Nope is essentially Jaws in the sky. The UFO is like a shark. It gets hungry and feeds on what it comes across, whether that’s people or horses or statues of horses. In that sense, Nope is pretty straightforward. The first third is realizing the UFO exists. The second third is figuring out what the UFO is. And the last third is defeating it. But Nope goes beyond a simple monster story by bringing in thematic elements. There are two primary themes: Spectacle and Interaction. The idea of spectacle and the monetization of spectacle is why Nope places such emphasis on the entertainment industry. Whether it’s film or theme park or simply a sensational photo that will be world news. The idea of interaction explains the emphasis on relationship dynamics. Of special importance is the interaction between humans and animals, leaning heavily into the realm of people being ignorant and arrogant. Nope combines both the Spectacle and Interaction themes via the Gordy’s Home subplot where the chimpanzee actor goes wild after a balloon pops, horrifically injuring multiple people. You see how the human desire for spectacle mixes with the arrogance and ignorance of interaction with a wild animal—the result being disaster. The same story repeats with Ricky “Jupe” Park’s attempts to recruit an UFO sky shark into being a park attraction only to discover sky sharks would rather do sky shark stuff like eat the crowd. But the interaction theme extends into various interpersonal dynamics, like that between OJ and Emerald.
- Daniel Kaluuya – OJ Hawood
- Keke Palmer – Emerald Haywood
- Brandon Perea – Angel Torres
- Steven Yeun – Ricky “Jupe” Park
- Jacon Kim – Young Ricky
- Michael Wincott – Antlers Holst
- Keith David – Otis Haywood
- Terry Notary – Gordy
- Jordan Peele – Writer/Director
Why it’s called Nope
Jordan Peele has made a thing of using simple titles that convey a mood. Get Out has an immediacy and anxiety to it. Us emphasizes community, something ironically undercut by the events of its story. And Nope communicates a casual but assertive refusal to engage. This is not something you want to deal with, be part of, or even worry about. It’s a very colloquial and modernist naming trend that makes the movies feel a bit more in touch with how people talk and feel. As opposed to more artistic and cinematic names like Magnolia or Last Night in Soho or The Wolf of Wall Street. Peele’s titles do a good job of building anticipation for the tone of a movie before people even know what the movie’s about.
Beyond the broad psychology of the title, the word is used within the movie itself. We first hear “Nope” in the conversation between OJ and Emerald after OJ asks what the word for a “bad miracle” is. Already there’s this idea of not wanting to engage with this thing that feels much larger than you and what you can even comprehend. The second time it’s used is the scene where the Jupiter’s Claim kids dress up as aliens to scare OJ. When they first appear and he thinks they’re really aliens, he says, “Nope. Nope, nope.” And the third time is near the end in reference to the actual “alien”.
I can’t help but think about the application of the title in terms of the main themes of spectacle and interaction. Nope places such an emphasis on people being idiotic and not understand what they’re doing when it comes to their interactions with animals, you can start to feel like Peele is trying to say “Nope” to the whole idea of spectacle. Or imploiring audiences to say “no” far more often than we do. Monetization of spectacle is a problem, as companies will try and justify more things than they should in the pursuit of profit. If they won’t stop, then it’s up to us, as the consumer, to look at a situation and say, “Nope.”
This lines up with Jordan Peele saying he took inspiration from King Kong and Jurassic Park. In Kong, the filmmaker Carl Denham leads an entire film crew to a remote island to try and film a giant monster. People are injured, killed. But Denham succeeds in bringing the colossal gorilla back to New York, where he puts it on stage in front of a sold out audience. Sure enough, King Kong breaks freak, injures people, and tears through New York. And in Jurassic Park, Dr. John Hammond discovers dinosaur DNA in preserved mosquitoes and manages to process the DNA into living, breathing dinosaurs. He’s on the brink of opening a theme park called Jurassic Park where many people will pay a lot of money to see real dinosaurus. Except everything goes wrong. People are hurt, killed, and Hammond realizes how stupid he was. The Jupiter’s Claim abduction scene is Peele’s nod to both King Kong and Jurassic Park and I think definitely serves as commentary on this idea of monetized spectacle and the danger there.
