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Nope (2022) Explained: Plot, Themes And Ending

Nope (2022) Explained: Plot, Themes And Ending

nope explained

Jordan Peele’s Nope is a twisted, cautionary tale about the endless pursuit of a spectacle, an illusory greatness. It’s a masterful exploration of the human fascination with spectacle and the lengths we’d go to, to witness, capture, and commodify the extraordinary. Through the lens of a sci-fi horror narrative, Peele delves into themes of exploitation, spectacle, and the voyeuristic tendencies inherent in society, making the film a profound commentary on our culture’s obsession with sensationalism. 

The film not only excels in its subtext, it weaves these themes into a gripping narrative, ensuring the commentary never feels heavy-handed or didactic.

Much like Peele’s symbolism-laden blockbusters, Get Out and Us, Nope takes familiar Hollywood tropes and juxtaposes them to reflect the grim realities faced by black individuals. Throughout Nope, Peele not only critiques society’s obsession with spectacle but also the exploitation of black individuals and the erasure of black culture. 

Quickly then, let’s delve into Peele’s sci-fi horror to uncover its prominent themes and what they say about us as a society.

 

Jordan Peele’s Nope (2022) Plot Summary

Who are the Haywoods?

Nope opens on a family sitcom set with a chimpanzee named Gordy. However, the scene soon turns chaotic as Gordy goes on a violent rampage, replacing the set’s laughter with terror. The scene quickly cuts to modern-day Agua Dulce, California, where the Haywood family handles and trains horses on their ranch for Hollywood productions. Otis Haywood Sr. (Keith David) and his son OJ (Daniel Kaluuya) are casually conversing when a shower of small metallic objects falls from the sky and fatally hits Otis Jr.

Fast-forward and an adult OJ is on a movie set with his horse, Lucky. His sister, Emerald “Em” Haywood (Keke Palmer), is there to help the socially awkward OJ deliver a safety speech and explain a forgotten part of Hollywood history.

Despite Em’s passion, things soon go south for the siblings. Lucky reacts violently to a crew member’s blunder, leading to the Haywood siblings losing the job. On their way home, OJ and Em stop by Jupiter’s Claim, a Western-themed park near their ranch, where it is revealed that OJ is selling horses to pay the bills.

 

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An Inexplicable Phenomenon Plaguing the Haywood Ranch

Jupiter’s Claim is run by Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun), a child actor who miraculously survived a chimpanzee attack that claimed his co-stars. Jupe is now capitalizing on his childhood trauma, turning it into a commodity for people obsessed with true crime. As OJ contemplates reclaiming the horses he parted with, Jupe proposes a hefty sum to buy out the Haywood ranch. 

The subsequent evening, a horse called Ghost escapes from the Haywood ranch, unsettled by an unknown presence. OJ chases after Ghost, and while he does not find him, he discovers a mysterious object flying in the sky, which the sibling name “The Viewers.”

OJ and Emerald decide to film the UFOs, purchase surveillance cameras, and recruit an electronics store employee and UFO enthusiast, Angel Torres (Brandon Perea). This is when Jordan Peele’s Nope starts to really explore how spectacle can be exploited as a business opportunity.

nope explained
Source: Letterboxd

 

UFO in the Clouds

Em steals a metal horse statue from Jupiter’s Clam to serve as a decoy. One night, OJ notices his horse, Clover, has escaped the stable. While investigating this, he thinks he has seen an alien in the stable. It’s not a real sighting, just a prank played by Jupe’s kids in retaliation for stealing his statue. OJ finds Clover unsettled and alarmed by the unseen entity. The UFO concealed in the cloud takes Clover and the horse statue.

The next day, the main characters contact renowned cinematographer Antlers Holst (Michael Wincott), whom they had met on the studio set days earlier. Em proposes he films the odd events occurring at their ranch, but Antlers declines her offer, dismissing it as a meaningless pursuit of fame.

Angel Torres is the first to notice an unusual stationery cloud in the valley around the Haywood siblings’ ranch. OJ suspects that the cloud has been camouflaging the UFOs for months, although he thinks the alien spaceship could be something else.

 

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What Happened to the People at Jupiter’s Claim?

Nope finally explains what happened to Jupe on the set of Gordy’s Home. In a horrifying scene, audiences see Jupe hiding under a table as the chimpanzee goes wild around him. This is a callback to the opening shot of the chimpanzee.

In a poignant scene, the chimpanzee gives Jupe a fist bump just before he is shot dead. The ordeal, while traumatic, leaves Jupe unscathed, instilling in him a sense of invincibility. It also dictates the choices he makes later in Nope.

