Knives Out's success at the box office made an announced sequel almost an inevitability. And so, like Gravity's Rainbow, et voila! today it was announced we'd get a follow-up tale that furthers the adventures of Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig).
And I'm just not here for it.
Don't get me wrong: I loved Knives Out. It was my #1 movie of 2019 and Rian Johnson also directed one of my favorite time travel movies (Looper) and one of my favorite Star Wars movies (die mad about it, haters).
I'm also a huge fan of Daniel Craig. I'm so all-in on Bond I'm binge-ing and reviewing all of them for you before No Time To Die comes out in April. And he's my favorite Bond.
[SPOILERS AHEAD FOR KNIVES OUT. Although, I don't know why you'd be reading about a sequel if you haven't seen the original– and if you haven't seen the original, STOP RIGHT NOW AND GO SEE IT! Anyway, spoilers ahead:]
So why am I hesitating? Because a sequel takes all the wrong messages from a near-perfect film. Because ultimately, Knives Out isn't about Benoit Blanc. It's not his story. The story belongs to Marta Cabrera (Ana de Armas), and, to a lesser extent, Ransom (Chris Evans). And his sweater. Also? Nana. Because Nana was the best.
The entire axis of the film pits Marta and Ransom (and, indeed, most of the members of the Drysdale family) as two opposite ends of a spectrum, and in the balance lies honesty, hard work, and decency. Marta who cannot lie is pitted against a family so dishonest each of them tells her they wanted her to come to the funeral but they were outvoted. Doesn't matter if they're conservative and love Trump's wall or are getting a PhD in SJW, they all lie, and they all try to manipulate Marta. At first they do it because they can, because what can she do as "the help" if she's put in the middle of an uncomfortable political debate. And then they do it because they want something from her. They want money. They want the power and status that comes with it.
Knives Out is a story about how honesty and decency win the day. And what does Benoit Blanc do except explain everything in a monologue at the end? Nothing. He even admits that his process is simply to allow things to unfold, invokes a book he has never read, and then finds the truth lying at his feet.
He sits in his car singing along with his iPod, bumbling through most of the second and third act like a seersucker-suited Columbo, while Marta puts herself in danger, Marta finds the poisoned Fran, Marta leads the dumbest car chase ever.
And because Marta was good at her job, because she never treated Harlan like she wanted anything from him, because all she wanted to do was make a beautiful picture and therefore she could win at Go, Marta was the one who received her just desserts as sole owner of the entirety of the Thrombey estate.
Marta is the deep moral center of Knives Out, and because she is a woman, because she and her family are undocumented, the film is making profound moral judgments about who in our society actually lives the values of working hard and being a "self-made man." This story meant something and had a deep message about where we are as a society right now: everyone is full of bullshit– from real estate moguls to instagram influencers– except maybe the people who do most of the actual hard work around us and who are by and large ignored by these "important" (self-important) people.
So you tell me we're going to get a sequel, but all we're going to get is Benoit Blanc? Ok, I guess. But this seems like a move from film executives who maybe never even saw the film and certainly don't understand what Knives Out was about. But they see a brand: Benoit Blanc. And they see a star: Daniel Craig. And so? Greenlight a sequel. But Benoit Blanc is boring.
In the same way I'm actually not at all invested in Hercule Poirot as a person, or Miss Marple, or Jessica Fletcher (ok, maybe a little bit of Jessica Fletcher), I just am not really interested in more Blanc. He is, as his name implies, a tabula rasa, a blank slate, a cipher upon which we, the audience, can ride to find the end of this mystery. He is our audience surrogate, and we, the audience, are just not that interesting. So I'm just not interested in another Benoit Blanc story unless it's going to have just as much to say as Knives Out did. And I'm not sure how you do that without Marta, Ransom, Nana, and the rest.
Promise me the same level of characters, of production design, of deep meaning and satire, and I'm in. In many ways, I trust Rian Johnson to do this. He's earned enough goodwill through his track record of bringing us excellence. But I worry what will happen is, in a rush to franchise, this sequel (and subsequent sequels) will be given to someone else to write and direct, and they will misunderstand what made the film great to begin with.
Because maybe not everything needs a sequel. Maybe some things can exist as perfect little pieces of art, and don't need to be franchised and serialized.
But definitely don't take a film whose moral center is an undocumented woman of color and give a sequel to the stately southern gentleman who just sort of waited around for the truth to fall in his lap for half the movie.