The last installment of the knives out franchise, Crystal Onion: A Knives Out Mysteryis in theaters now for a Very limited It’s been a while, but should you rush out and watch it before it’s released on Netflix in December?
In the spring of last year, Netflix made a big splash when it bought the rights to the 2nd and 3rd knives out sequels for a whopping $450 million, one of the largest deals ever made for the rights to a film series. Hungry for franchises of any kind to compete with Disney and Warners, Netflix must believe that this particular series will tick a lot of the boxes they need to be successful. It has brand recognition, star power, unlimited sequel potential, rewatchability, some potential box office return, and a shot at awards season success. A potent combo in the hands of a wealthy and willing studio and powerhouse duo of writer/director Rian Johnson and bona fide front man Daniel Craig fresh out of the james link Films.
As if the new added price pressures of the settlement of his rights were not enough, the knives out The team will also have to live up to the financial and critical success of its predecessor. The original earned $311.4 million on a $40 million budget for Lionsgate & Media Rights Capital in 2019; Furthermore, he obtained an impressive Metascore of 82 and was Certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of 97%.
How do you track THAT performance?
Well, you start with the cast. Starting with a completely different story and set of characters outside of Craig’s Benoit Blanc, Rian Johnson went big with his new lineup, starting with Oscar nominee Edward Norton (Fight Club, American history X) as tech giant Miles Bron. Joining Norton are fellow Oscar nominees Kate Hudson (almost famous, How to lose a guy in 10 days) as fashion icon Birdie Jay and Leslie Odom, Jr. (one night in miami) as the renowned scientist Lionel Toussaint; Also, famous MCU stars Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) and Kathryn Hahn (wandavision) and multi-hyphenate Janelle Monae (hidden figures, Homecoming).
Story-wise, Johnson’s latest whodunit brings Benoit Blanc’s considerable skills to a lavish private estate on a Greek island where he finds himself the only outcast during a sort of annual reunion centered on billionaire Bron and their clearly disparate group of friends. Joined this time with an invitation to solve Bron’s murder for a weekend of mystery games, things turn sour when the games turn real and someone turns up dead. As in all the best murder mysteries, each character harbors their own secrets, lies, and motivations, making them the perfect suspects.
The sequel expands on Blanc’s character by putting him more on the offensive in the midst of an evolving case.
In the first film, we meet Blanc as a mysterious and peculiar intellectual brought in by the police as an expert on a possible murder. He has a particular team and method of engagement that makes him more of a standard detective from an Agatha Christie novel. In this film, Blanc comes in as a guest on a fun weekend getaway, which leads to a true murder mystery. We get to see all sides of him as he tries to blend in with a wealthy, powerful and tight-knit group as he reveals his true motives in subtle layers throughout his time on the island. He is playing a dangerous game within his game and he has to be more actor than detective to survive.
For me, the success of this sequel lies in Rian Johnson’s unlikely inspiration: The Beatles. Unlike Knives Out, whose title was inspired solely by Radiohead’s ghoulish cannibal-influenced track of the same name, glass onion it actually takes the mindset of John Lennon while writing the lyrics to the famous Beatles song of the same name. It is said that Lennon wrote the words to confuse those who read too much into the lyrical meanings, which annoyed him greatly. While I can’t speak to Johnson’s annoyance with fans of his first film, he did say that this film pays homage to the song, and I tend to agree.
The beauty of the film’s mysterious construction is that it hits you in the face with its simplicity after trying to play mind games meant to distract the audience who think they can outsmart the creators. Johnson wows you with lavish sets, opulent set designs, and dazzling couture, including Kate Hudson’s remarkable rainbow gown during a crucial part of the film. He tempts you with deeper meanings behind the island-created Crystal Onion or the actual Mona Lisa brought to its halls. Still, Johnson relishes those temptations and false flags to bring something else to the point that he delights in upsetting the hype of high expectations. Although the movie itself shows plenty of mental and physical puzzle boxes, the winners of this fight skip the puzzles and go straight for the throat. Somewhere in the ether, John Lennon is cracking up.
Like the original, Glass Onion is fueled by strong performances from a deep set of talent. While I enjoyed the expansion of Blanc’s portrayal and Craig’s performance within it, the film belongs in the standout showcase by Janelle Monae and Kate Hudson. Monae’s Andi Brand is the backbone of the plot and she has to do all the heavy lifting. While she sometimes has to be the exposition dump to set up the film’s stance shift midway, Monae rises above that to build a duality that keeps the story revving up. She can be playful or deadly serious with great ease and goes well with people like Craig.
In contrast, Hudson’s Birdie Jay is the bubbly, goofy delight that brings most of the levity in this tale. She is captivating through and through, from the outfits she radiates in to the fake sincerity and kindness she has to portray to survive. Her off-screen abilities to light up a room and be quick with a smile make her the perfect distraction for Rian Johnson’s magic trick.
Overall, Glass Onion captures most of the magic of the first film with its incredible roster of talent and complex story construction, but deviates from the design just enough to be more intriguing for the future of the franchise. Count on me for any number of sequels Johnson, Craig and the team want to make. This is the best Netflix movie I’ve seen so far this year and certainly the most entertaining.
Finally, I urge people to see this movie in a cinema this week if you can. For the production values alone, I’d say it’s worth the theatrical experience; however, the audience value and the reactions to the twists, turns, and humor make the trip well worth it. You’ll have plenty of chances to see it again when it hits Netflix on December 23, but try to make your first appearance at your local theater.
You should watch Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery if you like:
- knives out
- Key code
- Murder on the Orient Express
- Sherlock Holmes
- Manhattan Murder Mystery
most valuable Player
Janelle Monae as Andi Brand.
As I described in the main review section, Monae shows off her incredible range as a character with many faces. She fearlessly holds the film together and stands out among a cast of incredible veteran talent.
PLAY, PAUSE OR STOP?
A worthy sequel with much of the style of the original and the amped-up production of his new deal with Netflix. Rian Johnson can easily do this every few years if he wants to (and I hope he does).