So you’ve just seen Jordan Peele’s new sci-fi horror blockbuster, Nope. Maybe you have questions about how things played out in that thrilling finale, or you’re stuck wondering what the movie should Actually wear on.
When I walked out of a screening about two weeks ago, the feeling that I didn’t understand the big message of Peele’s latest film hung over me like an ominous cloud over the Southern California desert. Peele has touched on the subject of the film in interviews, but before we get to that, let’s break down the ending. Nope runs over two hours and follows horse trainers (and their siblings) OJ and Emerald Hayworth, who discover that something big and mysterious lurks in the sky near their ranch.
Incidentally, the film currently sits at a score of 77 on CNET’s sister site Metacritic.
Park your horse here if you still haven’t seen Nope – there are spoilers ahead.
What plan are OJ, Emerald and the others hatching?
OJ and Emerald are determined to get proof (Oprah’s kick) of the alien creature in the sky, even after it nibbles Ricky “Skirt” Park and others at nearby Jupiter’s Claim theme park . (I don’t know them, but the sight of blood rain would have signaled the end of the road to me).
They team up with cinematographer Antlers Holst, who has a non-electric camera (the beast produces an “anti-electric field” that renders things like digital cameras useless). They also decorate the area with tons of inflatable men. When these fall, it’s a sign that the creature is nearby. They also know to avoid staring at the beast and that it doesn’t like to consume inanimate objects like decorative flags.
Once they’re ready to invite the beast back, OJ begins riding around. He carries a chain of triangular flags attached to a parachute, and that comes in handy later on when a stranger shows up and taunts our petulant guy in the sky.
Why is the creature eating the guy from TMZ?
When the gang’s plan is underway, a stranger stops at the ranch on a bicycle. Emerald talks to the man – whose identity is obscured by a helmet – and realizes he’s from TMZ. News has already started to come out of the Jupiter’s Claim incident, and he is looking for answers.
The TMZ guy keeps heading in what turns out to be an unfortunate direction. The beast lurking above turns off his bike and sends it flying. He is alive but in poor condition, and OJ approaches him to help him. However, the guy’s helmet is reflective – just like the mirror that scares OJ’s horse at the start of the movie – and OJ realizes he has no choice but to get out of there.
The creature sucks in the TMZ rep and begins to chase OJ. It was then that OJ launched the invention of the parachute flag, which pushed the beast back a little and gave it time to take cover.
What does cinematographer Antlers Holst say to Angel?
Holst ultimately lands the money shot that OJ and Emerald are looking for. But then things take a turn. He mumbles something cryptic about them not deserving the impossible, and takes off with his camera.
However, it looks like the self-absorbed artist can’t resist snapping another shot. Holst points his camera at the creature, then it swallows him.
Does Angel (of Fry’s Electronics) live?
Yes, Angel survives the wrath of the beast. Her role in the final showdown is to help Holst. After Holst and his camera become alien food, Angel wraps himself in barbed wire fencing to avoid a similar fate. The beast tries to suck him in, but the ground fence stays up, and Angel comes back down to the ground. (Another possible reason it survived: The creature probably didn’t like the taste of wire.)
What’s the thing in the sky?
We get to know the creature in the sky as a white disc-shaped animal that could reasonably be mistaken for an alien spaceship from a distance. In the final scenes of the film, the creature transforms into something more huge and undulating. To me, it almost looks like a flower – well, if that flower had a terrifying, throbbing green mouth.
How will Emerald defeat the creature?
Emerald arrives at the TMZ guy’s bike, but the creature (which has taken on its new form) is too close to her for it to work. In a moving scene, we realize that OJ is going to help him by fixing his eyes on the beast, pulling it towards him.
Emerald’s bike turns on and she rides to the theme park, Jupiter’s Claim. She brilliantly had the idea of hurting the beast by releasing a giant inflatable cowboy into the sky.
Earlier in the film, Emerald and OJ visited Jupiter’s Claim and Emerald photo-bombed strangers by sticking his head in a well containing a camera. In the final minutes of the film, she grabs coins strewn on the ground, loads the machine, and takes several photos of the sky. The well spits out what looks like large polaroid pictures.
Eventually, the beast emerges and consumes the huge floating cowboy. Emerald takes a picture of it. Then the creature jumped up. It seems lifeless, like a torn plastic bag drifting through the air.
What happens to JO?
At the very end of Nope, we see a shadowy figure sitting on a horse just outside of Jupiter’s Claim. It’s unmistakably OJ, still wearing his bright orange hoodie.
What is No really on?
To me, Nope’s ending felt simple enough: an entertaining twist on an entertaining horror-adventure thriller. But I also thought there must be a deeper meaning to the final scenes, and to the film in general, that I hadn’t considered. In a July interview with Today, Peele spent a good chunk of time talking about the film’s themes.
Speaking to Today reporter Craig Melvin, Peele said Nope is about “a lot of things” including spectacle, race and human nature.
He said while writing the film he clung to the idea of making a show, “something that people should see”.
“I felt like I was fighting for the cinema, I was fighting for the theatrical experience when I was writing this movie,” Peele told Melvin. “So it’s about the show. And from there, I explored that and started to find out what I think is the dark side of our relationship with the show.”
Of this “dark relationship,” Peele said we can use the show “to distract us from the truth,” or give too much power to the things we obsess over — things that are spectacular. He also referred to the “bottleneck”.
“When we’re driving, we’re in traffic and there’s an accident, that traffic is slowing down,” Peele said. “It’s because everyone is sneaking a peek at this horrible sight and it’s slowing everyone down. And so I hung on to that and said, let’s make a movie about it.”
Peele also told Melvin, “I feel like it’s impossible to make a movie with people of color (or any movie) and it’s not about race.”
“This movie, which is set on the periphery of Hollywood, or, you know, show business, is also so wrapped up in this idea of representation and erasure,” Peele adds.
Peele didn’t directly unpack the ending, but Melvin asked him what he wanted viewers to think about when they walk out of the theater. Peele offered a bit of non-response: “If I had too clear of an idea of what I wanted them to think about, I feel like I wouldn’t be having the conversation with the public. is up to them to decide.”
He then returned to the meta-aspect of No: yes, it’s a film about the spectacle, but it’s also a spectacle.
“I hope they’re just fulfilled,” Peele said. “…I wanted to do a flying saucer movie because I just felt like if we could feel like we were in the presence of something else, if we felt like it was real, then it’s just an immersive cinema-worthy experience.”
Movies coming in 2022 from Marvel, Netflix, DC and more
View all photos