At The Quorum, we are all in on Hollywood’s current love affair with the whodunnit genre led by Rian Johnson and Kenneth Branagh. While Johnson leans into well-earned twists and turns, Branagh has excelled at evoking the luxury and romance of travel from a century ago.
MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS and DEATH ON THE NILE, both entries in the Agatha Christie canon, were deeply satisfying in much the same way as SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE. If forced to pick, it would be hard to choose between the saturated jewel tones and polished teak of Branagh’s world or the flaxen comfort of Nancy Meyers.
When it was announced that Branagh would be helming a third Christie film, A HAUNTING IN VENICE, it was reasonable to think that the new movie would have a similar sheen of luxury. And based on the footage shown at CinemaCon, indeed, it does. But this time, amidst the velvet and fine finishes lies a compelling undercurrent of dread that was less pronounced in Branagh’s previous two films. VENICE, starring newly minted Best Actress Michelle Yeoh, appears to live in a more sinister place.
VENICE was one of the highlights of an otherwise muted Disney presentation. Yes, we saw the first 15 minutes of the brightly-hued ELEMENTAL, and NEXT GOAL WINS looks like a sunny low-budget hit, but otherwise, the Disney slate leaned heavily into darker hues.
The clip for THE HAUNTED MANSION was so dark there were moments when you couldn’t quite tell what was happening on the screen. That’s not entirely surprising. The poster that dropped last month shared the same blacks and blues. And the aesthetic matches the look of the theme park ride it’s based on.
The same can be said for THE LITTLE MERMAID. Whereas AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER brought a tropical lightness to its waterscapes, MERMAID appears to take place in deeper, murkier waters.
When it came time to see the material for VENICE, it looked like yet another minimally lit offering. But, in this case, the darkness matched the film’s tone. This shift is also apparent in the artwork. Whereas the teaser posters for EXPRESS and NILE looked like star-studded travelogues, the newly released one-sheet for VENICE looks much more malevolent.
It could be a nod to horror, which continues to thrive at the box office. Regardless of the reason, color us intrigued. VENICE is quickly climbing our list of films we’re looking forward to seeing.