The release of Rian Johnson’s sequel to his critically acclaimed film Knives Out could not have come at a more prescient time. The world is on fire! The internet is a cesspool! And it sure seems like the most powerful and influential people in the world aren’t doing much about it!
Enter Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, wherein the former Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Looper director has brought us an absurdly satirical island vacation caper. And the best part? The themes and messages from the movie line up very well with what us concerned internet denizens have been lambasting for years.
Now that shouldn’t come as a surprise, right? The first Knives Out was full of pop culture references along with a stacked cast of beloved performers. But Glass Onion hits a little differently. Whether it’s incompetent billionaires, self-serving politicians, or grifting YouTube personalities, Johnson showcases the kinds of people that have the internet seething as of late. So, as a concerningly online person, I’ve taken the time to break down why we love Glass Onion, and how its biting critiques of society are refreshing, dare I say—transparent.
SPOILERS! SPOILERS EVERYWHERE!
When we met Daniel Craig’s “Kentucky Fried” detective Benoit Blanc in Knives Out, he was an enigma who dressed in line with what you’d expect from a serious investigator. But now that we’ve grown familiar with the surprisingly playful gumshoe? He brings a series of bright colors, ascots, and high waisted pants to this island getaway. His personality is up front this time, whether he’s lounging in a bath with a funny hat, or rolling up to the island vacation in a men’s romper.
And where to get started on Janelle Monáe? Already a queer icon as both an actor and singer, Janelle gets to flex her acting ability both as aloof tycoon Andi Brand and her twin sister Helen (the other hero of the story revealed at the halfway mark). And whether she’s playing the relatable Helen or the ambitious Andi—or even the relatable Helen in disguise as the ambitious Andi–Monáe’s performance and flair left audiences with their jaws dropped.
Taking place at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Glass Onion does not shy away from the era of stricter precautions. The movie’s characters are introduced while isolating in their own ways, from playing Among Us over video call to having not-so-small parties with their “social bubbles.” And through each character’s introduction, and even how they wear their masks when meeting up in person, we can instantly learn a lot about them.
Our Northeastern politician lets her nose hang over her mask, showing she prioritizes comfort over actually caring about safety. And when the same character who threw a wild COVID party shows up in an ineffective mesh fashion statement, it immediately invoked Lana Del Rey coming under fire for the same thing.
On that note…
The central premise of Glass Onion is that tech billionaire Miles Bron invites his other wealthy friends to a private island for a fun little murder mystery. And the exact type of wealthy person each of them represents is abundantly clear from their introductions.
Kathryn Hahn’s two-faced politician Clair Debella will elicit eye-rolls from viewers across the political spectrum as someone who will take up any cause just to get ahead. Kate Hudson’s impulsive fashionista Birdie Jay draws parallels to the many influencers who have gotten in trouble for not knowing when to shut up online. Meanwhile, Dave Bautista and relative newcomer Madelyn Cline bring life to streamer couple Duke Cody and Whiskey, a perpetual gun-toting parody of the manosphere and his young girlfriend trying her hand at the grift as well.
They are accompanied by more subtle guests Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton fame as Lionel Toussaint, Bron’s right-hand scientist, and Jessica Henwick as Birdie Jay’s beleaguered working-class assistant Peg.
From the moment these characters are introduced we can immediately recognize and laugh at similarities to their real-life parallels. But perhaps no parallel is more biting than that of the man of the hour himself.
Oh man. When I said the release of this film was prescient, there’s a very specific reason as to why. And it really has to do with island-owner Miles Bron, played by Edward Norton. The lackadaisical tech guru thinly masking being a faux-intellectual moron is the ultimate key to what Glass Onion is all about.
Miles Bron is introduced to us while playing “Blackbird” on an acoustic guitar. He gets a note wrong, mentions to his former lover Birdie that it was once owned by Paul McCartney, and throws it off camera with a comedic smashing of strings. Norton is charming enough that we can laugh and think that maybe he’s just eccentric. But as the mystery unravels and Bron is revealed to be the killer of both Andi Brand and Duke Cody, everything falls into place. He’s no genius, he’s just a rich guy who hires smarter people. And like the other characters, Bron is clearly designed as a parody.
Elon Musk is the most obvious parallel. Bron associates himself with expensive cars, makes money off of cryptocurrency, and often announces grandiose plans before solidifying the follow-through. Though Bron doesn’t just take inspiration from Musk. With his deceptively modest outfits, he invokes disgraced crypto tycoon Sam Bankman-Fried or even former Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey. With his black turtleneck worn while arguing with a business partner, he invokes a mix of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. And the company he founded along with Andi called “Alpha” invokes an alliterative similarity to Amazon and Jeff Bezos.
And the release of this movie right after Musk’s purchase of Twitter for $44 billion makes it all seem like Rian Johnson had Apollo’s gift of prophecy. The film was released following a wave of online vitriol towards the billionaire as rash decisions led to employees being fired, verification check marks became paid badges instead of proof of legitimacy, and a continuing array of controversies that are still popping up in the news each week. In the wake of all this, it was refreshing to see a critique of an arrogant wealthy man who thought he was smarter than he is. When you peel back the Glass Onion’s layers of facade, at the center is a story about how exuberant wealth can disguise foolish behavior as eccentricity.
There’s a reason Glass Onion became Netflix’s number one movie almost instantly upon release. We, the people of the internet, are tired! We’re tired of lip-service politicians, of interchangeable meatheads who mistake volume for significance, and of seeing billionaires who waste so much of their cash on bizarre attempts to seem cool.
Not everyone is an evil genius, or the savior of mankind. When a silver spooned, too-big-to-fail celebrity tries to peddle a bizarre and unoriginal idea, you don’t have to give them any more respect than you would an intoxicated finance bro trying to pitch a silly new app. You are allowed to listen, take them in, look them in the eye and say “No! It’s just dumb!” Just channel your inner Benoit Blanc ala Glass Onion.