The themes and meaning of Nope
Jordan Peele did an interview with Empire Magazine ahead of Nope’s release. He said, “I started off wanting to make a film that would put an audience in the immersive experience of being in the presence of a UFO. I wanted to make a spectacle, something that would promote my favorite art form and my favorite way of watching that art form: the theatrical experience. As I started writing the script, I started to dig into the nature of spectacle, our addiction to spectacle, and the insidious nature of attention. So that’s what it’s about. And it’s about a brother and sister and healing their relationship.”
Peele continued: “The part of the African-American history that this addresses more than anything is the spectacle-isation of Black people, as well as the erasure of us, from the industry, from many things. I think in a lot of ways, this film is a response to the Muybridge clip, which was the first series of photographs put in sequential order to create a moving image; and it was a Black man on a horse. We know who Eadweard Muybridge is, the man who created the clip. But we don’t know who this guy on the horse is. He’s the first movie star, the first animal trainer, the first stunt rider ever on film, and no one knows who he is. That erasure is part of what the lead characters in this movie are trying to correct. They’re trying to claim their rightful place as part of the spectacle. And what the film also deals with is the toxic nature of attention and the insidiousness of our human addiction to spectacle.”
So let’s start with spectacle.
First, let’s define spectacle. In this case, it’s “a public show or display, especially on a large scale.” The scale thing is important. Someone playing an acoustic guitar on a street corner isn’t a spectacle. A 30-piece orchestra standing on that same corner, performing Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” is a spectacle. Two characters in a movie sitting in a cafe talking about work isn’t a spectacle. Two characters dueling with lightsabers in a giant spaceship and one of them is wearing all black armor—that’s spectacle.
With that in mind, you can see some of the ways in which spectacle appears in Nope. Like in the commercial shoot near the beginning of the movie. It’s one thing to have an actor star in a commercial. It’s another thing to have an actor and a horse. You bring the horse in because it adds a degree of spectacle to the production. Same thing with Gordy’s Home. It’s one thing to have a sitcom about a family. It’s another to have a sitcom about a family with a chimpanzee. The chimp is a novelty. It’s spectacle. Is it necessary? No. But it gets attention. This also explains Ricky having the Gordy’s Home shrine in his office at Jupiter’s Claim. People pay him a lot of money to come see the various items from the chimp attack. They want to be part of the spectacle, to, in even that small way, be close to the event itself. There’s about a dozen more examples but we can move on.
Now that we’ve established how prominent spectacle is in Nope, we need to look at the commentary on spectacle. Peele makes his feelings known with the opening epitaph, a Bible verse, Nahum 3:6: “I will cast abominable filth upon you, make you vile and make you a spectacle.” The quote makes it clear that becoming a spectacle is a bad thing. You’re abominable filth. You’re vile. You’re a spectacle that people will see and be amazed because of how gross you are. The tone is about as straightforward as it gets. Peele does not think much of spectacle.
We can dig a bit more into that Bible verse. Nahum 3 is titled “Woe to Nineveh” and goes something like this: Woe to the city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder, never without victims! The crack of whips, the clatter of wheels, galloping horses and holting chariots! Charging cavalry, flashing swords and glittering spears! Many casualties, piles of dead, bodies without number, people stumbling over the corpses—all because of the wanton lust of a pr**titute alluring, the mistress of sorceries, who enslaved nation by her pr**tituion and peoples by her witchcraft. “I am against you,” declares the Lord Almighty. “I will lift your skirts over your face. I will show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your shame. I will pelt you with filth. I will treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. All who see you will flee from you and say, ‘Nineveh is in ruins—who will mourn for her?’ Where can I find anyone to comfort you?”
The idea of a city full of lies and plunder and never without victims seems relevant here. Not necessarily about a place. But go back to the Empire Magazine interview and Peele mentions the “insidiousness of our human addiction to spectacle.” So he’s critical of both the capitalistic urge to monetize spectacle in entertainment as well as the human addiction to consume spectacle. This would explain why Peele had Ricky name the UFO “The Viewers”. That opens up whole worlds of symbolism. Especially because immediately after “The Viewers” devour Ricky and everyone else. Spectacle has consequences to those putting it on as well as those consuming it.
