Knives Out serves as director Rian Johnson's follow-up to 2017's Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Johnson faced (and continues to face) immense backlash for his film that marked the eighth installment in the Skywalker Saga. Here's how the director used that Star Wars criticism to influence the social commentary behind Knives Out.
Even before The Last Jedi event hit theaters, a small segment of internet trolls set out to review-bomb Johnson's film. The hate-fueled campaign then leaked into the toxic corners of the fandom, resulting in outspoken individuals targeting the cast and crew of the film. Some fans were unhappy with aspects of The Last Jedi, which was understandable, but others went so far as fighting for Lucasfilm to wipe the title out of existence. Alt-right trolls and the more obsessive haters of The Last Jedi made it a priority to harass Johnson and those who enjoyed the film, causing even more divisiveness among the fandom.
Not only did Johnson direct Knives Out, he also wrote the modern whodunnit. The film focuses on the death of a wealthy family patriarch, Harlan Thrombey (Christopher Plummer), and how the entire family gets swept up into a murder mystery. While Detective Benoit Blanc (Daniel Craig) tries to crack the case in Hercule Poirot-like fashion, he learns that the entire Thrombey family is the definition of dysfunctional.
Among them is young Jacob Thrombey (Jaeden Martell), an alt-right internet troll whose own cousin describes as a Nazi. Jacob, the youngest of the Thrombey family, has his eyes glued to his phone for the majority of the movies except for when he's fighting with his relatives (like calling his cousin a "liberal snowflake"). Knives Out is full of social commentary, and this take on internet personas seems like a direct response to what Johnson experienced after The Last Jedi - though Johnson has cautioned people against interpreting it that way.
Rian Johnson Says Jacob Isn't Specific To Star Wars Trolls
Each member of the Thrombey family is meant to be archetypes of wealthy figures in modern-day. Although their political views vary, they don't seem to have a grasp on society outside of their wealthy tax bracket. One of the ongoing gags of Knives Out is the family constantly getting Marta Cabrera's (Ana de Armas) nationality wrong. Characterizing Jacob as an internet troll seems like a direct connection to the social media users that attacked Johnson for his work on Star Wars, crossing the line from fair criticism into harassment, sexism and racism. Johnson has since denied (via Yahoo) that Jacob's character was meant as a response to the online mob that went after his last movie, explaining that the character was meant to represent the general state of social media in 2019 and how anyone could be the target of trolls:
"It's anyone who's on the internet right now. It doesn't matter if you made a Star Wars movie or if you have a cooking YouTube channel, or you collect books on the internet, someone's gonna be yelling at you on the internet. All of us have experienced this kind of gameified trolling. It's almost like a little byproduct of the social media system. It's the poop that comes out of the social media system. … Again, it's plugging into 2019 with this movie. It's the reality of our online lives. Let's put it up there on the screen for everyone to see."
Though Jacob may not have specifically been intended as a parody of Star Wars: The Last Jedi's more vicious haters, the creation of the character still serves as an inadvertent response to kind social media trolls that Johnson has had to deal with. The fact that Knives Out is an original story with less baggage gives Johnson the opportunity to step away from those high expectations that come with major franchises. He found more freedom in his storytelling and didn't have to worry about meeting the expectations of millions of fans.