In “Nope,” writer/director Jordan Peele presents us with a big, shiny summer blockbuster — a cowboys and aliens riff built from the DNA of sci-fi spectacles of yore — and then proceeds to vivisect the very notion of a summer blockbuster before our eyes. He wants us to question the nature of image-making, and he starts at the beginning of film history, with photographer Eadweard Muybridge. In 1878, Muybridge crafted the first known example of the “moving pictures”: a two-second clip called “The Horse in Motion,” made up of sequential photographs of a jockey riding a race horse.
That the jockey on the horse — the first person featured in the movies — is Black, and unknown, is the starting point for Peele’s exploration of seeing and the seen in “Nope,” which interrogates the power of images, who gets to create them, and who gets the credit. These are complex questions, but Peele has wrapped them up in an incredibly original, and entertaining, piece of sci-fi filmmaking that is both unlike, and like, anything you’ve ever seen before.