Just look at how the characters engage with the UFO. Ricky wants to become friends with it and perform with it. Emerald wants to photograph it to gain fame and whatever financial windfall comes her way. Angel thinks there might be a UFO and is so enamored by it keeps coming around to the Haywood ranch. And then Antlers is so overwhelmed by not only seeing an apex predator up close but filming it, that he sacrifices himself. And of course, there’s the TMZ reporter. Completely dehumanized. Terrifying. And obsessed with content creation. Even when he crashes his motorcycle and is seriously hurt, what’s he ask OJ to do? Not help him but record him. Photograph him. Make content out of his injury. Make him a spectacle. Yuck.
Re-watch Nope and you’ll see how critical it is of both industries monetizing spectacle and the human response to spectacle.
Spectacle is kind of like a tree falling in the woods. If no one sees it, did it actually happen? So inherent to spectacle is the interaction between spectacle and viewer. We just discussed how Nope explores that engagement. Even going so far as to call the UFO “The Viewers.” But the exploration of interaction goes beyond simply viewing spectacle. But to the very literal interaction between a person and, say, a horse. Or a chimpanzee. Or a UFO sky shark.
I think because Peele was so inspired by the footage of the anonymous man on the horse by Muybridge that he decided to lean into the heart of that dynamic: rider and horse; human and animal. And so we have this whole theme that explores human animal interaction, otherwise known as the field of anthrozoology (which, fun fact, was my mom’s area of expertise; she had her doctorate in animal behavior and specialized in communication. As a kid, at the zoo, I accidentally challenged a gorilla to a fight and it got really angry. My mom actually made me apologize in gorilla. I had to tap on the glass and avert my eyes. The gorilla came up, stood at the glass, waiting. I kept my eyes averted, held out my hand, palm up, and waited. After about 10 seconds, the gorilla visibly relaxed and started making funny faces against the glass. One of the strangest things that’s happened in my life).
So you have the Haywoods being horse trainers. You have that scene on the film set where the production crew doesn’t listen to OJ about respecting the horse and the horse ends up kicking. You have Antlers obsessing over wild animals. You have the flip of the UFO not being a ship but rather a predatory animal that looks like the traditional UFO spacecraft. And, of course, we have the chimpanzee on Gordy’s Home. Oh, and the nice dovetail of Ricky explaining how in the Saturday Night LIve sketch it was Chris Kattan acting the role of Gordy the chimp. Kattan really did have a character called Mr. Peepers where he does this terrifying job of being a primate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kK82bEEFPc
Nope essentially demonstrates over and over again the way so many people forget that wild animals are wild animals. We’re so used to domesticated animals. Or zoo-ified animals. Or trained animals. That it can be shocking when something goes wrong. But the movie takes the extra step of presenting the animals as spectacle. The same way we need to remember animals are animals and there are rules and limits to the interaction, spectacle is spectacle and there’s only so much we can do before you have to say, “Nope. That’s not a good idea.” Whether that’s bringing King Kong to New York. Or building Jurassic Park. Or starting a Star Lasso Experience with a sky shark you think likes you.
But the interaction theme doesn’t begin and end with anthrozoology. The interactions between people matter, too. As Peele said to Empire, “it’s about a brother and sister healing their relationship.” The same way animals have rules, so do people. And it’s clear that OJ and Emerald don’t have the same rules of engagement. OJ is quiet and responsible. Emerald is loud and irresponsible. When Emerald is on the film set, OJ’s unhappy with how she behaves. OJ meets with Ricky and wants to talk business, but Emerald keeps interrupting to talk about things OJ believes are trivial, maybe even detrimental to the task at hand. And from Emerald’s perspective, she’s building relationships, she’s connecting on a personal level, while OJ’s being overly defensive and critical. You can imagine how often these two clash. How OJ believes Emerald needs to be more of an adult and why Emerald feels OJ is a buzzkill.
Beyond those two, we have the interactions of the film crew with OJ and how rude the production people are. We have the interactions between the kids, OJ and Emerald, and their father, Otis. How dominating of a presence Otis was and how it affected his children, with OJ becoming like him and Emerald rebelling. Then there’s Angel and the awkward way he becomes part of the team. Complicated interactions abound, as people continually misread boundaries, push boundaries, and even transgress boundaries. Sometimes for the better. Other times not.
