Rian Johnson has a vision for the collection of mysteries Benoit Blanc will go on to solve in his future films, each different from the last. And the key to fulfilling his dream of reaching the heights of whodunits made by the likes of Agatha Christie was rooted in allowing each film to speak for itself as a standalone project — which is why the director is pretty heated that he wasn’t allowed to drop the marketing descriptor from the title of his latest release, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.
“I’ve tried hard to make them self-contained,” Johnson told the Atlantic. “Honestly, I’m pissed off that we have A Knives Out Mystery in the title. You know? I want it to just be called Glass Onion.”
Before the official title of the film was announced, Glass Onion was frequently referred to as Knives Out 2, even though the only carry-over from Knives Out was Daniel Craig’s ridiculous Southern drawl. The new film features a set of new suspects and an entirely new mystery that couldn’t be solved simply by applying the formula that cracked the case in the first movie.
“I get it, and I want everyone who liked the first movie to know this is next in the series, but also, the whole appeal to me is it’s a new novel off the shelf every time,” Johnson added. “But there’s a gravity of a thousand suns toward serialized storytelling.”
While announcing the title of the highly-anticipated follow-up, Johnson praised Christie’s masterful use of a non-formulaic formula. “I think there’s a misperception that her books use the same formula over and over, but fans know the opposite is true,” he wrote on Twitter at the time. “It wasn’t just settings or murder methods, she was constantly stretching the genre conceptually. Under the umbrella of the whodunnit she wrote spy thrillers, proto-slasher horrors, serial killer hunts, gothic romances, psychological character studies, glam travelogues.”
He added: “When I made Knives Out, that’s what excited me about the prospect of making more mysteries with Daniel as Benoit Blanc — to emulate Christie and have every film be like a whole new book, with its own tone, ambition, reason for being… and (ta dah) title.”
The title was an unavoidable compromise in the same way Glass Onion‘s brief but fruitful theatrical release was. The film spent one week in limited theaters before being pulled ahead of its Netflix release, though Johnson would have preferred it stay longer for the true movie-going experience.
“It’s not about the size of the picture, or the sound, or the sanctity of the space, or the magic of cinema, or whatever the fuck,” he said. “It’s about having a crowd of people around you laughing and reacting. Because these movies are engineered for that.”