Glass Onion fell flat due to a lack of character focus

A thorough lesson in how not to make a sequel. Everything was worse. Everything.

Did you ever feel as though the first Knives Out movie needed some Disney-style humour thrown in? Neither, but we got it anyway. Did you think having a central, relatable protagonist boosted the first film? Likewise, but director Rian Johnson obviously didn’t. Can it really have been a one-hit wonder?

The twists are either boring or predictable; the acting is questionable; the setting is an eyesore. Film students, take note – this is a lecture in how not to expand a universe. We left this world as an incredibly realistic and yet colourful fictional one, and rejoined it as a futuristic tech-filled abomination complete with real world celebrities.

Beyonce name-drops and Serena Williams cameos – is the movie trying to get down with the kids?

Rewatch value? None – and that’s without taking the ghastly opening 20 minutes into account. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to write the pandemic, masks and Covid restrictions into this film should have been laughed out of the room. Glass Onion will age like a supermarket sandwich on a sunny day.

Moving past that, some below-par cast members and lack of character focus leads to a film where you struggle to get invested in anyone. Bar some very, very swift moments from Janelle Monae’s Helen Brand, there is little to latch onto. Even Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc, although just as fun as before, has no real depth to him – he’s just there to serve the plot, rather than the other way around.

I’m guessing it was deliberate to create completely over-the-top rich stereotypes, but the result is an annoying cluster of upper class demons who compete to be the most unlikeable they can – but not in the way it was probably intended.

Dave Bautista does what you’d expect Dave Bautista to do; Kate Hudson might just have burst our eardrums if given one more scene; Leslie Odom Jr is one-dimensional.

After the stellar performances of Knives Out’s cast, where there wasn’t a single letdown, this was a major disappointment. Not one member felt as though they truly earned their spot in the limelight – Kathyrn Hahn comes closest, but her place in the pecking order meant she was never given the chance to shine.

A film needs a moral compass, someone to act as the audience’s eyes and ears. Ana de Armas’ Marta Cabrera pulled off that role almost perfectly beforehand. There is no suitable substitute here; in the first film, she was a complete amateur who learned on the spot, making relatable spur-of-the-moment decisions to propel her own story arc.

Here, Monae’s character is only properly introduced after a significant portion of the movie has passed – an immediate error, because viewers have no opportunity to develop a relationship with her before the mystery begins to unravel.

She then turns into a natural-born detective, making no errors whatsoever as she sneaks around Miles Bron’s mansion to gather evidence. She’s in the right place at every possible time to overhear important conversations – how do you sympathise with a character who can do no wrong?

If your film isn’t character-driven, it at the very least has to be plot-driven – but Glass Onion isn’t that either. It feels as though Johnson is trying to be too clever for his own good, and he ends up putting together a convoluted and over-the-top mess.

The major reveal that the true villain is, after all, the egotistical billionaire who owns a private island and plans to unleash a new and untested energy product on the world? Wow, didn’t see that coming.

Despite efforts to create an illusion that there are seven ‘suspects’, there isn’t a single occasion where it genuinely feels like one of them may be guilty. It was always going to be Bron.

A twin sister that said villain has somehow never heard about, despite being a former best chum of the woman he killed? Welcoming an un-invited detective into his home despite knowing full well he recently committed murder? Keeping the one piece of incriminating evidence against him (the red envelope) solely for the purpose of having eagle-eyed audience members spot it? The plot holes go on.

When it comes to production, this onion is a little brown around the edges too. The closing sequence is a shambles – we get it, she’s knocking over the ornaments. Did the scene really have to go on for so long, with so many shocked reactions?

The computer-generated aspects of the film feel out of place and are a far cry from Knives Out’s grounded nature. Due to events taking place on an exotic island, the swimsuit and beach attire results in a rather bland spectacle. Where the first film was a joy to behold in that regard, the sequel is forgettable.

Positives are few and far between – Daniel Craig is amusing, but that’s about it due to his lack of any real personality. Some lines are relatively funny even if the overall humour fell flat, and there are a couple of intriguing plot points.

However, that’s of little solace – after such a memorable opening installment to the franchise, the disappointing downfall of its sequel will be tough to get over.

The whole ordeal is dull, predictable and poorly acted – but the true crime is a lack of character focus. Any film will struggle without it, and unfortunately it will see Glass Onion go out of date rather quickly.

Rating: ☆☆

Feature image credit: The Indian Express

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