Nope’s themes of spectacle and interaction are multifaceted and a bit mysterious, meaning it’s easy to get caught up in exploring them. Because of that, they can overshadow another theme: grief.
With the passing of Otis, it seems OJ and Emerald are orphans. They’re on their own and it’s not really going well. OJ has the focus but not the people skills necessary to run Haywood’s Hollywood Horses. Emerald has the people skills but not the focus. Leading up to Otis’s passing, the relationship between siblings wasn’t doing well. After Otis’s passing, they’re in an even worse spot. So this horrible thing happens, the loss of a parent, but neither sibling can rely on the other. They’re both wallowing in grief but handling it in different ways. OJ by trying to maintain his father’s legacy. Emerald by pushing it away.
For OJ, he wants to do what his dad did: understand and train horses. For Emerald, she wants what was denied her: to train a horse of her own. She explains how she was supposed to train this horse, Jean Jacket, but Otis decided not to let her. Emerald reacted by disengaging entirely. And now that their father has passed, how can she ever get closure?
With stories relating to grief, it always comes down to the characters finding closure or failing to find closure. You can go about that in a great many ways. The Babadook does it with a storybook monster. Gravity does it with the struggle to return from the void of space to the Earth itself. A Dark Song does it through occultist rituals. Inception with dream heists. And Manchester By the Sea in just a very grounded, everyday way.
Nope chooses to turn the UFO shark monster into a cathartic experience. OJ names it Jean Jacket to convey to Emerald that this is Em’s opportunity to step up, be responsible, and train a “horse”. And Emerald responds. Rising up to the challenge in a way she had failed to do throughout the movie. She finally takes something seriously and gives it her all. And the result is she not only defeats Jean Jacket but gets the photograph that will change the world, which was her goal all along. So it’s like the reward only comes from her facing her greatest fear and character flaw and overcoming it.
And for OJ, he brings to bear everything his father taught him and faces down something far more terrifying than an unbroken horse. He saves himself. His sister. And surpasses anything his father ever did. In that way, OJ steps up from his father’s shadow, and can perhaps move past the need to do what his father did just because his father did it. Maybe now he’ll train horses because it’s the thing he’s good at. Or maybe the fact he destroyed the creature that killed Otis is enough to feel like she can move on.
So Jean Jacket—though I prefer “UFO sky shark”—embodies not only spectacle, not only human-animal interaction, but also grief. And that covers what I believe to be the essential themes.
The ending of Nope explained
Nope ends with a flurry of activity. OJ has a showdown with Jean Jacket. Emerald steps up and draws Jean Jacket’s attention. Arriving at Jupiter’s Claim, Emerald releases the giant balloon of Ricky Park. Jean Jacket goes full aggro and attacks the balloon, not understanding it’s a balloon shaped like a person rather than a giant person. The attempted consumption of the balloon results in Jean Jacket exploding. But not before Emerald uses the gimmick camera in a well to grab a clear photograph, the Oprah shot, of the sky shark in all its ribbon-y splendor. The photo comes out clear. Emerald’s safe. And she realizes OJ’s also safe. He survived his showdown with Jean Jacket and rode down to check on Emerald. The end.
Now that we have the details, let’s analyze. First and foremost, we have the simple payoffs. As we noted in the theme section, Emerald and OJ were at odds partially because OJ was shouldering the burden of the ranch. Emerald wasn’t helping. And when she did show up, she wasn’t responsible. Immaturity defined her character. So it’s meaningful that she steps up and shares the burden of Jean Jacket’s ire. By drawing its attention, she saves OJ. And her reward is finally getting the photo of the UFO that she’s been after for so long. Earlier in the film, she went with a low-effort strategy that was no better than a get-rich-quick scheme. Of course, it doesn’t work. But after she seriously commits and gives her all to solving the problem of Jean Jacket, the picture happens organically. So Emerald grows up. And at the same time, repairs her relationship with OJ.
