Glass Onion (2022)
In the wake of Netflix fumbling the ball with programming and, as of the date I'm writing this, dumping movies they paid to have made, it's a good thing they did one thing right. Glass Onion, the sequel to Rian Johnson's hit mystery film Knives Out, got a week in the theater. In usual Netflix style, however, they were so anxious to get the movie on their streaming platform that they ignored the fact that, if left to run, it would have earned back much more than its modest budget.
This is despite the fact that, other than Daniel Craig returning as detective Benoit Blanc, this is not related at all to the what happened in Knives Out, nor does it feature any of the cast other than Noah Segan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Segan plays a completely different character - a hippy house guest named Derol - while Levitt voices the "Hourly Dong", a timekeeping device supposedly created for billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) by avant-garde composer Philip Glass.
While similar in a number of ways to the first, Glass Onion plays out more like a Wes Anderson film in some ways, while developing Blanc beyond the caricature he seemed to be in the first. The ensemble cast this time around may not be up to the same level as for Knives Out, it's still quite a bit of fun, both for those who like whodunits as well as those that appreciate Johnson's movies as clever parodies of the genre.
Billionaire Miles Bron invites his friends, known as "The Disrupters", to his mansion on a private Greek island for an annual get-together, this time to engage them all in a week-long murder mystery. This group includes Claire Debella (Kathryn Hahn), an outspoken politician; Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson), a former actress turned fashion magnate who has a habit of saying racist things on Twitter; Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.), Bron's lead scientist and Duke Cody (Dave Bautista), a men's rights influencer. The surprise guests include Cassandra "Andi" Brandt (Janelle Monáe), Bron's former business partner, and Benoit Blanc, the world's greatest detective.
Bron, however, never invited Blanc, but decides to keep him around since obviously someone sent him an invitation and wanted him there. It soon becomes apparent that everyone involved has an axe to grind with Bron in one way or another, as he has helped build their careers and is threatening to tear many of them down, especially if they get in the way of his new product called Klear, a fuel made from hydrogen gas derived from seawater. Unfortunately, once festivities get going, a real death throws a wrench in everyone's plans, giving Blanc something to do on the island after all.
Glass Onion does start off reminding the audience of a time they would like to forget, which is 2020. The events, in fact, take place during May of that year, and present everyone dealing with the lockdown in their own way. It's done to give an idea of the major, and minor, characters' personalities by how they present themselves, but beyond the setting the lockdown doesn't factor in, particularly once everyone gets to the island. What does is everyone's motivations for being there which, on the surface, appears to be friendship.
I was quite happy with the way Johnson set things up, revealing events from a different point of view throughout the second half of the film so that a lot of what happened made much more sense prior to the reveal of what was going on. It's also where the movie truly gets moving, as learning the background about why Blanc is really at the party is a lot more interesting than the somewhat slow beginning in which Kate Hudson, prior to Daniel Craig taking over the focus, pretty much has to carry the film until it gets to the island. While Dave Bautista is funny as usual, Duke and his companion Whiskey (Madelyn Cline) are pretty one-note, although Jackie Hoffman gets in some great lines as his mother. The reason Hudson shines is because Birdy is every type of self-absorbed braindead celebrity rolled into one, with her assistant Peg (Jessica Henwick) barely keeping her career afloat.
Meanwhile, Craig has grown into the role of Blanc. The accent is still hilarious, but he's given more time to flesh out the character this time around. Where Johnson has truly found his calling after a high profile beginning in science, Craig has also shaken off his big role, being only the second ex-James Bond to find a way of carrying on a career afterward. As for Johnson, I can imagine that the presence of a mystery box made of childish puzzles is probably his final comment on the Star Wars sequels and J.J. Abrams, although sadly the most scathing reviews of this movie still seem to come from people angry about The Last Jedi.
It may not be as full of surprises or feel as fresh as Knives Out, but it's obvious that Rian Johnson was more interested in having some fun with the typical Agatha Christie-type mystery story rather than trying to top his last film. It still has a number of surprises, and managed to get a couple of Oscar nominations due to the fact Netflix had the foresight to at least give it a week's release. I hope they understand what they have here and give the third entry even more of a chance to earn its money back.
Glass Onion (2022)
Time: 139 minutes
Starring: Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Kate Hudson, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Janell Monáe, Leslie Odom Jr.
Director: Rian Johnson