Where I Watched It: Peacock
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
That feeling we all got the first time we realized Jordan Peele had something to say with his breakout film Get Out is something we’ve been expecting from every project since. He’s become a new Spike lee, interweaving social consciousness into his films, with a pointed intent at driving home something to his audience. What that something is, can be left a little open to interpretation. Just the fact that there is an alternate ending to Get Out suggests that Peele himself often second guesses how to deliver his own message in the strongest way possible. but at the end of the day, his films end up feeling like a special experience by themselves, not unlike how M. Night Shyamalan’s films felt once we knew Haley Joel osment could see dead people.
With his latest, Nope, it’s almost as if the hype machine is working against him. He’s now a spectacle, where putting his name on a film can change the fortunes of a film. Look at that Candyman reboot. There was no reason to suggest that would either be a hit, or would be anything special, until Jordan Peele slipped in to produce. So long before anyone ever knew what Nope was about, the hype was more than the film itself could muster. So it makes sense that Nope is not a small horror film, or really even a film steeped heavily in social reform. It’s a popcorn summer blockbuster, possibly the last thing anyone truly expected Peele to do. It’s that kind of challenge that will take his next project, whatever it is, and put a big question mark on it as well. If jordan Peele directed a kids film next, I wouldn’t be surprised. He’s clearly avoiding being trapped into a formula, and interested in keeping things unpredictable and fresh so his voice resonates through the film.
And his voice does resonate in nope. I think, in my position, having seen this film late (and knowing pretty much the main spoilers), I was in a unique position to sit back and really see what this film is. My thoughts involve more of a condemnation on hype, film twitter, letterboxed, and anyone who tried comparing this film to Jaws. Peele isn’t trying to make Jaws, but rather just make a film that you didn’t expect to see him make, but yet so totally feels like a Jordan Peele film.
Take the leading actors of Daniel Kaluyaa and Kiki Palmer. They’re running essentially the longest operating black owned stunt team that works with horses in Hollywood, which even includes a history lesson. It’s not so much asking for social reform as it is reminding you that black people take these jobs too, which seems to be the oddity Everytime they pitch themselves. They shouldn’t seem any different than any other horse trainers and stunt coordinators, yet somehow, they have to justify their presence where others would not.
And that’s the Jordan Peele experience. The rest of it is wrapped up in this big budget summer blockbuster alien adventure. It’s got surprises, action, and all the creative prowess of some of the best summer hits of the past. I never found it scary. This might be a blind critic thing, but the closest I came to being scared ended up being a fake out.
So, why isn’t this in my Top 10? Well, while I’m a big fan of Steven Yuen, and will always follow Glenn into whatever film he stars in down the line, I hated everything about his backstory. I challenge someone to cut this film, remove all aspects of his backstory, and watch that version. I bet that version still kills, and if anything creates a tighter story that focuses right where it needed to. This backstory about a monkey that went insane on set just didn’t work for me. It wasn’t the violence, it wasn’t the gore. It wasn’t even the fact that Peele convinced everyone that this somehow actually happened. It was just all extra, and it was so obviously extra.
Take a look at Get out, as an example. Most of that film features our lead, Chris, at home with his girlfriend’s parents. The mystery evolves from there. But there is this other story that takes up some time, and it involves Chris’s friend being unable to contact him. This is not a plot element that has no basis in the outcome of the film. not only does it directly teach us about Chris and his situation, but it hints at a larger conspiracy, and eventually puts the best friend in the role of surprise hero.
In nope, the backstory about the TV show is for Steven’s supporting character, a former child actor who now runs a tourist trap (essentially), and even though the monkey spares him, the monkey didn’t spare others. How does this work into the plot? It doesn’t. It doesn’t do anything for our leads, who do have a plot about their horses not being respected on set as one of them catches a glimpse of something shiny. But that is totally different than a monkey running around murdering people. Someone else’s backstory doesn’t support this one. It didn’t bring these characters closer together. If anything, it separates them further.
So, while I think Nope has a lot going for it, i do think there’s this one rather large addition to the story that was totally unnecessary. And for those giving awards to Kiki Palmer this year. I mean, she was fun, but can you honestly tell me that she was showing any range at all? The casting was so perfect because that is Kiki. Can we nominate her for something where she was at least showing us some range?
For my blind audience, I don’t know how much you’ll enjoy Nope. A lot of the film is based on really quick, almost jump scares. Fleeting glimpses of moments of “did i just see that?”, and that gets translated into the audio description, but often after the fact. The narrator does a good job of not spoiling anything in advance, but it often means that the event itself is still being described long after it happened. I still think the movie is creative and inventive enough to stand on its own, and it’s a fun popcorn film that I enjoyed a lot.
I’m going to say take a shot on Nope. It’s not my favorite Jordan Peele film, but he is such a tremendous talent, he will eventually top himself again anyway. This is a fun blockbuster, and honestly it would make for one hell of a theme park ride.
Final Grade: B