Beyond that, she also finds closure regarding her father. Otis had promised Emerald she could train a horse (named Jean Jacket) then went back on it. For years, she carried around the psychological damage of that denial. It’s why she disengaged with the ranch. Naming the UFO sky shark “Jean Jacket” means this final interaction is her redemption. OJ isn’t like their father. He keeps his word and lets her handle this one. And Emerald rises up to the challenge.
Likewise, OJ was chasing his father’s ghost, struggling to live up to his father’s skill at horse training and running the family business. His catharsis comes in putting his father’s lessons into practice and understanding Jean Jacket as an animal and the rules it has. The showdown they have is OJ’s magnum opus. And the fact he survives is a testament to his knowledge and ability. You can imagine that he too has found a degree of catharsis relating to his father and can move on with his life in a much healthier way.
Beyond those payoffs, you have some nuanced conversations. For example, we don’t know what Emerald will do with the photograph. The obvious and expected thing is that they show it to the world, become famous, and benefit from the exposure. It would be one of the greatest stories ever told and redefine human understanding of our planet and the cosmos. It’s that big of a deal. But that also means the photograph is spectacle. And if Nope teaches us anything, it’s that spectacle is a double-edged sword. There’s immense gain but the price is high, can even be deadly. We also saw what happened with Ricky Park after his experience on Gordy’s Home. The chimpanzee attack defined Ricky’s life. He couldn’t get past it. The approval the chimp seemed to offer Ricky blinded Ricky into thinking he would receive the same approval from Jean Jacket. And we saw how that ended.
So there’s an argument to be made that Emerald and OJ could become like Ricky. Their experience with a UFO sky shark defines them. They build their whole life around that experience. And it comes back to bite them. Which could be as dramatic as attempting to wrangle another Jean Jacket that appears but losing. Or as basic as getting a lot of money, falling prey to bad influences, and OD-ing or something. Given how pessimistic the movie is about spectacle, I’m skeptical it would suddenly do a 180 and say “This spectacle of the alien photo will be the good kind.” But there’s something to be said about a happy ending and this just having a happy ending where everyone gets what they want, life goes well, and that’s that. And you can definitely make that argument, too. That Emerald and OJ have matured enough and been through enough that they’ll figure this out together and be okay because they have each other.
Then there’s also some more subtle things. Like, in the Gordy’s Home flashback, a balloon popping is what triggered the chimpanzee to go crazy. The shock of that sound sent it into fight or flight and it chose fight. Specifically, the balloon rose from a box, went to the ceiling, and popped. Well at the end, Emerald unleashes the Jupe balloon. It rises into the sky. Jean Jacket grabs it and the balloon explodes inside the monster, causing the monster to pop…like a balloon. You have that shot of the ribbon-y carcass floating in the sky. So a balloon popping is what kicks off the movie and a balloon popping is what concludes the movie.
Lastly, there’s the downright weird. I saw some discussion of whether or not OJ really survived the showdown with Jean Jacket. The idea being the OJ we see on the horse at the end is a ghost. With the evidence being we didn’t see what happened to him so it’s possible he was eaten…and that he’s beneath a sign that says Out Yonder, which could be read as symbolic/euphemistic for OJ being in the afterlife. Add to it that we don’t hear OJ say anything or do anything. My first reaction is that this theory is absurd. Having a character appear as a ghost would be such a ridiculous and random choice. It’s one thing if the story deals with the supernatural and sets up a ghostly appearance. It’s another if the story doesn’t deal with the supernatural and never sets up a ghostly appearance. Nope has nothing in the way of the supernatural. The only possible argument I can see for this is that OJ often had flashbacks to moments with his dad. Because the movie was mostly from his perspective, those flashbacks made sense. But at the end, the perspective shifts to Emerald. Since we’re in her perspective, maybe this is her version of that flashback. She’s “seeing” OJ and feeling his acknowledgment of what she did. Even though the reality is/would be that OJ’s sky shark food.
