to make their projects. Jordan Peele is such a director and writer, which is why it is disappointing I didn’t enjoy his latest film Nope more. I think I actually prefer his last release Us, and I was mixed on that. However, the zombie home invasion part of Us was more fun than anything we get in Nope.
Nope tells the story of a family of Hollywood horse trainers, OJ and Em (Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer) who start experiencing supernatural events at their ranch in California. The film is told through the perspective of the horses including a horse that is part of a Western show named Lucky. This show is run by ex-child star Jupe Park (Steven Yeun) and is introduced as a major set piece for the story.
The film seems to be commenting on the history of Black artists in entertainment with repeated references to the first use of film being a Black man on a horse (the ancestor of Em and OJ). The problem is it doesn’t really do anything with that fact. What is it trying to say about representation and diversity? We know this problem exists so merely pointing it out isn’t very insightful.
Then we get a long segment with Jupe and his trauma on the set of a show he was in during the 80s. This is strange because there’s no payoff for this entire plot. Like seriously someone explain to me what the point was with the monkey? There’s also aliens and a set up with an alien show at the Western park that goes nowhere. We meet a young man who works for Fry’s Electronics named Angel (Brandon Perea) and his character doesn’t have much of an arc. Perea has some funny lines but that seems to be the only point of his character.
Palmer’s Em is the true protagonist of the film, but they move away from her for long stretches making it hard to be invested in her story. Palmer and Kaluuya do have nice chemistry, and I believed them as brother and sister, but I wish the script had given them more to do than running around avoiding crazy weather.
The movie looks incredible with fantastic cinematography from Hoyte van Hoytema and the sound design is also very strong. Unfortunately, great technicals can only take you so far when the story is so unsatisfying.
I keep hearing people say this is ”Jaws in the air,” and I honestly have no idea what they are talking about. Jaws isn’t just about a creature that kills people. It’s about a whole town that ignores signs and what a few brave people finally do to stop the shark from killing people. In this the characters experience a creature, but there’s no plan to defeat it, no building up of tension, or group think to fight against. Most of the other humans are watching what is happening as spectators (literally paying to support Jupe and his alien show. No skeptics to be found) not actively fighting against the protagonists (or doing anything positive or negative to move events along) like the mayor and other townspeople do in Jaws. Like I said, it’s more a weather phenomenon movie like Twister than a creature scares movie. Have these people seen Jaws?
Because the story was so scattered and the action so random Nope did not work as a sci-fi film and it certainly didn’t scare me like a horror movie should! When I left the theater I was meh on the movie, but the more I think about it the more glaring the problems are. It was slow, obtuse and plodding, wasting the strong work of the cinematographer and cast. You might say it’s a nope for me on Nope.
4 out of 10
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