2017’s Murder on the Orient Express was a massive hit, outperforming expectations around the world as audiences packed theaters to watch Kenneth Branagh direct and star as Hercule Poirot alongside his star-studded cast of suspects and victims. Sadly, the sequel, Death on the Nile, is looking more like ‘dead in the water’.
A combination of factors, including older audiences being more skittish than the young about crowded movie theaters, and lingering cannibalism controversies with cast member Armie Hammer may be in play. This is the type of movie likely to do well on home release, so it’ll make money, but perhaps Agatha Christie isn’t the box office gold 20th Century Studios had assumed.
All of which makes Branagh’s tease of the Christieverse, a shared universe of detectives and murders, so intriguing. In an interview with AMC he said he’d “love” to see Miss Marple team up with Poirot:
He explains that Miss Marple is particularly interesting to him because everyone underestimates her, allowing her to be invisible when solving a crime. Sounds a little like Columbo to me, but it’d be fun to see Poirot’s theatrical style clashing with her subtlety.
Branagh has teased the Christieverse before, saying in a 2017 interview with AP:
“I think there are possibilities, aren’t there? With 66 books and short stories and plays, she — and she often brings people together in her own books actually, so innately — she enjoyed that. You feel as though there is a world — just like with Dickens, there’s a complete world that she’s created — certain kinds of characters who live in her world — that I think has real possibilities.”
He’s right that Agatha Christie was so prolific that source material won’t be a problem if they were building a universe. Even so, it’d be something of a departure from her style to tell stories with plotlines stretching over multiple movies, potentially building to whatever bizarre movie the Christieverse equivalent of The Avengers would be.
Death on the Nile is in theaters now.