Glass Onion: Bigger doesn’t mean better

Lauren Rayner, Managing Editor

Detective Benoit Blanc has returned in his world-renowned detective fashion to solve another murder mystery– this time on a private Greek island sprawled with a tech billionaire and his crew of wealthy friends. The second whodunnit film in Rian Johnson’s “Knives Out” mystery movie series has been released on Netflix after a short theatrical run of only a week, (which is truthfully disappointing because “Glass Onion” is the perfect movie to laugh along with others to in a theater), on a whole new level of extravagance with a larger budget and general grandiose in the film’s appearance.

Although “Glass Onion” is classified as a “Knives Out” movie, following the 2019 hit and growing classic, one doesn’t necessarily need to see “Knives Out” (2019), before seeing its sequel. The films are in completely different realms, with the only thing in common between them being Daniel Craig’s reprise of his detective role in an ensemble of rich socialities tangled in a murder mystery. A part of me almost wishes that “Glass Onion” didn’t have that “Knives Out Mystery” label attached to it, just because of how different the styles and atmospheres are between the two movies.

Plotwise, “Glass Onion’s” simple synopsis is all you need to know going into the film. The movie takes place during the COVID-19 pandemic, with detective Blanc attending tech company co-founder Miles Bron’s yacht party with his 5 friends. Disorder ensues among the party members eventually, and the mystery element of the film is introduced to the audience. You play along with Benoit Blanc to try and figure out who killed who and how, which was an expected experience for the movie, even if it takes a while to get there. “Knives Out” fans want that detailed, well-crafted mystery, but had to sit through an exact hour of exposition to even sort of get to something interesting.

The more I think about “Glass Onion” the less I like it. It is hard to take the movie for its simple entertainment value when I get the sense it could have been a lot more compelling and something of actual substance. Before digging into the bad, there are still some commendable attributes to the film. It is hard for the movie to not be a little bit entertaining. Even with its faults, it is a guaranteed decent time. It isn’t surprising that the “Knives Out” train is one so many actors want to hop on. It is a fun franchise to be a part of. There are endless possibilities with different celebrity cameos that will work 99% of the time due to the very nature of a “Knives Out” mystery. Director Rian Johnson absolutely has a clean, always-alluring style that works wonderfully here. The camera angles used and the feel of the film is neat yet lively.

There are some great music choices from artists like David Bowie and the Beatles, as well as the score and “Glass Onion” theme, featuring the harpsichord. The harpsichord’s rattling plucks specifically give the movie a nostalgic, other-timely feel that it is desperately searching for. And a “Knives Out” mystery would not be complete without its satisfying and iconic final half-hour unraveling the mayhem. “Glass Onion” undoubtedly has it covered.

Unfortunately, the film consistently feels hollow and poorly crafted. It feels strange for a sequel in a franchise to go in a completely different direction from its prior entity. “Knives Out” (2019) felt original, cozy, and timeless, while “Glass Onion” switches it on its head into something entirely modern, appearing especially disconnected from the previous film. Even if that’s the point, it is too distracting to be enjoyable. Benoit Blanc has been through two different universes. Blanc taking on the mystery in “Glass Onion” feels out of character from what you assumed of him in the first film. “Knives Out” was more touching emotionally, and almost every character in the movie was captivating and unique. There are almost no stand-out performances in its 2022 counterpart, besides Daniel Craig, who was going to give it his all no matter what. With so much emphasis on Janelle Monae’s character, CEO Cassandra Brand, one of the party attendants, it is a shame she gave such an uninteresting performance. “Knives Out” has more intriguing world-building in its lofty mansion setting for its characters to dive into, compared to the played-out rich people yacht detour this film embarks on.

“Glass Onion” really doubled down on the comedy element this time around, sadly, because it often fell flat. A handful of pandemic jokes and pop culture references already felt stale. The film can’t even get away with being “silly on purpose” because it doesn’t have the humor or allure in its story to back it up. The genuine laughs really only came from Blanc’s character, an intelligent man adjusting to the modern world through playing “Among Us” on Zoom meetings in his bathtub. There was never enough Daniel Craig, who you could just sense from his performance was having a blast. Benoit Blanc as a character is simply the best and is the glue of anything “Knives Out” related.

The movie is a trying critique of upper-class snobs in the 2020s but to virtually no point. It is a tiresome rich-people satire that adds no meaningful commentary– or provides about as much of a meaningful message as you can get out of the topic. Rich actors

acting environmentally and politically above other rich actors by criticizing the very problem they are a part of is a plaguing movie trend that isn’t as smart as it thinks it is.

Overall, “Glass Onion” is a decently fun time, while still clumsy. I know I should treat it like a separate body of work, but I can’t help but compare it to the first movie in the mystery anthology, a movie that at the time and to this day feels like a fresh, endlessly rewatchable crowd-pleaser that anyone from a child to grandparent would enjoy. You experience Rian Johnson’s playfulness behind the camera under the weight of an immense Netflix budget. I see “Glass Onion” aging poorly over time, or at the very least, becoming one of Hollywood’s half-baked, could-have-been-better sequels.