In the present day, former child star Jupe gets ready for a live show called ‘Star Lasso Experience’ at Jupiter’s Claim. For months, Jupe has been aware of the presence of the flying saucer, sacrificing horses to tame the mysterious objects so they can participate in his show.

 

nope movie explained
Source: Variety

Mary Jo, the child star who appeared with Jupe in Gordy’s Home, is a special guest at his theme park show. The woman hides behind a hat, trying to cover up her disfigured face. Mary Jo, as a young girl, gave Gordy a box of balloons as a gift. The balloon popping triggers the chimp to go on a violent rampage, likely disfiguring her.

When the UFO finally appears at the theme park, it abducts everyone present, including Jupe and his family. Jupe’s arrogance and invincibility make him think the mysterious entities and wild animals won’t take his life.

When OJ arrives at Jupiter’s Claim, he finds the park abandoned. Only the horse OJ sold to him, Lucky, has survived the attack. The UFO finally shows its true form, and the Haywood’s suspicions are confirmed. These are not flying saucers but predatory extraterrestrial monsters. While no one knows how they ended up lurking over California ranches, the scary monster is driven by its insatiable hunger.

 

The Haywoods Escape the Alien Onslaught

These mysterious extraterrestrial creatures loom over the Hayward house, terrifying Em and Angel. OJ has retrieved Lucky, but his truck dies before he can make it home. He watches the aliens dump blood all over the property, expelling all the non-living things that they ingested during the attack on Jupiter’s Claim, including the horse statue. Based on Lucky’s frenzied behavior on the movie set, after seeing its reflection, OJ realizes the entities will go after those who make eye contact with them.

Now OJ understands the way these creatures work, he puts together a plan. Cinematographer Holst suddenly calls Em, offering to help the siblings after hearing about the incident at Jupe’s show. Holst only shows interest when he can be sure there is a spectacle to watch.

 

What’s the Plan to get the ‘Oprah Shot’?

The next day, Em, OJ, and Angel prepare for their encounter. The trio set up a battery-operated inflatable figure across their Agua Dulce horse ranch to track the alien’s aerial position. Holst has to bring a hand-cranked film camera as the film’s characters soon learn modern cameras are ineffective near the entity, which OJ Haywood names Jean Jacket.

Jean Jacket isn’t just a silly name coined by OJ. It was the name of the horse that was supposed to be Emerald’s first horse but was instead used in a Western movie. When it comes to training the horses, Jean Jacket is trained by OJ and their father, making Em feel inferior. Naming the creature Jean Jacket allows Em to feel like she is part of it.

Equipped with walkie-talkies, the four devise a plan to lure the alien out of its aerial hideout and film it. OJ mounts Lucky, covering his eyes to try to avoid being sucked into the mysterious entity when a TMZ reporter disrupts him on an electric bike. The bike soon falls into the alien’s electrical dampening field and is consumed by Jean Jacket.

Holst manages to film this incident, but his obsession with capturing the ‘Oprah shot’ leads to him being consumed by Jean Jacket. Watching Antlers die on the hunt for the ‘Impossible Shot,’ Angel protects himself with a plastic tarp and barbed wire. The barbed wire triggers something in Jean Jacket, causing it to reshape into a jellyfish-like entity.

Just like the ranch horses and the violent TV chimpanzee, Jean Jacket is another creature humans use for monetization, as capturing footage of the flying saucer looking creature becomes a major goal for Emerald and OJ Haywood.

 

How Emerald Outsmarts Jean Jacket

In the movie’s climax, Em nearly gets captured by Jean Jacket, but OJ soon appears to protect his sister. He looks directly at the creature, driving him away from Em. Keke Palmer’s character rides a motorcycle to Jupiter’s Claim, where she releases giant helium balloons to try to distract Jean Jacket. As the scary creature approaches the balloon, Em uses a coin-operated, hand-cracked analog camera at the bottom of a wishing well to capture the moment. Finally, Emerald captures her money shot of the creature.

The giant helium balloon bursts inside Jean Jacket, causing the extraterrestrial creature to explode. This mimics the incident on the TV set of Gordy’s Home, where a popped balloon caused the chimpanzee actor to become violent. As reporters and police arrive, Em is delighted to have captured the perfect shot of what happened to the amusement park.

Nope ends with OJ and Emerald Haywood both alive, shrouded in fog, standing outside Jupiter’s Claim entrance. They have survived the ordeal and gotten their Oprah shot. In the end, an old-fashioned film camera captures the “impossible shot” as a still photo.

 

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How Nope Explained Audiences’ Fascination with the Spectacle

Writer/director Jordan Peele has explained that Nope is a film about “spectacle, race, and human nature.”

