Jordan Peele’s Nope is finally in theaters. After waiting what felt like forever, since that first teaser poster was released over a year ago, the glory of Peele’s third feature film has finally graced my eyes. Loaded with a cast that is bound to turn heads, including returning Peele veteran Daniel Kaluuya, Nope has been surrounded by excitement since the day it was announced. So, how did it stack up against expectations? I’m not quite sure yet myself…
[Warning: Mild Spoilers from Jordan Peele’s Nope are below!]
Jordan Peele‘s imperfect spectacle
Nope is conflicting. A movie that demands *zooming out* and just soaking in the bigger picture. While also indulging in the meticulous interworkings of characters so minuscule they are cast aside with no sense of ceremony. I don’t hate Nope, in fact I know I had a lot of fun. But I’m not yet sure if I love it. Maybe it’s neither, or maybe it’s both. But, c’mon, you put me in a 2-hour alien creature feature and I’m going to get a kick out of it one way or another.
The first Jaws film is a movie Nope clearly takes a lot from. Anytime a movie can be classified as a “creature feature,” that much is to be expected. The way the mysterious and ever-imposing antagonist is often seen in fleeting glimpses or kept in the dark, protecting the long-held rule of “don’t show the monster too much.” But Nope misses where Jaws hit right on the money, and I’d say this is where creature features can’t afford to fail: the characters.
Nope‘s largest fault: its characters
Nope struggles with characters in a way unique from most movies. All of the characters are loveable and I’d be willing to spend an additional 30 minutes with them if that’s what they called for. But they don’t. The movie spends far too much time with the plot and the abstract ideas of the theme, and the main characters – OJ (Kaluuya), Em (Keke Palmer), and Angel (Brandon Perea) – all end up feeling incredibly underdeveloped.
The secondary characters, Jupe (Steven Yeun) and Antlers (Michael Wincott), exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. Jupe is very deeply developed, almost excruciatingly so. The movie dedicates, frankly, an insane amount of time to him and all of the decisions he makes. But Antlers is underdeveloped by every standard. He has very very few lines, and one of them does work in a Chekov’s gun kind of way. But he’s given a moment near the end of the movie that is treated with more significance than the character is warranted.
More good than bad
Beyond the issues I feel with the characters, Nope is amazing. The sheer spectacle of it all is something to be witnessed. Hoyte van Hoytema works magic behind the camera as always. There are plenty of truly stunning and terrifying shots to be seen. The way the movie uses sound is incredible as well. Sometimes the movie will drop to dead silence only for it to roar back in a moment that sends chills down your spine. Between Nope and The Batman, this year’s blockbusters have really made full use of the sound of their films.
Nope, when up against Get Out and Us
Having watched and reviewed Peele’s previous films recently, I was curious about how Nope would approach its theme. Clearly, between Get Out and Us, theme is something that Peele really values in his stories. Nope is nowhere near the mess that I believe Us to be, and nowhere near the perfect script that I think Get Out is. It’s somewhere in the middle, and I think that’s okay.
There’s a lot of fun to be had here. The issues with Nope truly do fall down to the way that they use their characters. Each character presents a different theme with the way they perceive and interact with this “thing” in the story.
But when some of the characters are more developed than others, and some characters fall to the wayside completely, things start to get messy like Us. The themes and ideas start to feel unclear, and you start to wonder if you’re reaching for something that’s not really there.
Nope feels very close to being Peele’s next masterpiece. But as of now, the film feels incomplete with the way that it approaches the themes and utilizes its characters. The good news is though, it does everything else right. Nope is scary and shocking, with twists and turns that really excite.
I really do love the story and ideas that Peele is aiming for here. But if a character-rich horror with powerful themes is what you’re looking for, this might not be for you.
My rating for this film:
Jordan Peele’s third film Nope is out in theaters now. What did you think of the film? Let us know over on Twitter!