There is something interesting to that idea. But I think if it’s what Peele was going for that he would emphasize it a little more. Would even set it up more with OJ saying something like, “I won’t always be here to take care of you.” Some foreshadowing line. So I’m extremely, extremely, extremely hesitant to in any way endorse this theory. Though I do find it absolutely bizarre how little emphasis OJ had in the very end. He was the primary character, despite Emerald’s prominence. It was kind of his movie. For the perspective to shift so much to Emerald to the point of us not really seeing any final reactions from OJ regarding his showdown or Emerald’s defeat of Jean Jacket…it’s strange. I can’t decide if it’s just (in my opinion) kind of bad writing or if Peele was trying to downplay OJ’s demise and have it be something the audience catches on re-watches. Given Peele’s penchant for unresolved endings that leave the audience with a lot of questions about what happens next, I’m assuming OJ is fine. But wanted to at least discuss the idea.
Timeline of events
- BEFORE THE MOVIE
- Great-great-great-great grandfather was the Black man on the horse in Eadweard Muybridge’s The Horse in Motion.
- Eventually Otis Haywood Sr. plays into the family legacy by opening a ranch to train horses for film and television production.
- Otis and Emerald grow up on the ranch, dealing with horses and the spectacle of TV and film production.
- Ricky Park is a child actor and part of the cast of Gordy’s Home. During filming, a balloon pops and a chimp playing Gordy goes wild and attacks multiple actors, maiming them. Ricky hides under a table, watching it all, even the police putting Gordy down. Ricky’s traumatized by not only what happened but by the chimp being nice to Ricky. It physically assaulted others but tries to give him a first bump.
- Decades later, a UFO that’s actually a carnivorous UFO animal arrives in the area. In this world, all previous UFO sightings were creatures like this rather than vehicles for intelligent life.
- An adult Ricky Park owns and operates the Jupiter’s Claim theme park and accidently encounters the UFO and becomes enamored with it. He starts feeding it, unconsciously drawn to recreating the dynamic he had with the chimpanzee. The UFO hurts others but is nice to him.
- The UFO settles into the region because of Ricky.
- Ricky tries to buy the Haywood ranch because the UFO, unbeknownst to the Haywoods, stays above the property.
- THE MOVIE STARTS
- One day the UFO eats some hikers. Later, when it digests them, their personal possessions fall from the sky. A coin strikes Otis Haywood, killing him. OJ struggles with grief and keeping the ranch afloat. He begins to sell horses to Ricky Park, thinking Ricky’s using them for the Jupiter’s Claim. In reality, Ricky feeds them to the UFO.
- The rest of the movie unfolds.
Why were the names of animals the chapter titles
The chapter titles, in order, are: Ghost, Clover, Gordy, Lucky, Jean Jacket.
Ghost, Clover, and Lucky are Haywood ranch horses. While Gordy refers to the chimpanzee that went crazy on the set of Gordy’s Home. And Jean Jacket is the name given to the UFO sky shark, inspired by the horse Emerald was supposed to train before Otis changed his mind. The common factor here is that people are attempting to monetize these animals through spectacle. Four of the five begin their sections alive but don’t end that way. Lucky is the only one who survives, something Jordan Peele probably had in mind when he picked the name.
I think Nope using the animals as chapter names, at the very least, puts more prominence on the animals. Meaning viewers should think about them as more than mere casualties. Without the title, it’s easy to just think, “That was the first horse that went. Then there’s a second.” They’re nothing more than plot fodder. Naming sections of the movie after these animals makes them formally relevant and begs the question: why? Hopefully you read the theme section and know the answer at this point. If you haven’t read the theme section—go, now.
We could spend a lot of time on deeper interpretations regarding spectacle and the like. But I think most of the conversations will (or should) in some way tie back to something said in the theme section. Meaning we can move on to the next topic.
What was the monster?
I think we’re supposed to understand that in this world UFOs were never alien vehicles but actually these immense, terrifying apex predators. It’s a pretty genius twist because at this point a UFO is universally thought of as an extraterrestrial vehicle. A ship for aliens. That’s what the marketing for the film was playing into: this is a movie about aliens in a UFO. I’m pretty sure 100% of people went into Nope thinking it was exactly that. Which makes that scene where the Jupiter’s Claim kids dress up as aliens so intense. Every single person was waiting for the extraterrestrials to show up. No one was thinking, “I bet the ship is actually an animal.”
