‘Glass Onion’ is a Fun Sequel But is Mostly a Carbon Copy of the Original
Rian Johnson delivers another intriguing mystery that relies too heavily on the original formula, even with strong performances from Daniel Craig and the all-star cast.
Once again written and directed by Rian Johnson (‘Brick,’ ‘Looper,’ ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’), the sequel tells yet another mystery to be solved by the world’s greatest detective, Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).
When Blanc is accidentally invited to a “murder mystery party” held on a private Greek island by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), he soon discovers that all the other guests have close ties to Bron. But when someone is actually murdered, Blanc is on hand to crack the case.
Johnson has truly assembled an all-star cast that in addition to Craig and Norton also includes Janelle Monae as Bron’s ex-business partner Cassandra Brand, Kathryn Hahn as Claire Debella, the governor of Connecticut now running for Senate, Kate Hudson as Birdie Jay, an ex-supermodel turned fashion designer, Jessica Henwick as her assistant Peg, Dave Bautista as YouTube star Duke Cody, Madelyn Cline as his girlfriend Whiskey, and Leslie Odom Jr. as Lionel Toussaint, Miles’ loyal employee.
The result is a fun and funny sequel, which features great performances, a gorgeous production design, and an unpredictable twist, but relies too much on the basic formula of the original and features a group of fairly unredeemable characters.
Director Rian Johnson is a terrific filmmaker, as evident in his early movies like ‘Brick’ and ‘Looper.’ At one time it looked like he would be given the keys to the ‘Star Wars’ kingdom after his brilliant work on ‘The Last Jedi,’ but toxic fans made sure that would never happen. So, I’m glad that he has found a franchise of his own with ‘Knives Out,’ as Netflix already plans a third installment.
It’s also a revival of sorts for actor Daniel Craig, as finding a second franchise has been difficult for many former James Bond actors, but Craig shines as the comedic Benoit Blanc. Part Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Clouseau, Foghorn Leghorn and Colonel Sanders, Craig has completely made the character his own and is excellent again in the sequel.
In fact, the all-star ensemble of actors were all really well cast, and play off their personal public personas, whether accurate or not. Edward Norton, known for his dedication to his craft, plays the pompous and conceited tech CEO. Kate Hudson, the “It girl” of the early 2000’s plays a party-girl and former model. Former Wrestler turned actor Dave Bautista plays a man who wants to be known for more than just his muscles. While Kathryn Hahn, known for playing tough yet funny characters, portrays a Marjorie Taylor Greene type politician. The entire supporting cast is excellent and really bring their otherwise unredeemable characters alive on screen.
However, actress Janelle Monae’s performance is filled with potential spoilers, so I’ll just say that acting wise, the singer and actress definitely had the most challenging role and completely nailed it. She created a very mysterious character, that is fully formed even if the audience does not realize it until the end of the film. Monae’s performance drives the drama and is the heart of the movie.
My biggest problem with the film is something that often happens when a movie that was not expected to become a franchise spawns sequels. With a sudden influx of success from the original, common thinking is that the sequel needs to be bigger, which is not always the case. With ‘Glass Onion,’ moving the story from a Massachusetts mansion to a Greek island was more than enough, and already made the film “bigger” than the original.
But Johnson shoehorns in a lot of needless cameos, or worst, big name actors in very tiny roles that distract from the rest of the project, and I’m not talking about the main cast of recognizable actors. Without giving anything away, there are two extremely well-known actors that appear in very small roles, basically a line or two each, and it’s very distracting. As an audience member you are almost like, “Hey, what’s that guy doing here?” There are also a few celebrity cameos where the famous person plays themselves, which is mostly used for comic effect and works. But with so many famous faces occupying the main cast, I found the other stunt-casting to be unnecessary.
The movie itself starts off slow, and is at about the half-way point before any murder even takes place, and I do think we could have gotten to that faster. There is a clever and inventive twist, which I of course won’t give away, but just say that it saves the film from being a complete rehash of the original. Without it, you are basically looking at the same movie, the outsider detective who stumbles upon a murder in a exotic remote location where a “family” of wealthy but despicable people are all suspect, and ultimately the detective must team-up with the only respectable character in the group to solve the mystery and catch the killer.
In some ways, ‘Glass Onion’ is not a “Whodunit” as much as it is a “When will they do it” movie. It’s fairly easy to know from the beginning of the film who the killer will be, but the fun is trying to figure out how they will do it, and who they will kill? In that sense, Johnson crafts an intriguing mystery, which is very fun and funny to watch unfold.
The movie also struggles with the despicable characters at the root of the film, as it’s hard to know who to root for besides Blanc. In fact, the main group of characters are so unlikable, it’s hard to care about what will happen to them at certain points in the middle of the movie, which is why it drags. But luckily the murder eventually kicks in reinstating the audience’s interest in Blanc solving the case and seeing these characters receive what they deserve.
In the end, writer and director Rian Johnson crafts another clever and funny mystery with ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,’ which is gorgeously shot and very well acted, but relies a bit too much on the original film’s formula and Craig’s new signature character.
‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery’ receives 3.5 out of 5 stars.