I saw Unbreakable in theaters back in 2000 and instantly thought it was awesome, despite not being the horror movie I anticipated. I enjoyed Split even more, despite knowing the big reveal that the film was secretly a sequel to Unbreakable. In other words, I was stoked as hell to check out Glass, though I was also trepidatious given writer/director M. Night Shyamalan‘s 50/50 success rate. Having seen Glass, I can confirm that the film absolutely has some rad stuff in it, but it also completely squanders any potential it had been granted with Split and delivers an underwhelming conclusion to a series that kicked off nearly two decades ago.
David Dunn (Bruce Willis) discovered in Unbreakable that he was nearly invulnerable, as well as super strong, using his abilities to help those in need. He’s considered a “vigilante,” even if he manages to track down Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) and rescue multiple girls that Crumb kidnapped in service of one of his many personalities, the supernaturally strong “The Beast.” Authorities don’t take too kindly to either activity, which gets them both locked into a mental institution with Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who’s smart as hell but has goddamn bird bones. As you can imagine, the bad guys work together to figure out a way to break free to fight the good guy, and–blah, blah, blah, you got your movie.
The first act of this movie, up until Dunn and Beast are incarcerated, is quite good. It gives us everything we liked about Split, with a bonus David Dunn, getting our hopes up that the entire movie will also be, as they say, “good.” Boy oh boy, we are then in for a ride on the “Boring Express.” All of the actors are giving their best, with McAvoy delivering even more wacky characters than we got in Split. Willis and Jackson are both fine, while Sarah Paulson makes a welcome addition, if for no other reason than to break up Willis’ glowering and Jackson being rendered catatonic due to all the drugs his character has been given. Anya Taylor-Joy just kind of exists and could have easily been cut from the movie. In fact, most things in the movie will make you say, “Well, THIS thing could have been cut from the movie,” but there’s absolutely an entertaining 90 minutes in there!
The film’s biggest failure is that it feels like it was written by a kid who wanted to explore the idea of “What if superheroes were real?” back in, say, 1995, when Marvel Comics was on the brink of bankruptcy and he hoped to inspire audiences to look within ourselves to see what we’re capable of while also promoting the effectiveness of comic books as a medium. Now, take that script, put it in a time capsule, and open it up in 2018, and some things might feel a little…off. In addition to this script likely having references to Surge soda and Chumbawumba needle drops, all of the dialogue would feel incredibly pandering and redundant. In the 20 years since Unbreakable came out, few things have become more popular than comic books and superhero movies, but Glass seems oblivious to that. Had this film and/or Split come out in the mid-2000s, it would likely have been much more effective, as we hadn’t been given things like The Dark Knight, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Scott Pilgrim vs. the Universe, Sin City, Dredd, or dozens more comic book movie adaptations spanning all genres. In fact, we got a Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse a month ago, which explores themes of everyone having the power inside them to be a hero, which used Miles Morales as its Spider-Man because we have so many Spider-Man movies that we’re all goddamn sick of them. Tell that to the Surge-drinking Chumbawumba-listener in 1995 and he might tweak his script!
I’ve been saying for years (though no one cares to listen) that Shyamalan is an incredibly talented director and a mediocre writer. Rather, when he’s earned success, he runs out of people trying to control him, and he leans into countless self-serving ideas. Even The Happening, for example, has some powerful moments, yet the story itself is wonky as hell. The first act of Glass shows audiences what made Shyamalan such a phenom, thanks in large part to the actions of The Beast. Once the character is taken out of the darkness, he’s a shirtless man huffing and puffing like a maniac in less of a terrifying way and more of a “Wow this dude in the Panera parking lot is still really worked up from his Crossfit class” sort of way. It just doesn’t work, but it feels like no one was there to tell Shyamalan it didn’t work because, “Hey, you made Split! Great job, go nuts!”
As a standalone film, Glass is completely harmless. It’s not great, but there are still a lot of fun moments buried in there, with McAvoy being the highlight. As a sequel to Split, the film is somewhat frustrating and suffers from setbacks that countless sequels suffer by trying to go bigger and forgetting what actually makes the film work. As the conclusion to a trilogy that started 20 years ago, it’s too little, too late, reminding me of a film like Scream 4 by being totally serviceable, yet the anticipation of a “final chapter” overshadowing the film’s actual merits, or lack thereof. This trilogy of films, which is reportedly called the Eastrail #177 Trilogy because that’s the train David Dunn is on in Unbreakable, runs parallel to a trilogy like the X-Men films. The first chapter is better than it has any right to be, the second film is quite good, and the third film fails as both the conclusion of a trilogy and as a movie in it of itself, making you wonder how things could go so wrong so fast.
In other words, Glass ain’t great, but there’s no reason to get too upset about it, because Split is still available and that movie friggin’ rips.
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