Daniel Craig's Knives Out Sequel Continues Whodunit Craze
Daniel Craig's knives out sequel continues the whodunit craze. Is their recent success due to the US television show Only Murders in the Building? Knives Out? was a big hit at the box office in 2019. The new version of Hercule Poirot by Kenneth Branagh? Or does the fact that Agatha Christie's books continue to sell demonstrate that Whodunit never died?
Alexander McCaslinDec 20, 202221 Shares1018 Views
Daniel Craig's knives out sequel continues the whodunit craze.Is their recent success due to the US television show Only Murders in the Building? Knives Out? was a big hit at the box office in 2019. The new version of Hercule Poirot by Kenneth Branagh? Or does the fact that Agatha Christie's books continue to sell demonstrate that Whodunit never died?
The question of why there have been so many Whodunits lately is almost a Whodunit in itself. We can be sure of only one thing: it wasn't Colonel Mustard in the drawing room.
No matter what the reason is, they are a big business right now. Netflix is said to have paid $450 million (£376 million) for the rights to make two sequels to Knives Out. The first of these, Glass Onion, comes out on Friday. Daniel Craig played detective Benoit Blanc in the first Knives Out movie.
Chris Evans, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Ana de Armas also had big roles. It was a murder mystery that was both old-fashioned and new.
It wasn't like the trashy superhero movies or sci-fi blockbusters that have been big hits in recent years. And yet, it did just that, taking $313 million (£255 million). Glass Onion is the first of what could be many sequels. It has a whole new cast besides Craig.
Whodunits have been popular for a long time, which doesn't surprise the movie's writer and director, Rian Johnson. He said:
It makes sense to me, because it's the same thing that's always been appealing about the genre. What's not to love? You have a rogue's gallery of interesting characters, you have a central charismatic detective, you have intrigue, you have mystery, comedy, human drama, all the ingredients are there. And for me, I'm a Whodunit junkie, I'm in heaven right now, the fact that there are more and more of these things, and that talents like Steve Martin are writing mysteries right now, to me, that's heaven.- Rian Johnson
"Only Murders In The Building," starring Selena Gomez and Martin Short, is the Steve Martin production Johnson is alluding to. The popular comedy-drama has been revived for a third season.
It's about three neighbors who think someone might have been killed in their building. The three unlikely detectives work together to host a true crime podcast and figure out what happened. "See How They Run," which came out this year, was another big-screen Whodunit.
Sam Rockwell and Saoirse Ronan gave standout comedic performances in this movie. It didn't get much attention because it came out the day after the Queen died, but you can now watch it on Disney+.
Tom George, who directed the movie, told BBC Newsthat he thinks murder mysteries come and go in movies. "But in the UK, they tend to stay the same. There probably isn't a year that goes by without a new take on an Agatha Christie story."
See How They Run takes place in London's West End in 1953 when a director is trying to bring the success of Agatha Christie's The Mousetrap from the West End to the big screen. But when a key member of the production crew is killed, everything goes wrong.
It's a lot of fun and one of the best movies of the year. It's a murder mystery within a murder mystery. "I think the reason Whodunits keep audiences coming back to them as stories are the audience are trying to do the same thing that the detectives are trying to do - crack the case," suggests George.
So in a Whodunit, that's kind of baked in from the start. So from very early on, the audience are locked in with the detectives. They're watching each of the suspects and trying to figure out, what are their tells? What can I learn from this interaction? And it just makes for a really compelling story.
And that makes for a brilliant story. In any film you're trying to get the audience to connect with their lead character or characters as soon as possible by sort of putting them in their shoes. And there's something really reassuring about a puzzle where you know that all the pieces are eventually going to click into place - something you don't necessarily get in everyday lifeor true crime- Rian Johnson
Christie was not only a character in "See How They Run," but Knives Out was also based on her. Johnson says that when he was a child, the queen of the Whodunit was a big part of his life. "It's a genre I just dearly love and have a real passion for," he says.
I thought about growing up watching the Agatha Christie adaptations with my family, and how they were some of my most treasured movie experiences. And I thought, I think there are people who are really going to want to see something like Knives Out. So we rolled the dice, but we really didn't know [it would be that successful].- Rian Johnson
Even though it's hard to prove, Christie's estate says she is the best-selling novelist of all time. Only the Bible and Shakespeare have sold more copies, they say. Christie's The Mousetrap has been playing in London's West End for 70 years. Last month, it was announced that it will finally open on Broadway (Covid lockdowns excepted).
Adam Spiegel, the producer of The Mousetrap, who will also co-produce the musical on Broadway, says:
The love of a Whodunit is embedded in British DNA, and I think we can trace much of this to Agatha Christie. Her remarkable body of work both remains enormously popular with the public, and she is a source of great inspiration for the new generation of writers.
Murder on the Orient Express and Death on the Nile, two of Christie's most renowned murder mysteries, has been revived in recent years with Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot. Another Christie mystery, The Mirror Crack'd, is being staged in the UK, and two new TV series about the author, starring Alan Carr and Lucy Worsley, have just broadcast on Channel 4 and BBC Two, respectively.
There are whodunits everywhere you look. The BBC's superb reality programme The Traitors assembled 22 members of the public in a Scottish castle with the objective of uncovering three traitors among them. It was frequently at the top of the iPlayer chart.
According to Glass Onion's Ram Bergman, Knives Out has had a beneficial impact on the number of Whodunits commissioned.
"People were afraid to make those," he says, "and I think because Knives Out was so successful, it kind of gave the freedom for the studios and streamers, 'there's an audience for these movies, let's make more of those'. Before, I think they were nervous about it."
To begin with, Glass Onion is a letdown after the brilliance of Knives Out. However, once the setup is complete, the film shifts gears. Glass Onion, according to Charlotte O'Sullivan of the Evening Standard, is "edge-of-your-seat material" as the twists kick in. Furthermore, Metro's Larushka Ivan-Zadeh called it the year's most inventively enjoyable film.
However, according to Kevin Maher of the New York Times, it is "a bad case of sequelitis", adding: "It's bigger, louder, emptier. The plot, which is the driving force of any murder mystery, is conspicuously flimsy, with very few surprises and little ingenuity." So, how do you write a great Whodunit?
Johnson says, "First and foremost you come up with a story, "Who is the character we care about, what is their dilemma, and how are we going to have a satisfying ending? Not just in the Whodunit sense of 'oh that person did it', but a truly satisfying story."
And you come up with that and then you have your spine, and you start layering things on, figuring things out, and planting things here and there. The mystery part is the fun part, the tough part is coming up with a movie that's going to keep people entertained for two hours.