Rian Johnson proves he’s a man of consistent talent. Despite my negative feelings towards The Last Jedi, there’s no denying that Johnson is a filmmaker with confidence that sets him apart from the competition. Knives Out’s wittiness initially threw me off to a small degree due to its cast playing a group of caricatures instead of fully rounded characters. Over time my mind has changed about Knives Out, appreciating its commentary on high society. Glass Onion plays the same thematic tropes of Knives Out with even stronger results.
There’s a clear distaste for the rich in Knives Out. The Drysdale is a collection of the most selfish, entitled dynastic adult brats you could imagine. Separate from genealogy, Glass Onion focuses on a group of people who aren’t all rich yet suck off the tit of the man who is. Miles Brown (Edward Norton) has sent a mysterious box to a group of socialite friends of his. The box requires a puzzle to be solved to open it. Once discovered, an invitation is presented to meet Miles Bron (Edward Norton) on his private island to solve the mystery of his murder. One of the mystery box’s recipients is Knives Out hero Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig). Upon arriving at the island, Detective Blanc is introduced to a group of greedy “influencers.”
Similar to the Drysdales, the cast of misfits in Glass Onion depicts society’s narcism. Duke Cody (Dave Batista) is a social media personality who screams Joe Rogan vibes. Duke flexes his biceps while using his girlfriend Whiskey (Madelyn Cline) as a pinup girl to trigger feminists. Birdie Jay (Kate Hudson) is a once-famous model fallen victim to ageism. Birdie can’t accept that she’s no longer a hot topic in the public eye. So she insists on staying youthful. Fortunately, Birdie’s not too bright in the head so staying young in spirit isn’t much of a problem.
Unlike the Drysdales, not all suspects in this mystery are reprehensible. Lionel Toussaint (Leslie Odom Jr.) is a scientist who begs his boss, Miles, not to unleash an untested product onto the world. Lionel’s pleas fall on deaf ears as Miles made up his mind long ago. Miles has created a resource made of glass that could change the tectonic trajectory of the world. However, such an untested product could turn every household into a Hindenburg on land. Miles’ product plays as an allegory to COVID. Something that was experimented in a lab is unleashed on the public. What happens next could lead to catastrophe. Doesn’t this all sound peculiarly familiar to a certain lab in WUJAN China?
The Corona Virus takes center stage in Johnson’s sequel to Knives Out. With the world trapped in a pandemic, society displays its true colors. As a means of establishing who’s reckless and who’s not, our players meet each other masked and unmasked. Those masked behave cautiously when greeting one another by refusing to hug, only bumping elbows. Meanwhile, Duke, Whiskey, and Birdie indicate to the audience who the foolish ones on the island are. Instead of respecting social distance during a worldwide pandemic, the three doofuses try to give everyone a big maskless hug.
The degree of political commentary in Glass Onion is obvious enough to make Adam McKay blush. Superior to McKay’s critical parallels, Glass Onion is less of the director shouting his opinions from the rafters and more of a reflection of the year the film was made in. Where most pictures pressed forward pretending COVID wasn’t a thing, Glass Onion uses it as a central theme in the plot. Politics aside, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is just plain old fun.
Underneath all its layers of social commentary is another engaging who done it that’s equally intelligent to the original, yet different thanks to its scope, structure, and topicality. Like most sequels, Glass Onion increases its scale to heighten the drama. Where Knives Out takes place in a private mansion, Glass Onion’s setting is a secluded island dwarfing the Drysdale estate. The setting introduces a much larger, more intricate plot than the original. Rather than focusing on a singular case, Glass Onion evolves into a series of cases, all of which come together as one.
Some of the characters are a tad forgettable. Kathryn Hahn’s character was present but why she was there felt like a mystery to me. A bigger mystery to everyone on the island is why Andi Brand (Janelle Monáe) is on the island. Upon her arrival, Andi is welcomed with dirty looks and accusations. It’s not revealed why everyone has disdain for Andi, as it’s clear the audience will eventually find out.
What makes Glass Onion primarily separate from its predecessor is its structure. Knives Out is a straightforward narrative that looks at flashbacks for evidence yet stays entirely linear. Glass Onion bounces back and forth between timelines, making its plot twist and turns in unexpected directions. Despite containing a whopping 2:19 length, there’s hardly a scene that plays as filler. Each sequence has a purpose in its narrative to put the plot’s entire puzzle together.
The humor that triggered me in The Last Jedi works to Johnson’s advantage in the Knives Out series. Johnson subverts expectations by lampooning the detective genre. What would seem like an obvious plot hole in most movies, Glass Onion spoofs upfront. If this review sounds vague in any manner, it’s supposed to. If I were to reveal many of the film’s major plot points, I’d spoil the fun. All I can recommend is to experience Glass Onion for yourself and see if you can solve Miles Bron’s murder.