So you’ve just seen Jordan Peele’s new sci-fi horror blockbuster, No. Maybe you have questions about how things turned out in that thrilling finale, or you’re stuck wondering what the movie has to do actually be about it.
When I walked out of the screening about two weeks ago, the sense that I wasn’t getting the big message of Peele’s latest weighed on me like an ominous cloud over the Southern California desert. But the horror mastermind himself has addressed it in interviews, so we can turn to him when we try to decipher it.
Before we get to that, let’s break down Nope’s ending. Over two hours long, the film follows horse trainers (and siblings) OJ and Emerald Hayworth as they discover that something big and mysterious is lurking in the sky near their ranch. The film currently has a score of 77 on CNET’s sister site Metacritic. Park your horse here if you haven’t seen No – spoilers ahead.
What plan will OJ, Emerald and the others come up with?
OJ and Emerald set out to get proof (an “Oprah shot”) of an alien creature in the sky, even after having refreshments at Ricky’s “Jupe” park and others at the nearby Jupiter’s Claim theme park. (I don’t know about them, but the look bloody rain would mean the end of the road for me).
They teamed up with cameraman Antlers Holst, who has a non-electric film camera (the animal produces an “anti-electric field” that renders things like digital cameras useless). They also decorated the area with tons of inflatable tubes. When these fall, it is a sign that the creature is near. They also know that they must avoid looking at the beast and that it does not like to consume inanimate objects such as decorative flags.
Once they are ready to invite the animal back, OJ starts wandering around on his horse. He’s carrying a string of triangular flags attached to his parachute, and it comes in handy later when the alien shows up and taunts our irritable guy in the sky.
Why is the creature eating the TMZ guy?
As the gang’s plan is in full swing, a stranger arrives at the ranch on a bicycle. Emerald talks to the man – whose identity is masked by the helmet – and realizes he’s from TMZ. Reports of the incident at Jupiter’s Claim have already begun to trickle in, and he’s looking for answers.
The guy from TMZ takes off in what turns out to be an unfortunate direction. The beast lurking above knocks his bike off and sends him flying. He is alive but in bad shape and OJ approaches him to help him. However, the guy’s helmet is reflective – just like the mirror that spooks OJ’s horse at the beginning of the film – and OJ realizes he has no choice but to get out of there.
The creature vacuums up the TMZ rep and begins stalking OJ. That’s when OJ unleashed the invention of the flag parachute, which made the beast retreat a bit and buy it time to hide.
What does cameraman Antlers Holst say to Angel?
Holst Finally grabs the money OJ and Emerald were after. But then things take a turn. He mumbles something cryptic about not deserving the impossible and takes off with his camera.
But it seems the self-absorbed artist can’t resist one more shot. Holst points the camera at the creature and then swallows it.
Is Angel (of Fry’s Electronics) alive?
Yes, Angel will survive the wrath of the beast. His role during the final showdown involves helping Holst. As Holst and his camera become alien food, Angel wraps himself in a barbed wire fence to avoid a similar fate. The Beast tries to suck him out, but the fencing on the ground remains in place and Angel returns to the ground. (Another possible reason it survived: The creature probably didn’t like the taste of wire.)
What is that in the sky?
We recognize 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 massive and bloated. To me, it almost looks like a flower – well, if the flower had a scary, pulsating green mouth.
How will Emerald defeat the creature?
Emerald gets to 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 an emotional scene, we realize that OJ will help her by setting his eyes on the beast and drawing it to him.
Emerald’s bike turns on and she rides to Jupiter’s Claim theme park. He brilliantly comes up with the idea of injuring the beast by releasing a giant inflatable cowboy into the sky.
Earlier in the movie, Emerald and OJ visited Jupiter’s Claim and Emerald photo-bombed some aliens by sticking her head into a well that contained a camera. In the final minutes of the film, he grabs coins scattered on the ground, charges the machine and takes several pictures of the sky. The well spews out what look like large Polaroid pictures.
Eventually the beast emerges and consumes the massive floating cowboy. Emerald gets hit. Then the creature it will burst. It appears to be lifeless, like a torn plastic bag floating in the air.
What will happen to OJ?
At the very end of Nepe we see a dark figure sitting on a horse just before Jupiter’s claim. It’s unmistakably OJ, still wearing the bright orange hoodie.
What does the end mean?
I found the ending of Nope pretty straightforward… a fun cap to a fun adventure-horror-thriller. But it also occurred to me that the final scenes and the film in general must have a deeper meaning that I hadn’t considered. In an interview with Today in July, Peele spent a lot of time talking about the film’s themes.
In an interview with Today journalist Craig Melvin Peele said Nope was “about a lot of things”, including spectacle, race and human nature.
He said that when he wrote the film, he originally set out to create a spectacle, “something that people would have to see.”
“Writing this movie felt like I was fighting for cinema, I was fighting for a theatrical experience,” Peele told Melvin. “So it’s about the spectacle. And from there I explored it and started to uncover what I think is like the dark side of our relationship with the spectacle.”
In this “dark relationship,” Peele said, we can use spectacle “to distract from the truth,” or to give too much power to the things we obsess over—things that have a spectacular nature to them. It also highlights the “bottleneck”.
“When we’re driving, we’re in traffic and there’s an accident, the traffic slows down,” Peele said. “It’s because everybody’s watching this horrible spectacle and it’s slowing everybody down. So I took it 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 not be about race.”
“This movie … takes place in the suburbs of Hollywood, or, you know, the entertainment industry,” adds Peele. “It’s also so wrapped up in this idea of representation and erasure. Those themes are there.”
Peele didn’t directly reveal the ending, but Melvin asked him what he wants viewers to think about when they leave the theater. Peele provided a bit of a non-answer: “If I had a very clear idea of what I wanted them to think about, I feel like I wouldn’t be having a conversation with the audience. That’s up to them.”
Then he returned to the one meta aspect of Nope from the beginning: yes, it’s a movie about a spectacle, but it’s also a spectacle. “I hope they just filled,” Peele said. “…I wanted to make a film with a flying saucer because I felt that we could feel like we were in the presence of something, the ‘Other’.” If we feel like it’s real, then it’s just an immersive experience that’s worth going to the cinema.”
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