Peele believes Nope explained humans’ preoccupation with making a spectacle out of trauma. Jordan Peele uses people’s fascination with aliens in the same way Spielberg uses a shark in Jaws and spaceships in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Peele compares the actions of the events of Nope to people watching a traffic accident, unconsciously making a spectacle out of an awful tragedy. 

In this social media age, people have become numb to other people’s pain, shock and tragedy, consuming it as if it were fiction. Reality TV, true crime podcasts, and docuseries are all examples of the entertainment industry exploiting real-life trauma for money and views.

In Nope Ricky “Jupe” Park (Steven Yeun) capitalizes on his own history and uses his childhood trauma to make money as an adult. Deep down, Jupe is still carrying the trauma of his youth but pushes past the pain to exploit it for money and to attract people to his theme park.

Surviving the tragedy has also made Jupe overconfident to the extent that he doesn’t know when he has pushed the exploitation too far. His audience and Jupe look up and make direct eye contact with the beast, which leads to their demise. Their demarcation with spectacle, choosing to watch rather than run away, causes their deaths. In Nope, Jean Jacket only feeds on people who can’t look away from it.

The film opens with a Bible quote, which directly relates to the movie’s themes and aliens. The specific quote is from the Book of Nahum, chapter three, verse six, “And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a spectacle“. This acts as a warning to be careful about what you pay attention to. This prophecy appears to be fulfilled when the saucer rains blood and guts down on the ranch after they realize they could find fame and fortune in exploiting these seemingly scary monsters.

 

Jordan Peele and His Battle for Black Legacy in Moviemaking

nope movie explained
Source: Polygon

Nope isn’t strictly a movie in the horror genre, but it uses multiple elements of horror to reflect society. Jordan Peele brings elements from science fiction and Westerns in his long-awaited follow-up to Us. These are two genres that rarely feature black main characters. In Nope’s third act, Daniel Kaluuya’s OJ becomes a modern-day black cowboy engaged in a tense standoff with an extraterrestrial villain.

Jordan Peele pays homage to black cinema throughout Nope. Sidney Poitier appears on movie posters throughout the house where OJ and Emerald live. The Haywood siblings have posters for Duel at Diablo and Buck and the Preacher – both Westerns starring Poitier. Jordan Peele, the director of Nope, explained that those movies shared the same spirit as Kaluuya in his 2022 film, yet many people do not connect black actors and cowboy movies.

Early in Nope, Keke Palmer’s Em gives a speech about the history of black people in cinema. She reveals she and her brother OJ were descendants of a black jockey featured in the 1878 clip of Eadweard Muybridge’s “The Horse in Motion.”

In the impassioned speech, she explains: “Did you know that the very first assembly of photographs to create a motion picture was a two-second clip of a Black man on a horse?” That man was their great great great grandfather, yet OJ and Emerald are still struggling in the film industry.

English photographer Ryder Muybridge created a series of photographs of a galloping horse, and when the sequential images are projected in rapid succession, it creates an illusion of a horse in motion. This experiment is considered the first step in the development of motion pictures.

Despite this series of photographs being considered one of the most influential moments in movie history, the identity of the black jockey featured on the reel is unknown. Peele uses this piece of movie history as an integral part of Nope. It’s the perfect example of the way black movie stars in cinema have been robbed of their legacy. The first movie star was a black man, yet his name has been totally erased from film history.

Nope ends with the black characters getting the legacy they deserve. Siblings OJ Haywood and Emerald Haywood outsmart the aliens and capture footage of it, making sure neither they nor the creatures are erased from history.

 

Subverting the Familiar Alien Imagery

In Nope, Jean Jacket subverts the alien imagery filmgoers usually see in movies. Peele teases audiences with stereotypical alien imagery in the barn scene, but it turns out to be children in costumes trying to scare OJ.

When the praying mantis lands on the surveillance camera lens and provokes a jump scare from both audiences and Emerald, it also mimics the cliche look of the ‘little green men’ so often seen in film. Peele uses pre-existing expectations of the science fiction genre to surprise film audiences and twist the narrative.

Jean Jacket looks like a flying saucer but is, in fact, a massive single living entity. It changes shape throughout Nope until it turns into a giant angel moving through the sky.

 

Conclusion

Nope allows Jordan Peele to deliver audiences an entertaining and crowd-pleasing movie while also unpacking hard-hitting themes. Peele uses movies to explore race and the black experience in America. Much like his previous films, Get Out and Us, Nope bestows a more rewarding movie experience in the rewatches.

Editing by Amelia Harvey

 

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