December 2022 Roundup
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery
Netflix // Directed by Rian Johnson // Starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson, Dave Bautista
It’s time for another delicious Rian Johnson whodunit! Following the critically acclaimed Knives Out was never going to be an easy task but Johnson returns with another eclectic cast and a story full of twists and surprises as we continue the journey of Benoit Blanc (Craig), the world’s greatest detective. Swapping a stately mansion for the island retreat (and literal glass onion) of tech billionaire Miles Bron (Norton), Blanc must unravel the mystery of another shady murder - this time during an actual murder mystery get-together. Everything about Glass Onion is bigger than its predecessor - the location, the scope, the performances (in terms of being ostentatious) - though it’s not easily comparable in the same sense, even Benoit Blanc feels more extravagant this time. The runtime is also slightly longer, and, whilst Glass Onion never drags, had it had the same duration as Knives Out (nine minutes shorter), it would have felt just that little bit tighter and more focused at certain moments. However, Johnson ensures the narrative and mystery feel different which is a huge boon, especially in a genre that can feel repetitive at times. Glass Onion is certainly as sharp as its predecessor, just in a different way - there’s a little more sleight of hand in terms of the reveal though the commentaries on the pandemic, wealth and influencers are there for all to see as Johnson’s script fizzes with a joyful effervescence. There’s also more levity to be found here, whilst Knives Out was by no means a weighty affair, Glass Onion displays a clear nod into self-aware territory - Dave Bautista’s Duke (a Twitch streamer) and Kate Hudson’s supermodel-turned-fashionista Birdie delivering prime examples with their solid turns. The star of the show, though, is Janelle Monae’s Andi who provides a dazzling display that would be spoilerific to dive too far into, but, needless to say, she is excellent - similarly to Knives Out, there are no weak performances here even if not every character is fully developed. Netflix purchased the rights to two Knives Out sequels and this first one was not bad at all, so what’s next for Benoit Blanc? Who knows, but I’m extremely confident it’ll be a blast. Glass Onion is another rollicking mystery that continues the Knives Out series wonderfully - even if it isn’t quite as beguiling as its predecessor.
Avatar: The Way of Water
20th Century Studios // Directed by James Cameron // Starring Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Kate Winslet
It’s felt like the longest time but the sequel to the highest-grossing movie of all time is finally here. With Avatar: The Way of Water, we bear witness to the return to Pandora and also the return of the shy-and-retiring James Cameron, who has spent the years between 2009’s Avatar and now extolling how the world simply must see the sequel. In The Way of Water, Jake Sully (Worthington), now full Na’vi, and Ney’tiri (Saldana), along with their children Neteyam (Flatters), Lo’ak (Dalton), Tuk (Bliss), and Kiri (Weaver), uproot and move their lives to the oceans of their intersolar moon to reside amongst the Metkayina clan in order to evade the returning RDA who are deadset on terminating Sully and colonizing the entire moon. So, the big question is, does it live up to the expectation and hype? Well, that depends on your expectations. Fans of the original Avatar will find plenty here to enjoy, especially the additions to the now-expanded lore and the mesmerizing visual effects, but those looking for a solid story, seamless connectivity (given it has been thirteen years…), thrills, and real substance may be disappointed. Now, it can be said that an epic sci-fi movie might not be the place to look for genuine depth, but when the movie posits itself as a prestige genre entry, it’s fair to hold it to higher standards. The Way of Water feels like the same movie we saw in 2009, except a lot wetter and with less actual ‘avatar’ talk - BUT, as mentioned, it looks magnificent with Simon Franglen’s delicate score complimenting the sumptuous eye candy. Visually, the movie is jaw-dropping for the vast majority of its runtime…a runtime that is bloated and highly unnecessary in length. The cliched, vanilla story and uninspired dialogue do little to help the unbalanced narrative and laboured pacing but there are still moments throughout that mesmerize and deliver some of that old Cameron magic and spectacle (in a movie that features many, many Cameron callbacks). It’s not that The Way of Water is a bad movie, it really isn’t, it just felt soulless. Its attempt to create something profound thematically and narratively falls short and the collection of characters sadly just aren’t that interesting - but, hey, at least it looks good.