M. Night Shyamalan's Glass is ambitious and weird, providing unusual commentary on comic book movies in the form of a sequel that's landing almost two decades after the first film was released. Glass is well-acted, sloppily constructed, but mostly captivating in its ability to ground its characters in a world that just might exist.
M. Night Shyamalan follows up his surprise-hit Spilt (featuring James McAvoy) with a sequel, titled Glass, which is the third part of a trilogy established with one of his previous films, Unbreakable, which starred Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis. Glass is essentially M. Night Shyamalan constructing his own comic book movie universe and while doing so, deconstructing the entire genre and its expectations. Glass is commenting on the genre through a Shyamalan filter and the result is a film that’s sloppy and rough-around-the-edges, but also a film that’s ambitious and weird, unafraid to take its own risks and embrace its collective and colorful characters.
The Beast (James McAvoy) is on the hunt again and this time David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is trying to stop yet another round of murders. While doing so, both get caught up in the shuffle by police and are sent to a psych ward to be studied by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Also in attendance is the nut job known as Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson).
The more Dr. Staple studies and interacts with the three unique individuals, the more M. Night Shyamalan‘s latest film starts to peel back its layers and reveal its true self.
Unbreakable was a grounded and subtle movie that toyed with the notion of superheroes walking among us as normal folks. Mr. Glass’ obsession with comic books and his own physical disabilities drove him mad as he was certain that David Dunn was more than just an ordinary man.
Likewise, Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) suffered a lifelong train of abuse, mixed with some serious trauma, which gifted him with multiple personalities that call themselves The Horde. Leading the team is The Beast, a physical anomaly that just can’t be explained.
With Unbreakable, M. Night gave us something grounded and quiet, capitalizing on the performances and ending with one of his weakest twists that wasn’t really needed, because the film was already great.
Split introduced us to an even better batch of performances, all led by James McAvoy with a wide range of unpredictability and excitement. Split‘s conclusion tied the film to Unbreakable, which has led us to Glass.
Glass is a hybrid film, ditching most of the unsettling suspense of Split for a more traditional breakdown approach, which is more in-line with Unbreakable.
The film works wonders though, taking the best bits and pieces of both films and merging them together for the “ultimate showdown” of good guys and bad guys.
Glass is over-the-top and cheesy, fully embracing the weirdness of the situations at hand, but in doing so also provides some stark commentary on the climate of comic book movies and their never-ending predictability and heightened sense of conclusions.
In simple terms, Glass is epic for the sake of epic-ness.
Those that think that M. Night has been meticulously building up the tension only to fart it all out in the last act are fatally mistaken and lacking the understanding of what he is trying to say with his latest film.
Glass knows that it’s silly and strange. It’s intentional broad strokes are meant to be measured with your cynicism. It’s self-fulfilling “wokeness” on all things comic book are obvious, with Samuel L. Jackson‘s Mr. Glass literally commentating on the plot as it progresses, informing the audiences of when the bad guys are teaming up.
If I had one complaint with the film, it would be that M. Night’s reputation for unpredictable twist endings has failed, as the ending of the film is less about surprise and more about reveal. That’s not a negative towards the movie, but my own dumb fault for always expecting him to pull a wild punch, especially after the craziness of merging Split with Unbreakable.
The rest of Glass is balanced on its performances. James McAvoy is an absolute treasure, showing us even more sides of his endless personality disorder. His ability to change faces, tones and mannerisms at the flash of a light is beyond impressive and deserves acclaim. Glass would be nothing without McAvoy’s aggression, charm and undeniable oddness.
Samuel L. Jackson hams up most of the film, which is appropriate and fitting. He’s mostly just a conduit going through the motions of the film to setup for The Beast vs. David Dunn.
Speaking of Dunn, Bruce Willis has finally waken up from his decade-long nap, providing us with an engaging performance that’s not quite on the level of Looper, but one that reminded me that he can still act when given enough material.
Sarah Paulson‘s Dr. Staple might be the weakest portion of the film, if only because she wasn’t allowed previous films to set her character up. It works, because, like Mr. Glass, she’s only there to push the main characters forward and reveal their true potential.
Glass may not be as ground-breaking or as unique as Unbreakable or Split, but it’s a worthy sequel that provides clever commentary on the state of comic book movies and pop culture through the lens of the always surprising M. Night Shyamalan.
I can’t say that I’ve loved all of M. Night’s movies, but I will never not support a filmmaker that’s unmoved by his failures. His ability to continue down the path of the bizarre and entertaining is unmatched by most and I’m glad that he didn’t stick to a career making more After Earth‘s or The Last Airbender‘s, because I’d much rather watch more versions of The Village or the criminally under-rated The Visit.
Glass shattered my expectations in its ability to bridge three movies together across almost two decades. M. Night Shyamalan‘s writing is imaginative and stark, while the key performances of the film elevate the material to a level of astonishment.