Johnson about his work on Star Wars
is probably the last thing he wants to hear before releasing a new film.
To Johnson’s dismay,
his polarising work with Star Wars: The
Last Jedi will hang over his head like a toxic cloud for the rest of his
His divisive efforts
to shake up Star Wars, defying the
sci-fi fairy-tale’ traditions of Disney storytelling to transport the series
into a galaxy far, far away, was met with a barrage of attacks from online
trolls that was far more destructive than any assault carried out by Luke
efforts may have divided a franchise, there is no denying him as a filmmaker
willing to take big risks. His willingness to push the envelope, combining the
familiar with the new, ought to be celebrated in an entertainment biz saturated
with reboots, prequels and adaptations; Star Wars in 2019 guilty of releasing a
video game, a TV series, and a film, all within a two-month window of each
himself from the Millennium Falcon, audiences can hear Johnson breathe a sigh
of relief with his pleasingly told murder-mystery, Knives Out. A film that
departs from Johnson’s sci-fi roots and tackles a post-modern whodunnit.
Or so you think…
itself up as a game of Clue, (the mysterious murder of a wealthy tycoon (an
always reliable Christopher Plummer), a gated mansion stuck in yesteryear, an
eccentric detective (Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc) and a slew of peculiar
characters each with their own murderous motivations) Knives Out unfolds more like a twisted game of Snakes and Ladders.
Johnson, who also
wrote the screenplay, plants his shovel firmly into new ground by combining
Agatha Christie inspired storytelling with modern filmmaking sensibilities. He
uses characters as stand-ins for subtext, and in doing so empowers Knives Out
to make pointed statements about aristocracy, the outrageous behaviour of the
one-percenters achieving many of the films laughs, and Trump-era immigration
politics. Guessing proves but half the fun in Knives Out’s, with the films
subversiveness proving not just a ploy to deepen the films sense of mystery,
but to enable it to be more than just intriguing.
Johnson’s hand is at reinvigorating a genre loved by boomers everywhere, he
finds himself unable to escape his trademark divisiveness with the characters
he has created.
The appeal behind
Craig’s detective is apparent from his first moment on-screen; wearing his
manufactured allure like Hercule Poirot wore an extravagant moustache. With
Benoit Blanc, Craig lands a narcissistic, one-step-ahead-of-the-perp detective
with a wacky approach to investigation. Blanc, donning a thick southern accent
akin to Foghorn Leghorn, is so forcibly designed to steal scenes that Craig’s
performance comes across as counterfeit.
of characterisation is the equivalent of eating too much dessert; great in
theory, stomach-turning in practice. He wants so badly to create distinguishing
odd-balls that he overwhelms the film. This eccentricity-overload extends into
the ensemble cast. The likes of which include Chris Evans smirking grandson, an
unassuming nurse (Ana de Armas of Blade Runner 2049 fame), Toni Collette
playing a free-spirited daughter-in-law (who you know shops at GOOP), an
underutilised (and snide) Jamie Lee Curtis, and perpetual angry man Michael
Shannon. All of these actors are given moments to shine but find themselves
competing against one another to leave a lasting impression.
While refreshing to see Knives Out pay homage to a genre considered outdated, Johnson does more than just blow-off the dust and regurgitate Agatha Christie a la Kenneth Branagh. Johnson brings with Knives Out a sense of purpose that exists outside of rehashing nostalgia. He compensates for try-hardy characters thanks to a willingness to be anything but ordinary. The grand effect of this doing for the murder-mystery what Get Out had for modern horror.
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