Glass Onion

A lot of people seem to like this film, including people I love and admire, so I thought I’d give it a go.

Perhaps it was because I’m a bit under the weather, with an uncomfortable Shingles rash, or perhaps it was because I generally don’t like films these days, but I didn’t enjoy it. Then again, I did watch to the end (ish), so there’s that. For comparison, I gave Netflix’s recent Marilyn Monroe film, Blonde, just 11 minutes.

Glass Onion is a bit of a cartoon, I think. Cartoon-like not in the way of the overly animated superhero and other franchise films, but in the sense that the characters were like something out of Whizzer and Chips, cartoon villains, types, caricatures. Then there were the eye-popping colours and fantasy sets, straight out of an Influencer’s wet dream. It works as pure escapism, but as an homage to the Golden Age of murder mystery, not so much. A mere pastiche, because there wasn’t much to the mystery at all—especially if you look up the cast on IMDB, which reveals a massive plot spoiler. With that plot spoiler in mind, it was immediately obvious what was going on. The IMDB cast page also kind of spoiled the various cameos, so maybe don’t do that.

Daniel Craig’s slightly preposterous Benoit Blanc is meant to remind us of Poirot, I suppose, but his weird and ever-shifting accent is a huge distraction. He also doesn’t do much detecting, leaving the legwork to another character and making the odd gnomic pronouncement.

But everything I’m saying probably doesn’t matter, because people aren’t watching this for authentic mystery solving thrills, are they? It’s what they are watching for that’s beyond me. Crudely drawn characters, a finger-painted plot, bright colours, and a lot of reminders of the pandemic for some reason.

Ah, the bright colours! Of course! With so much television and film being too fucking dark to see nowadays, perhaps the popularity of this kind of thing is down to the general lack of darkness.

And it would be remiss of me not to mention that it’s too long. I mean, I stopped watching at minute 132 of 141. Presumably that was nine minutes of credits. Let us stipulate that no film should be longer than 120 minutes including the credits. A lot of flab, dead weight, partly because a lot of the story has to be told twice. Perhaps this is a feature of these large cast mysteries: the 1978 Death on the Nile is also 140 minutes and the 1974 Murder on the Orient Express is 128 minutes. The bloat has less to do with the genre, maybe, and more to do with the egos in the cast demanding a certain minimum screen time? To give Branagh his due, his MotOE was just 114 minutes. Well done Ken! Though I still can’t forgive the Poirot backstory in your DotN (127 minutes, but how much shorter without all the flashback nonsense?!).

Blame the attention economy. What a weird time we live in, when nobody cares any more how long a film is because everybody is watching on streaming. Cinema chains used to exert some influence: every film over two hours meant fewer daily showings, fewer bums on seats, lower profits. Whereas Netflix probably encourages this bloat: more streaming minutes means more of our attention is captured.

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