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6 Apr, 2021 15:27

Why Netflix’s 'Knives Out' deal probably won’t be the deadly blow for Rian Johnson's proposed Star Wars trilogy many fans hope for

Why Netflix’s 'Knives Out' deal probably won’t be the deadly blow for Rian Johnson's proposed Star Wars trilogy many fans hope for

Streaming giant Netflix's new deal with director Rian Johnson for sequels to his popular murder mystery ‘Knives Out’ looks exciting on its surface, but it could KILL Star Wars – at least for a growing number of disaffected fans.

The company recently made headlines when it announced a windfall deal with writer/director Rian Johnson to finance two sequels to his 2019 ‘whodunit’ thriller ‘Knives Out’ to the tune of – according to some reports – $450 million.

Which is EXTREMELY surprising, considering the first film was made for a paltry (at least by Hollywood standards) $40 million. Indeed, the first ‘Knives Out’ was independently financed by signing bankable stars such as Daniel Craig and Chris Evans, and then pre-selling the foreign distribution rights off the strength of their star power. It was a strategy that Rian Johnson and his producing partner Ram Bergman used to ensure the movie would be profitable before it even began shooting.

Johnson, who cut his teeth on low-budget independent features, was a critical darling before breaking out into the top tier of Hollywood by directing the eighth Star Wars film in the Skywalker Saga, entitled ‘The Last Jedi’. And with the signing of this new Netflix deal, Johnson is officially in the ‘upper echelon’ of the Hollywood elite.

If one were to divide Netflix’s $450 million deal by two movies, that would equal $225 million per film. To give some context to this, Johnson’s ‘The Last Jedi’ cost around $200 million, with all its grandeur and special effects. So why would Netflix shell out almost HALF A BILLION DOLLARS for a film franchise that could easily be made for a fraction of that?

Netflix execs surely know how popular ‘Knives Out’ has been on their platform. After all, they have the metrics of how many times their subscribers have watched the film. There’s also the fact that the film took in $311 million globally, which makes it an EXTREMELY profitable movie. And now that Daniel Craig is free from his James Bond commitment, having a series of movies that feature him is almost a guaranteed winner.

Apparently, the stratospheric price tag for the next two ‘Knives Out’ films was also a product of a bidding war that Netflix had going on with Apple and Amazon over the rights to make the sequels. In the post-Covid era, where streamers are now the dominant entertainment distributors, the companies are desperate for content – especially content with a built-in audience that has proven to be a winner.

Despite the massive price tag, $450 million is just a drop in the bucket for Netflix, which plans to spend upwards of $19 BILLION (with a B) on content alone in 2021. Netflix also announced it plans to drop an original film every week in 2021, as the streaming wars turn ever more cutthroat in their battle to attract and retain subscribers.

But an even more interesting side effect to this deal is the impact it has on Star Wars fans. Though Rian Johnson has always been lauded by critics, his take on Star Wars has been extremely divisive, with ‘The Last Jedi’ effectively fracturing the Star Wars fanbase and possibly being the cause of the box office disappointment of ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ (the failure of which effectively killed Disney’s theatrical strategy for the franchise).

Before ‘The Last Jedi’ had even hit theaters, Disney had announced it had signed Rian Johnson to write and direct a new trilogy of Star Wars films – a development that has plagued disaffected Star Wars fans since 2018. Not much has been said about the ‘Johnson Trilogy’ since its announcement, leading many to speculate that it’s not going to happen.

However, this Netflix deal changes things.

In Hollywood, big paydays like this one tend to convince studio executives that those on the receiving end of the deal are hot properties. And with the ink now dry on the $450-million ‘Knives Out’ deal, Rian Johnson is an officially certified ‘hot commodity’.

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Initially, disaffected Star Wars fans were happy over the ‘Knives Out’ announcement, as they believed it would “keep Rian Johnson too busy to continue ruining Star Wars.” However, if one considers that Johnson could quickly shoot both sequels back-to-back within the span of a year, this could mean he’d then be free to focus all his energy on his Star Wars trilogy after his commitments to Netflix are fulfilled.

And if the ‘Knives Out’ sequels are a winner for Netflix, that will only inspire Disney to want to lock Johnson down with their original three-picture deal from 2018. In fact, it might even inspire them to fast-track the ‘Johnson Trilogy’ for a Disney+ release, especially after the success of the Zack Snyder cut of ‘Justice League’, which proved streaming is a place where auteurs can really shine.

Thus, it’s a safe bet to say that this ‘Knives Out’ deal only increases the odds that Rian Johnson will be forging ahead with new Star Wars content, which is sure to enrage that ever-growing faction of angry Star Wars fans.

Talk about a knife to the back.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.