Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

‘Nope’ has a few interesting ideas that don’t turn into much

A disappointing chapter in a masterful director’s filmography
Official “Nope” movie poster/ IMDB

Jordan Peele’s newest film “Nope” was released in July. “Nope” is by far the worst of Peele’s directorial work; it contains sparks of something special, but they are not thoroughly developed. The film is about two horse ranchers who sell horses to be used in movies and a UFO. However, the horse ranchers and the UFO are not very interesting.

The main character O.J. played by Daniel Kaluuya is a horse rancher who works hard and is annoyed by his sister, played by Keke Palmer. That is pretty much his entire character. After the first third or so of the film, I do not think any significant insight is gained into O.J. His sister’s character is defined by the fact that she is annoying and self-promoting.

The siblings begin to suspect there is a UFO near their property, doing strange things to the power on the ranch. Alongside a tech guy, the two ranchers plan to photograph the UFO. At first, at first this is an intriguing plotline, but it doesn’t develop nearly enough to remain interesting.

The main problem with the film is that the UFO is not the most interesting part. There is another storyline that is far more compelling. The film’s first scene shows a gorilla that attacked people on a television set. A shoe is at a weird position, that seems to defy the laws of physics. It feels strange and cryptic. We later learn that it was simply a sitcom starring a gorilla and one day the gorilla went crazy. The storyline is set up, but does not pay off in a satisfying way.

A former child star, played by Steven Yuen was on set during the gorilla attack, and he now runs an old west style theme park near the horse ranch. He is by far the most interesting character in the film, and it is sad we do not get more from him. In the first scene he appears, I found myself greeted with a fascinating character I wanted to learn more about. Yet, the story does not focus on him much.

To me, some people wanting to photograph a UFO is far less interesting than everything surrounding the gorilla scene. As the film goes through a third act set piece, I was thinking to myself “Is this all?” I think about a premise about people wanting to photograph a UFO could’ve made an interesting film. However, I do not think this is one.

A major flaw in the UFO plotline is the UFO itself. You never really learn anything about the aliens. Peele seems completely uninterested in what alien life means, and thus crafts a faceless bland villain. While other horror movie monsters, like the shark from Jaws, could be described the same way, “Nope” does not make the aliens menacing enough to be truly scary. Peele’s ability to write terrifying antagonists has been proven time and time again: the families in “Get Out” and “US” felt genuinely scary. In this film, the gorilla feels scary. The UFO does not feel scary enough.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have positive aspects. There are parts where the UFO feels frightening and there are some tense scenes. The film does have some suspenseful scenes and is well filmed. Peele undoubtably creates some great scenes. The opening scenes have a surreal combination of confusing and convulsion. Later, there was a fairly standard scene I thought was elevated by good filmmaking. In the scene, characters are yelling to each other from far distances away. The shot selection and sound design in the scene feel immersive, reflecting the scenario.

Maybe I am missing something. There are some themes I noticed, but they all seemed to hit dead ends. The film opens with a scene of an animal’s violence on a television set, and a bit later we see a horse going wild on a movie set. This seems to hint at some theme, but I do not see how this connects with the rest of the movie. Another common symbol in the film is the media industry. The film has a lot of movie posters on set. Maybe this is supposed to be a commentary on the false nature of media, but I do not know. Perhaps I am missing something.

As someone who generally does not watch horror films, I saw this primarily because of Peele’s prior work. While I look forward to the next Peele film, I would not recommend this one. The film has some baffling choices and feels like a lot of wasted opportunities. The movie’s central conflict does not feel compelling enough and reveals little about the characters. The movie is decent. Perhaps if the main story was not contrasted by Yuen’s far more interesting character and the gorilla plotline, I would feel more favorably towards the film.

Scott Lerer can be reached at [email protected].

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  • J

    Jeff EproSep 13, 2022 at 7:28 am

    Couldn’t disagree more – to me, this was the best UFO movie created in the past decade. Hands down. Fantastic characters and atmosphere building, and a truly terrifying relationship explored between the observer and the observed.

    • S

      Scott LererOct 3, 2022 at 4:07 pm

      In terms of UFO movies, I think “Arrival” has a more interesting take on aliens I think(If I can count “Man of Steel” I would add that too.). I think Steven Yuen’s character was fantastic, I would not say the same about Daniel Kaluuya and Keke Palmer’s characters. The atmosphere building is good, but I do not think it builds to anything satisfying, and the atmosphere is largely dropped with the last twenty minutes of the movie.