Rian Johnson peels back ‘Glass Onion’, ‘Knives Out’ sequel.

TORONTO (AP) – Three years after “Knives Out” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, Rian Johnson returned to the scene of the crime to debut his long-awaited sequel “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.”

When Johnson introduced the film to an eager audience at the Princess of Wales Theater on Saturday night, he didn’t calmly walk out onto the stage with a polite wave to the crowd. He sprinted.

“Are you ready to have some fun?” shouted Johnson. “Are you ready for a fun group?”

The roar of the crowd made it clear that, yes, they too were hardly waiting. The “Knives Out” movies cover the last three years of the pandemic almost perfectly. the original “Knives Out” had premiered at the same theater nearly three years earlier, where Johnson’s modern spin on a retro genre pretty much blew the roof off.

“It’s surreal,” Johnson, the 48-year-old director of “The Last Jedi” and “Looper,” said in an interview before the premiere of “Glass Onion.” “It’s so weird to think about the 30 years that have passed in the three years since we played a movie in Toronto.”

If “Knives Out” bridged an old world of cinema — a cocktail of eccentric murder suspects pursued by a colorful underdog — with modern issues of class and ethnicity, “Glass Onion” was tasked with breaking down the pre-pandemic movie with today’s still unfolding. recovery. Set in early 2020, the film opens with masked characters and Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc on lockdown — soaking in his bathtub, mostly — and hungry for a new case.

“Part of the real fun for me is to have a whodunit that’s not a period piece but is set in contemporary America and that engages completely with what’s on people’s minds at the time — hopefully in a way that’s still completely locked into an entertainment’. Johnson said. “I hope we can do it again.”

The raucous audience response and glowing reviews from Toronto indicated that Johnson, who also wrote the film, did just that. While the less said the better about the multi-layered plot of “Glass Onion,” it revolves around tech billionaire Miles Bron (Edward Norton), who invites a small group of friends to his private island (much of the film was shot in Greece). for a murder mystery party. The cast includes a standout Janelle Monáe, Dave Bautista, Madelyn Cline, Kathryn Hahn, Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick and Leslie Odom Jr.

Johnson combines themes of truth and folly with the reverberations of current American politics, and also takes a satirical approach to tech moguls. In the film, Bronn considers his inner circle a gang of “troublemakers”.

This will strike many viewers as fitting or ironic, considering that “Glass Onion,” unlike “Knives Out,” is a movie for Netflix, a self-proclaimed Hollywood disruptor that has over the past decade fundamentally changed the movie business. After “Knives Out” became one of the biggest hits of 2019, grossing $311 million worldwide against a $40 million budget, Netflix turned to paying $450 million for two sequels.

This puts particular emphasis on the release of “Glass Onion,” a potential box office hit if it were widely released in theaters at a time when the movie industry is struggling with the balance between streaming and theaters. While Netflix often gives its most important films several weeks to select theaters before streaming, the streamer and exhibitors discussed a wider release for “Glass Onion.” Currently, this is not expected. Netflix will stream the film from December 23 after a theatrical run that begins in November.

“This movie, above all else, is designed to be a good time with a large crowd of people in a theater,” Johnson said.

As for the specific theatrical release, Johnson said it’s still being worked on. “To be decided,” he said.

“I want as many people as possible to see the movie in theaters,” Johnson said. “Having said that, I know a lot of people discovered ‘Knives Out’ with their families at home when it came out. But this movie is so designed to be shown with a crowd in a theater. It’s less like ‘Top Gun’ where it’s about the big screen and sound experience and it’s more about being surrounded by people who are going to have as much fun as you are.”

“My goal is to hope that if you want to see it in a theater, you can,” Johnson added. “But we’re still TBA.”

Johnson, who appeared in the 2005 neo-noir “Brick” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, said he hasn’t strayed so far from his indie roots that he’s not happy with just having the backing of a major distributor.

“As a form of self-defense, I have a peace of mind that if you make a good movie, you put it out there and people will find it,” Johnson said. “At the end of the day, you just have to get to a place of Zen because everything changes so quickly.”

Johnson again chose a film title that not only relates to the story of his film, but corresponds to a notable rock song. (Radiohead have their own “Knives Out.”)

“I honestly just looked in my music library for songs about glass,” Johnson said with a laugh. “With apologies to Blonde, this was my favorite glass-centric song. The title has an oddity to it that reminds me of 70s paperbacks or even some Agatha Christie titles. There’s a delightful irony in calling a great film The Glass Onion.

In a parallel universe, Johnson might have spent the past seven years working on “Star Wars.” Around the release of “The Last Jedi” — which remains a groundbreaking if controversial entry in the “Star Wars” canon — Johnson was tapped to develop Though no public plans have yet been announced, Johnson said that door it is not necessarily closed.

But he also has a lot of fun doing “Knives Out” mysteries. There will be at least one more. At the premiere, Craig said: “I would work with this man for the rest of my life.”

“I had the best experience of my life doing ‘The Last Jedi.’ I don’t know if I’ll ever master it professionally. And I really hope to do it again. I hope to come back and do more ‘Star Wars’ at some point,” Johnson said. “But it’s a lot of fun to have something that’s entirely our sandbox.”

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Follow AP film writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jakecoyleAP

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