The long and winding road to a film’s release has seemed longer these past few years due to the pandemic that has kept us all holed up stuck to our favourite streaming platforms. But that didn’t stop the rumour mill or the alleged truths to come out during the waiting period. Death on the Nile, directed and starring Kenneth Branagh as the world-famous detective Hercule Poirot, adapted from one of the most famous murder mystery novels by Agatha Christie, was one of the casualties at the cinema in 2020. Set to be released in October 2020, after already being pushed from December 2019, there was already hints that there were issues with the production. But then, no one excepts the global pandemic, to once again push the release until September 2021.
To say the film’s release has been turbulent is putting it lightly. To say that the frequent date changes is just been due to the pandemic and cinemas opening and closing around the world would also be incorrect. Due to flurry of various issues with a few cast members such as the back lash Gal Gadot received after her ‘Imagine’ video during lockdown and her later comments over the occupation of Palestine, she was not seen in a favourable light. But it was the allegations of abuse by Armie Hammer from various women, including threats alluding to cannibalism that really took the headlines. As Hammer was dropped from literally all upcoming projects, there was a question that Disney was left with. Do they ‘Christopher Plummer’ this film or leave it intact? This is referring to the removal of Kevin Spacey, after allegations were brought against him, from All the Money in the World (2017) and the reshoot that took place with Christopher Plummer taking on Spacey’s role. However, it was announced around the same time as the stories about Hammer being dropped by his agency that the film would not reshoot. This was most likely due to the fact that Disney did not wish to spend ant more money on the project and for it to be released as is.
There was speculation around as whether Disney, with its shiny new and improved streaming platform would release Death on the Nile into the ether of their catalogue. But instead, time heals all wounds, or at least, leave the release long enough until the chaos dies down. The film was then moved, in March 2021, to a new theatrical release date of February 2022. Along with heavy cuts to the promotional teasers and trailers, Hammer, despite having a prominent role in the story (the film may differ from the book though) is all but seen as ‘just one of the cast members’ and there is far more focus on Gal Gadot and of course Branagh himself.
With such great success of Murder on the Orient Express (2017), plus the hints at the end of the film to next story, there is no doubt, that there is room for further films featuring Branagh’s Poirot and further star-studded casts. Branagh did mention back in 2017 that there was possible room for a new kind of cinematic universe. As we all know, Disney loves a cinematic universe with the promise of sequels, prequels and TV spin offs.
Seeing as the BBC secured the rights to several Agatha Christie works and there has been a steady stream of productions being made since And Then There Were None in 2015, one of which has it’s own issues making it to the small screen, Ordeal by Innocence, and having to recast and reshoot, we are left to wonder where this potential cinematic universe could take us.
With 66 books to adapt, the possibilities are endless. However, for those faithful to the David Suchet starring TV series that ran from 1989 to 2013, may feel that Poirot has been done better before and rehashing over the same stories might be overdone. There are short stories and plays featuring the famous Belgian front and centre solving the crimes, but if Branagh wanted to expand his universe further, maybe including other characters such as Miss Marple and married sleuths, Tommy and Tuppunce, would open up to new stories that haven’t been seen on the big screen as often. This is a probability far down the line if Branagh is to continue making such films. Depending on the success of Death on the Nile, there could be more. Meanwhile the BBC is still making adaptations of Christie’s books, favouring the mini-series format so that the stories can be told in full.
With the most well-known Poirot books now out of the way, there is can be speculation as where Branagh’s Poirot will venture next with a whole new cast of famous faces. With two grand and lavish exotic locales for the previous films, it might be interesting to see the next, if there is indeed a next, be set where Poirot calls home. The ABC Murders and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, would most likely be the next most famous stories, but with a BBC adaption of the former only being released in recent years starring John Malkovich at Poirot, it could be seen as too soon. While Roger Ackroyd sees Poirot trying to enjoy retirement in a country village, this isn’t exactly cinematic, at least not for Branagh’s Poirot. There is hope that the next story with be an unusual selection.
Rise of the Murder Mystery
Having enjoyed it heyday originally back in the 30s, the murder mystery genre has now returned to become a staple at the cinema once more. With films such as Knives Out and Murder on the Orient Express, the success these films had just goes to show that the genre is not just for Sunday afternoons. The BBC has also been churning out their various adaptations of Christie’s, with no sight of them stopping, their latest in collaboration with Britbox, directed by Hugh Laurie, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? will be on our small screens later this year.
But despite the hype of the new Kenneth Branagh film and the huge success and highly acclaimed Knives Out, the murder mystery genre has always been present. Possibly disguised in that of a more hardcore violent story, such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009/11) or that of a lighter comedic film such as Murder Mystery (2019). The whodunnit’ is so synonymous with Agatha Christie’s name that we have come to believe that all murder mysteries are packaged the same way.
After someone is murdered, if you select a host of characters, be they related or strangers, but all must be hiding something. Trap them in a single location that is remote, exotic or humbling but by all means, atmospheric in some way. Then, one by one they are to have secrets exposed by one character who could not have committed the crime, or a detective like character from outside the circle of suspects. If the cast are all famous faces, then you have a hit on your hands. This set up that is making its way back into favour in cinemas and not just TV. Just like the return of musicals in the mainstream, murder mysteries will also eventually be there too. Most likely not in the ‘whodunnit’ format though as this could get tiresome but as the genre evolves further, films such Werewolves With (2021) could be the way forward. Stories that involve an air of mystery, familiarity and dark comedic undertones seem to make an excellent mix.
With the Knives Out and Murder Mystery sequels both on their way to cinemas and streaming platforms, and no doubt another outing from Branagh as well, the genre will just keep getting bolder and where pure entertainment doesn’t satisfy, hopefully more evolves versions of the murder mystery will arise.