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Glass Onion: Better Than You Think, Actually

by Ellen Efstathiou

Staff Writer


Off the bat, I love murder mysteries. Everything from Poirot to Clue to The Hardy Boys is delightful to me, so when I saw Knives Out for the first time, I was enthralled. (I mean, I probably would have liked it even if it wasn’t very good, but luckily it was amazing.) This also meant that when I heard that there was going to be another movie about Benoit Blanc I couldn’t wait for it to come out.

Of course, I was also a bit worried when I heard there was going to be a sequel. For the most part, sequels that weren’t planned for from the start aren’t very good. By all accounts, Knives Out was supposed to be the only story involving this particular detective. However, Glass Onion has proved that sometimes, these unplanned sequels can be really good.

The general consensus that people seem to have about Glass Onion is that, while it’s good, it’s not as good as its predecessor Knives Out. Here’s why I think that is. When Knives Out came out, no one knew that it was going to be good. It was a murder mystery, a genre that hadn’t been used very much in recent memory, and it was an original story. So, it was a pleasant surprise when it turned out to be great.

I think that Glass Onion hasn’t been as widely liked by people because it didn’t have the shock factor of being good. Everyone went into watching the movie knowing that it was at least going to be good even if it wasn’t as good as Knives Out. So when it was good, but not better than Knives Out, people felt let down.

Illustration by Maia Hadler, Art Director

Another thing that I think affects Glass Onion is that Benoit Blanc is now the main character. While this is more in line with how murder mysteries are usually told, it is a difference from the first movie. While Helen does take over as the main character in the last half of the movie, for the most part we are trying to figure out the mystery along with Blanc. And a character that is an outsider to this situation trying to figure out the mystery is not as compelling as someone who has actual stakes in the plot. Blanc has no emotions tied to the mystery being solved. This is why the climax focuses on Helen getting revenge, and Blanc is nowhere to be seen.

I think people are criticizing Glass Onion for the reasons that they praised Knives Out. A lot of reviews of Knives Out point out that it doesn’t follow a typical structure of a murder mystery. We find out who did it and how five minutes into the movie via flashback. It later turns out that what we thought happened wasn’t actually what happened, but for the majority of the movie we think we know what’s going on. Glass Onion does the same thing, although we don’t find out the twist until much later in the movie.

In fact, I think that Glass Onion follows the structure of a typical murder mystery better than Knives Out did. There is a setup of all of the motivations that each character could possibly have, there’s a murder, clues are gathered, and finally there is the reveal. The only difference is that the clues are gathered during the flashback instead of in the present day.

Something I appreciate about Knives Out and Glass Onion is the way that memory is played with. A lot of times in murder mysteries, something is shown exactly how it is, and it’s up to the audience to notice possible background details. However, Rian Johnson’s movies will show shots in the way that the characters remember them. Examples include whether Miles hands Duke his glass in Glass Onion, or Harlan’s voice overlapping when Marta is trying to remember when to turn in Knives Out. It really shows how inconsistent memory can be and adds some realism to the story.

I think that if Glass Onion had come out before Knives Out, it would have had the same cultural impact. The writing is still great, the cast is still great, the twist is still great, the social commentary is still great. I think that it is only the fact that Glass Onion is a sequel that people are not praising it as much. So you can see clearly — like a glass onion! — that Glass Onion is good.

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