Throughout the article, I’ve referred to the monster as an UFO sky shark and rarely as an alien. That’s because it isn’t clear it is an alien. It might be. Or it might just be some extremely rare Earth-born animal. There isn’t a shot of it drifting in space before heading to our planet. It doesn’t fly off into space at any point. We know it’s all natural rather than a spaceship. We all think “alien” because of the UFO shape. But it’s not actually made apparent in the movie that it’s a lifeform from outer space.
Thrillist did an interview with John O. Dabiri, “an engineering professor at CalTech whose research studies animal behavior and fluid dynamics to create new technologies.” Dabiri worked closely with Peele on the design of Jean Jacket. And it’s actually based on ocean life. “…in the ocean, you find these very exotic creatures that would have these different characteristics. Nature has already given us some pretty out-there and unusual creatures. We just don’t see them, particularly the ones in the ocean, because the ocean is kind of invisible to most of us.”
In terms of the design, Dabiri said, “I took [the film team] down to our lab here at CalTech. When we feed our jellyfish, they have what are called oral arms, which are these almost silk-like ribbons that end up getting released and displayed when they’re feeding. It’s really cool to see the analogy between feeding time in my lab, when we put little tiny baby shrimp in there and they all get pulled and caught with the tentacles, versus what you see at the end of the movie, that same type of unfurling of Jean Jacket.”
And in terms of function, Dabiri named jellyfish, squid, and octopus as inspiration. But said, “There are some marine species, most popularly electric eels but also ghost knifefish, that generate electric fields. There was some opportunity to lean into that aspect even more. For example, you could use that to explain how the jamming worked; and you could use it for electric propulsion, which would in theory explain Jean Jacket’s fast flying without wings/sails. I think the movie worked well without those science details, but I was prepared with a few different explanations if people asked how Jean Jacket was able to fly so effectively without flapping wings.”
He even mentions Jean Jacket breathing to stay afloat and producing a vapor to create the cloud it hides in. So UFO sky shark hasn’t been the best description. Sky jelly is probably more accurate. But notice that Dabiri is naming all Earth creatures. They weren’t using sci-fi aliens or scientific hypotheses about alien life as the foundation for Jean Jacket. It’s all based on marine life. Meaning that it’s likely Jean Jacket and other UFOs aren’t, in Nope’s world, aliens.
Is Jean Jacket gone?
Sticking with Dabiri here, he says, “There’s a species of jellyfish that’s called the immortal jellyfish, because if you damage it or otherwise harm it, it goes back to almost like an embryonic form, and hibernates in that state, and then comes back later when conditions are more favorable. I’m not the movie maker. But if it was me, I would say there would be some interesting opportunity to ask the question of whether we’ve seen the last of Jean Jacket.”
The whole interview is great and a highly recommended read.
Did Jean Jacket have a TV in it?
I need to see the movie again before I can answer this.
Are chimpanzees actually that dangerous?
READ WITH CAUTION, SKIP IF SENSITIVE:
Yes. Yes, yes, yes, yes. It’s scary. There have been so many stories over the years. One of the most famous involved a couple who raised a chimp for many years but eventually gave it to a sanctuary. They’d go visit and often brought a birthday cake. Apparently, these other chimps hated the couple and hated that the other chimp got presents and cake and what have you. So in 2005 these chimps actually broke out of their cage, chased down the couple, and went full Gordy on them. Quote: “Doctors at the hospital said most of Davis’ face had been gnawed off by the animals.”
One more. There was this chimpanzee named Travis. Travis had done some Hollywood work, specifically in commercials, but was 14 years old and just living a nice, quiet life. Its owner, Sandra Herold, thought of Travis as her child. From this CNN article, “The chimp, who was known to walk around town, sometimes without a leash, also liked to surf on the Internet and was able to change the TV channel with a remote…Travis watered plants, was able to feed hay to his owner’s horses, ate at a table with the rest of the family and sometimes drank wine from a stemmed glass.” That’s the degree of domestication Travis had. Pretty similar to Gordy in Nope.
