Oh, Glass. We all had such hopes for you.
Glass, as you may remember, came out in January and was one of the first big cinematic disappointments of the 2019. People were certainly excited about it before the film was released. Glass was a sequel to not only Split but also Unbreakable. James McAvoy, Samuel L. Jackson, and Bruce Willis would all be returning to the roles that they played in those original films. Glass was viewed as being the film that would establish whether director M. Night Shyamalan was truly back after the critical and commercial success of Split or if he was going to return to being the kinda hacky director who we all remembered from the mid to late-aughts.
Actually, it can probably be argued that, as a director, M. Night Shyamalan managed to go from being slightly overrated to being wildly underrated. Even his worse films aren’t exactly terrible. Even the incredibly silly The Happening had a few effective scenes. Shyamalan wasn’t a bad director as much as he was a director who, at times, seemed to be way too convinced of his own cleverness. The Shyamalan twist became both his trademark and his curse. I can still remember an entire theater audibly groaning during The Village, not because the twist was necessarily bad as much as just because it was so expected. Was Shyamalan capable of making a film that didn’t end with a gimmicky twist? Interestingly, for most of its running time, Split seemed like a straight forward story about a psychotic man with multiple personalities. It was only at the last minute, when Bruce Willis showed up in that bar, the people realized that Split had a Shyamalan twist.
Glass has a few twists of its own, most of them dealing with how Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) became the killer known as The Beast. It’s all connected to Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who is also the supervillain named Mr. Glass. Kevin, Elijah, and David Dunn (Bruce Willis) all end up in a mental asylum together. Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) insists that the three of them do not have any super powers and instead, they’re all suffering from a shared delusion. Of course, Dr. Staple has an agenda of her own. It’s not a particularly interesting agenda but then again, who cares, right? I mean, the main reason people are going to watch this movie is so they can watch James McAvoy and Bruce Willis square off against each other, right?
Well, those people are out of luck. The audience may not care about Dr. Staple’s agenda but Shyamalan certainly does and, as a result, McAvoy, Jackson, and Willis often seem to be bystanders in their own film. When the long-promised confrontations between our three main characters finally do occur, it all leads to a finale that leaves a rather sour aftertaste. You can’t help but feel that the characters (and their actors) deserved better. What ultimately happens to David Dunn in Glass feels almost like an extended middle finger to anyone who has ever defended Unbreakable. One gets the feeling that Shyamalan was so eager to work in one of his trademark surprises that he never stopped to consider whether the film’s storyline was strong enough to support his ambition.
The other problem is that Bruce Willis’s David Dunn and James McAvoy’s The Beast really don’t belong in the same movie together. Willis gives an understated and rather haunted performance as David but McAvoy is so flamboyantly evil as the Beast that it destroys whatever gritty reality Willis had managed to develop. Both McAvoy and Willis give good performances but they appear to be performing in different films. As for Jackson, nobody glowers with the power of Samuel L. Jackson. But, oddly, he never seems to have much to do. Glass may be named after his character but Mr. Glass often feels superfluous to the overall plot.
Glass is ultimately a rather forgettable movie. One gets the feeling that Shyamalan was truly trying to say something profound about heroism and pulp mythology in the final part of the trilogy that began with Unbreakable. But, ultimately, Glass‘s message is too muddled to have much of an effect. In the end, Glass leaves Shyamalan’s ambitions unfulfilled.
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