“Glass Onion” is a worthy evolution of the murder mystery genre


Photo Courtesy of Netflix

“Glass Onion” is the sequel to “Knives Out.” The film is currently streaming on Netflix.

Ian Lloyd, Staff Writer

“Knives Out” released three years ago. For many, this was the final theater-going experience that would persist in our memory as we shut ourselves off from the world in early 2020. 

Mainstream appreciation for this modern murder mystery has only grown in recent years. When a sequel was announced featuring a new cast alongside returning detective, Beniot Blanc (Daniel Craig), fan expectations were through the roof. 

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” received a limited theater release for a week and dropped on Netflix a month later with mixed responses from fans of the first film.

Benoit Blanc is invited to a tropical murder mystery party hosted by tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton) during the COVID-19 pandemic. The other guests consist of powerful, famous and esteemed high-class figures who take trips together every year. With multiple frictions surfacing between this group of friends, the inner conflict builds until an actual murder is committed. It’s up to the world-famous detective to peel back the layers of the mystery.

This film will no doubt be regarded by many as a lesser sequel, but “Glass Onion” delivers on modernizing the murder mystery genre even more so than the first film. 

Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) functions as a clever evolution of classic detectives. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix)

The upper class has always ruled this genre of film. Murder comes about when desire is involved, either from love, riches or both, which makes these individuals perfect for the format. The snobbish upper class litters the casts of classic Agatha Christie stories and other popular whodunits. Sometimes they rightfully receive a comeuppance for being the 1% of society, and sometimes authors or screenwriters tiptoe around those aspects of greed to focus on the mystery itself.

Glass Onion makes it extremely clear, nearly to a detrimental degree, that this colorful cast of characters are some of the most shamelessly terrible people on the planet. It’s cathartic to watch a movie that takes such obvious jabs at these types of people. 

In the current era, it’s easier than ever to become caught up in the lives of the ridiculously wealthy and powerful, and “Glass Onion” uses familiarity to its advantage. Each character will undoubtedly remind the audience of these infamous public figures. The sad thing is, these caricatures don’t even have to be exaggerated to be absolutely hilarious.

However, this set of characters can come off as less engaging than the more grounded cast of “Knives Out.” By engaging with more unsubtle references to modern culture and public personalities, “Glass Onion” loses the timeless feeling the previous film had. However, despite this stark contrast of setting and characters, the themes and tone of both films stay consistent, and the one character who carries over into the second film is better than ever.

The new characters and setting are more modern and eccentric in their wealth, highlighting the idiocy of the upper class. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix)

Benoit Blanc is a clear modern interpretation of Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective created by Christie. As with Poirot, Benoit Blanc is a rather silly character, with a distinctly Foghorn Leghorn accent and flippant attitude when subjected to trivial matters. He brings an old-fashioned quality to his detective work, which actively conflicts with the sickeningly modern setting this film takes place in.

Comparatively, there have recently been a few direct remakes of classic Christie novels directed by Kenneth Branagh and they don’t quite understand the genre like the “Knives Out” films do. 

Branagh’s takes on Poirot’s cases are extremely stylized but ultimately come to the same ends that were made nearly a hundred years prior. The more dramatic tone feels hollow and unearned in these films.

His latest remake, “Death On The Nile” tries to incorporate a more personal emotional reason for the Belgian detective to be connected to the case, but it doesn’t quite work. Poirot is a silly little man who is well off with the help of successful cases. He may despise the upper class, but he is ultimately part of it himself.

Famous detective Beniot Blanc (Daniel Craig) returns in the “Knives Out” sequel “Glass Onion” with a whole new cast of characters. (Photo Courtesy of Netflix)

The smartest move director Rian Johnson makes in both “Knives Out” films is his use of Benoit Blanc. The detective is more of a conduit to help the victims who have been hurt by the killer or ensemble. Blanc can outdo any killer by allowing the person most affected by the tragedy to become the hero who saves the day. He is simply the conductor who orchestrates investigations with swift accuracy, standing back when someone else deserves the spotlight.

Johnson has fully cemented his characters and filmmaking voice in the modern classic territory. “Glass Onion” is a victory lap after the immense success of “Knives Out.” His newest film fully encapsulates feelings we’ve had throughout the pandemic, and while some of those references might not stay timeless, they fit perfectly in the present evolution of murder mysteries.