You Cannot Contain What You Are.
M. Night Shyamalan may have scored a home run with 2016’s self-funded Split, but Glass — his supposed long-awaited comeback, and the epic conclusion to his Eastrail 177 Trilogy — proves that the once-revered filmmaker isn’t as nifty as he thinks he is. It’s even more disappointing given that fans have had to wait 19 years to see the confrontation between Unbreakable’s shatterproof David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Split’s Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a serial kidnapper who suffers from a dissociative identity disorder. Given this lackluster effort, though, I’m starting to think that finishing the horror/ thriller Split with a surprise last-minute twist, revealing it was set in the same universe as Unbreakable (2000), was just a desperate cry from a moviemaker trying to save his dwindling career.
Getting right into the action, Glass opens about three weeks after the events of Split, with Kevin Wendell Crumb and all of his 24 personalities (aka The Horde) still roaming free in the streets of Philadelphia. We swiftly discover, however, that the madman is up to his old tricks, having recently kidnapped four cheerleaders for ‘The Beast’ (the most dangerous and hostile of the personalities) to devour. Elsewhere, David Dunn (aka The Overseer) is hot on McAvoy’s tail, still doing the vigilante thing, working at a private security company — with his now-grown son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) — as a front to stop baddies. Anyhow, after a pretty exciting showdown between hero and villain, both men are captured and thrown into a psych ward run by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a shrink who specializes in folks with delusions of grandeur, the same place Elijah Price — Samuel L. Jackson’s obsessive comic book theorist, cursed with a rare condition that makes his bones very brittle and easy to break — has been housed for the last 19 years.
And this, unfortunately, is where Glass begins to crack. Too much of the mid-section is spent with Paulson’s Staple, who, with monologue after monologue, tries to convince these guys that they’re not special at all, and are simply just crazy. You see, instead of building on the foundation he’s already laid out, M. Night wastes time retreading stuff he’s made clear in previous installments (that superheroes are real and walk amongst ordinary people) — it’s like if Joss Whedon went over all of the Avengers’ history before moving ahead with the superhero smackdown.
As a standalone film that aims to deconstruct the psychology of a superhero, this might have worked — even if the genre is oversaturated, its themes dissected every which way in countless films, television shows, and comic books — but Shyamalan doesn’t have anything new or interesting to say (it’s as if he doesn’t know what he wants to do with these characters), which makes the whole endeavor feel like a waste of darn time! Superhero flicks are big business nowadays, unlike back in 2000 when Unbreakable came out, and its tropes are familiar and commonplace, so if you’re going to do this kind of film, you’ll need to do something different in order to stand out. I understand that Shyamalamadingdong wants to make a ‘serious’ superhero movie, but again, this is no longer taboo — see Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight (2008), Zack Snyder’s Watchmen (2009) or Josh Trank’s Chronicle (2012).
So, with such boring stretches of time left for the mind to wonder, plot holes start to become more and more evident. For instance, if Staple herself truly believes that David Dunn is cuckoo, why bother going through all the effort of fitting his cell with high-pressure hoses (water is his Kryptonite) as a fail-safe just in case he was ever to escape. Also, why would Casey Cooke (an utterly wasted Anya Taylor-Joy) give two shits about her former kidnapper?
Predominantly set in one isolated location — Raven Hill Memorial Psychiatric Hospital, which appears to have three inmates and about four staff — Glass also suffers by ‘splitting’ its main players; Wendell Crumb, who can climb walls, is locked in a room where strobe lights force him to switch personalities; Jackson’s Mr. Glass is heavily sedated, and MIA for the film’s first two thirds; and Willis is stuck in a padded cell with very little to do or say. Everyone comes together in a group session, held in an eerie pink room, where Paulson tries to convince all three men that they’re normal people, but things don’t move forward until the last act (or thereabouts). Time is wasted flashing back to Unbreakable and Split, with scenes of David Dunn (that incorporate footage from Unbreakable) before that horrendous train crash. But again, we’ve seen all of this before.
To make matters worse, viewers are promised an epic climactic showdown between The Overseer and The Beast, set to take place during the public unveiling of the city’s tallest tower, with mastermind Elijah hoping to expose superpowers to the world at large — we kinda know that Shyamalan doesn’t have the budget for this sorta extravaganza, so why bother teasing it? Needless to say, none of it eventuates. Instead, we get some crappy scuffle in a parking lot. Yawn. And then there are the inevitable ‘twists,’ which are lame, baffling or both, each threatening to push Glass into The Village (2004) territory.
Performances, on the whole, are ‘split.’ James McAvoy, Atomic Blonde (2017), seems to be overacting as all of The Horde, chiefly when portraying the snooty Patricia or the nine-year-old Hedwig; he does, however, get a few moments to shine when interacting with Sam Jackson, Snakes on a Plane (2006), who looks to be having a ball reprising the role of Mr. Glass, the egotistical baddie that’s one step ahead of everyone else. Bruce Willis, The Sixth Sense (1999), honestly looks bored (and I don’t blame him) as the indestructible David, while Spencer Treat Clark, who played David’s young son Joseph in the original Unbreakable, does nada, his character amounting to nothing other than stunt casting.
Similarly, Anya Taylor-Joy, The Witch (2015), and Charlayne Woodard, who also reprise their roles from Split and Unbreakable respectively, are squandered as teenager Casey and Mrs. Price, Elijah’s mother. And Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story (2011-18), well, she’s okay, but what her character brings to the story and the overall mythology sucks. Strangely, it’s Adam David Thompson, A Walk Among the Tombstones (2014), and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Luke Kirby who threaten to steal the movie as a couple of orderlies named Daryl and Pierce. And oh, I won’t have to tell you to look out for a cameo from Shyamalan (who plays a security guard) because it’s so darn obvious and long-winded and self-indulgent that you’ll never miss it!
Sure, others have said it, but I’m going to reiterate that while Glass isn’t M. Night’s worst film to date, it’s certainly his most disappointing. What might have worked in the early 2000s doesn’t necessarily work today, and Shyamalan feels lost with Glass, simply repeating information and concluding his trilogy with a whimper rather than a bang. What’s more, this finale lessons the effect of the prior chapters, with the once-promising filmmaker ruining what could have been a great series/ franchise starter. Sigh. It looks as though M. Night’s mojo might be shattered for good.
2.5 / 5 – Alright
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Glass is released through Disney Australia