Jordan Peele Embraces the Spectacle of Cinema by Writing “the Great American UFO Story”

Jordan Peele on the set of 'Nope'Credit: Universal Pictures
The horror auteur takes a strangely human desire and turns it into something to fear. 

Since his directorial debut, Jordan Peele has established himself as an auteur of original genre films. His goal is simple—to create a film he wanted to see that didn’t exist. 

That is exactly what his approach was when it came time to write his latest release, Nope, which has horrified audiences with the beauty and spectacle since its release. The film is ominous and mysterious, slowly descending from the clouds and darkening the world as it gets closer and closer. 

During a recent interview with Fandango, Peele talked about his desire to create a large-scale science fiction movie that would bring audiences back into theaters to enjoy the spectacle of the film’s mysterious plot. 

“I wrote it in a time when we were a little bit worried about the future of cinema,” Peele said. “So the first thing I knew is I wanted to create a spectacle. I wanted to create something that the audience would have to come see.” 

The film is focused on the horrors of spectacle, opening with the Bible verse Nahum 3:6, which reads: “And I will cast abominable filth upon thee, and make thee vile, and will set thee as a spectacle.” With this in mind, Peele focused his story on a subject that has provoked endless awe and horror over the years—aliens. 

“I set my sights on the great American UFO story, and the movie itself deals with spectacle, and the good and the bad that comes from his idea of attention,” Peele said. “It’s a horror epic, but it has points in it that are meant to elicit a very audible reaction in the theater.” 

Multiple moments evoke a sense of fear from the audience as we quietly mumble “nope” from our seats, which was Peele's ultimate goal from the start of writing the film. Peele’s characters are sensible, innovative, and realistic, often reacting the way the audience wants them to. His “smart” characters are often curious about the horrors that are happening, but stop just as the audience’s discomfort and fear hits a breaking point. 

This large-scale horror is Peele’s love letter to the evolution of cinema, serving as “an answer to the way films began and have continued.”

In an interview with The Philadelphia Sun, Peele said, “I’m juxtaposing this origin story of film at the same time I’m trying to make a story that’s scary and joyous and adventurous and everything I love about film. It just felt very fitting for that starting point to be acknowledged…” 

Jordan Peele on the set of 'Nope'Credit: Universal Pictures

The story of Nope was inspired by major spectacles of cinema like King Kong and Jurassic Park. These films deal with the human addiction to spectacle and the monetization of that, but Nope challenges this idea inside the story while also playing into the audience’s desires for something bigger than reality. Peele comments on our addiction to spectacle, saying: 

“Attention can be a violent thing and our addiction to spectacle can have negative consequences. I think sometimes if we give the wrong spectacle too much attention, it can give it too much power. If we are obsessed with the wrong spectacle, it can distract us from what’s really going on. There’s really a human need to see the unseeable that our entire society is based around. And in so many ways we see it. The last five years, it feels like we’ve gone from seeking spectacle to being inundated with it. And that’s the environment I wrote the film in.”

Peele’s ability to cleverly comment on the state of absurdism in our society while creating an original genre film is what makes him a filmmaker to follow. His work reminds us to write what we want haven’t written yet. Don’t wait for someone else to make the story you want to tell because they will never be able to do it justice as you can. 

Have you watched Nope? Let us know your favorite line or moments from the film in the comments below!      

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