But one day in 2009, Travis used a key to escape from this house. So the owner called her friend to come over and help. This 55 year old woman was someone Travis knew really well. She thought nothing of coming over and helping. When she got there, Travis saw her and lost it. “Travis jumped on her and began biting and mauling her…. [the owner] was unable to pull the primate off. She then called 911 before stabbing the chimp with a butcher knife and hitting him with a shovel. Neither fazed Travis.” Police finally showed up and had to open fire to stop Travis. The reason the owner offered up for Travis’s attack? The friend had “recently gotten a haircut that changed her appearance significantly.”
So, yeah, chimpanzees are very sweet, very charming, very smart. But are still wild animals with triggers they can’t communicate to us. Whether it’s a haircut or a balloon popping or not getting a birthday cake. The pictures showing the aftermath of these attacks are just as horrifying as what you see in Nope. Every story I’ve ever read about a chimp attack is horrifying.
Why did they put up the inflatable tube men?
Because Jean Jacket was stealth-based, the Haywoods needed a way to track its location. So they set up this grid of tube men, with each tube attached to an individual car battery. Since each had an independent power source rather than being on a shared grid, it meant that any active tube was far enough from Jean Jacket’s EMP to remain active. While any inactive tube meant Jean Jacket had to be nearby. So the whole thing allowed OJ, Emerald, Angel, and Antlers to know where Jean Jacket was even if Jean Jacket was hidden in the clouds.
There’s also something to be said about Jean Jacket’s issues with differentiating between living things and copies of living things. For example, it eats the statue of the horse because it doesn’t know what a statue is. And it eats the giant balloon of Ricky because it doesn’t know the balloon is an inanimate object. So you’d hope that maybe it would think the tube people were real people rather than dancing tubes.
I don’t think this is true, but you could maybe even argue the tube people helped save OJ. Since he was wearing a bright orange shirt, it may have confused Jean Jacket and caused it to hesitate in attacking? Honestly, I’m just trying to figure out a good reason for it not eating OJ. Maybe a second watch will clarify it. I’ll update this when that happens.
Why did Antlers Holst get himself eaten?
This is one of the weirdest things in the entire movie. What we know of Antlers is that he was a world-famous cinematographer. Who seemed to watch a lot of footage of animals, specifically predators. It seemed he had an infatuation with predators attacking prey. That’s part of the reason he agreed to try and film Jean Jacket. So when he’s in this situation where it’s the most unreal predator anyone has ever seen, he’s already enamored. But then it’s the “magic” hour, which in the world of photography is known as the hour after sunrise and before sunset, when the sun is low enough to create this perfect, golden illumination.
Apparently the idea of filming Jean Jacket, an apex predator in the midst of a hunt, during the magic hour was such an awe-inspiring thing that Antlers couldn’t help himself. So he films, even though it means being eaten. The logic is, at best, outrageous. But it does play into the idea of spectacle and how our infatuation with spectacle can doom us. Antlers is a viewer who can’t refrain from viewing something even at the cost of his life. While the commentary is nice, it’s such an extreme thing for a character to do that it’s ultimately very jarring.
Why was the shoe standing on end during the Gordy’s Home attack?
There’s a moment during the Gordy’s Home flashback where the camera focuses on a shoe that’s standing upright as if it were a water bottle. I believe it’s the shoe of the female actor who was attacked. The shoe came off during the attack and, beyond all odds, landed perfectly balanced on the toe box. Its this miraculous, one in a million thing, but it occurs in the midst of a tragedy. It’s another “bad miracle” like what OJ experiences.
I don’t think there’s plot intent with the shoe. Like, there’s not some malevolent force present on the film set that caused the chimp to freak out and the shoe to stand on end. Aliens didn’t affect the monkey and the shoe. Nothing like that. Rather, it’s a detail that adds to the surrealness of the whole situation. That makes it feel out of this world and meaningful. Especially to young Ricky, hiding under the table. There’s a juxtaposition between how horrible the attack is and how miraculous the shoe being like that is. It adds a degree of mysticism and myth to the whole thing. You can imagine between things like the shoe and the chimp walking over, not attacking, and offering the first bump, how Ricky could start to turn the awful reality of that event into something fantastically meaningful.
If you have questions about something I didn’t talk about, ask in the comments below. Also, share your thoughts and theories. Thanks for reading!