Why Jordan Peele's Nope Is the Greatest IMAX Spectacle of 2022 – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Jordan Peele’s Nope innovatively uses the IMAX format in ways many wouldn’t have believed possible to create an inescapably immersive experience.
The following contains spoilers for Nope, now playing in theaters.
IMAX is a wonderful cinematic tool. In an age where the theatrical movie-going experience has been put in increasingly dire competition with home-viewing options, IMAX serves as not only a heightened viewing experience to entice viewers to come to the theater but also a fascinating artistic opportunity for filmmakers to take advantage of. And while there have been plenty of great films in the past few years to utilize IMAX, Jordan Peele's Nope is destined to go down in history as one of the most innovative uses of the form audiences will see this year — and possibly this entire decade.
So what is IMAX? The IMAX Corporation specializes in the making and distribution of high-resolution cameras that shoot on a larger film format and at aspect ratio, as well as pioneering its own film projectors and theater. The self-proclaimed "most immersive movie experience" utilizes higher resolutions, larger screens, revolutionary audio systems and innovative sound design to present a movie-going experience explicitly linked to the filmmaker's intent. This is why filmmakers such as Chris Nolan and James Cameron adore IMAX and shoot everything with it; its cameras and theatrical systems allow them to have a much greater degree of control over the audience's cinematic experience in every regard.
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IMAX is engineered for spectacle. Almost all films shown in the IMAX theaters are not in the IMAX aspect ratio for the entirety of their runtime but rather for specific sequences, during which the aspect ratio will expand to encompass the full screen. General examples of what gets the IMAX treatment would be something like a giant action setpiece in a blockbuster film. Top Gun: Maverick made excellent use of the form earlier this summer, with its aerial sequences all shot on IMAX cameras. The result was a broader, grander canvas for the film to stage its vast action across. Similarly, nearly every Marvel Cinematic Universe film in the past decade has utilized IMAX to some degree, often for their largest action sequences featuring dozens of characters that need to fit into a single frame, à la the finale of Avengers: Endgame.
This is how IMAX is most often utilized: as a tool for lending a larger scale to a sequence and making everything feel huge. But in Nope, Jordan Peele and cinematographer Hoyte van Hoytema utilize the IMAX format for purposes entirely unique to their film. In stark contrast to everything else audiences may see in IMAX this year, Nope utilizes the form in an entirely subjective, brutally effective fashion to capture the minute against the existential vastness.
The first IMAX sequence in Nope comes when Daniel Kaluuya's character OJ has his first up-close encounter with the creature in the sky, whom they come to refer to as Jean Jacket. Peele keeps the massive IMAX camera as close to the ground as possible, looking up from being Kaluuya. The result is a gargantuan IMAX frame, in which the bottom third of the frame is the back of Kaluuya's head while the rest of it is the vast night sky. Keeping Kaluuya in the foreground with the sky swallowing him whole makes for harrowing imagery that makes him feel downright minuscule.
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The real genius comes in how locked down and sustained Peele keeps these shots. The editing here is unobtrusive, allowing huge swaths of the action to play out in single shots. This elongated nature, paired with how entirely subjective the shots are, makes the walls of the frame the enemy of the audience. Viewers' eyes are destined to be searching through the clouds of the night sky just as OJ's are, but, in keeping the framing so concentrated, Peele makes the gargantuan frame feel claustrophobic, deliberately denying audiences a fuller view. The results are terrifying and experiential. When Jean Jacket does swoop down and attack OJ, it's too large to even fit inside the frame. The shot is huge, and yet its restraint implies something even more vast.
Every facet of Peele's IMAX filmmaking on display in Nope is engineered to entirely submerge the audience in the headspace of these characters, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the Gordy sequence. The flashback to the tragedy on the set of Gordy's Home is shot entirely in IMAX and is torturous for it. As young Jupiter hides under the table in the aftermath of the chimp's rampage, Peele keeps the camera explicitly under the table with Jupiter. Everything is shot from Jupiter's perspective with the IMAX cameras, making the relatively intimate set feel gargantuan. Peele has said of his use of IMAX in Nope, "I wanted immersion of awe and a fear and a wonder we all had when we were kids," and this is a horrifying crystallization of that desire.
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Both OJ's first interaction with Jean Jacket and the Gordy sequence also illustrates just how much Peele and his team maximalize the audio interface of IMAX. Largely eschewing traditional scoring for each sequence and instead rooting them entirely in diegetic sound, the sound design is invasive and guttural in its execution. From the deeply unsettling sounds of Jean Jacket itself to the screams of the horses, to the popping balloons on the Gordy's Home set, to the distressingly saturated sounds of the chimp bashing in actors' skulls just out-of-frame, the sound envelops the audience in inescapable fashion.
The ultimate culmination of all of this comes in the form of one of Nope's key sequences, the Star Lasso Experience. As Jupiter and the patrons of his show at Jupiter's Claim are swallowed whole by Jean Jacket, Peele cuts to the IMAX ratio to take the audience inside the monstrous bowels of Jean Jacket with them. Putting the IMAX camera inside this awful space, in which the walls of its stomach are closing in, and the sound of both Jean Jacket's natural sounds and the screams of pure terror of these people are cranked all the way up, this sequence is Nope at its most experiential and invasive. It is Peele utilizing the IMAX not for the sake of grand scale but for the sake of suffocating claustrophobia, conveying the sheer smallness of humanity in the face of this unwavering vastness.
Nope is a film exceedingly well-versed in film. Peele has delivered an existentially metatextual masterpiece about the horrors of trying to capture something bigger than one's self on film. It is about the blood, sweat and tears that go into capturing the 'money shot.' As such, seeing Peele completely redefine what IMAX can do in the process feels superbly fitting. While every other film uses IMAX to catalog the large setpieces, Peele's Nope uses it to capture intimacy and, as a result, becomes the most immersive and inescapable experience imaginable.
To experience this year's biggest IMAX event, Nope is now in theaters.
The biggest Jingle All the Way fan you know. Came onboard with CBR in 2022, after having previously worked at sites such as WhatCulture and BigShinyRobot.


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