Glass the climax to the story that director M. Night Shyamalan began 19 years ago with Unbreakable is coming and I’ve seen it. How does it hold up?
In 2000 the world was introduced to David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) in Unbreakable. In that film director, M. Night Shyamalan showed audiences a world that had superheroes but one that was quite alien to those we were used to.
It was a film that audiences enjoyed but more importantly continued the rise of the young Shyamalan. Fast forward to 2016 and audiences were unknowingly treated to its sequel Split. This story followed the origins of Kevin Wendell Crumb portrayed by James McAvoy who has multiple personalities one of which is a monstrous superhuman. After an almost fatal encounter with The Beast and his Horde Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor Joy) survives as The Beast see’s something familiar in her.
3 weeks later and Glass the final entry in the “Eastrail 177 Trilogy” looks to close the final chapter on this epic tale of heroes and villains.
It’s been a crazy ride getting here. I’m not sure any director or studio has played such a long game like this because Shyamalan has always stated that Unbreakable was a part of a trilogy and when Split happened I believed it. Entering Glass I had a lot of hopes, bolstered by impressive trailers but I also had trepidations this was due to the following – Lady in the Water, The Happening, and worst of all The Last Airbender.
Glass is a story told in three parts. We follow each superhuman as they go on with their lives. With David, he is working with his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) to right the wrongs in the world while also searching for The Horde who has kidnapped another group of young teens. Early in the film, they clash and this brings them to the attention of Sarah Paulson’s Ellie Staple a doctor who specialises in people with a particular mental disorder. She has measures that weaken the two characters so she hopes to discuss with them while they are detained that their”superpowers” may just be intense delusions of grandeur.
When Dunn and the Horde arrive at the institute the audience then learn that they are not alone, Elijah Price is also there and from there the madness begins…
Is what I’d like to say. Glass is unfortunately quite a muted experience. From the trailers, you expect an intense battle between The Beast and The Overseer (David’s heroic persona) and when they do throw down it is pretty cool. Unfortunately it is not nearly as impressive as it should be. Shyamalan cannot shoot action scenes. The majority of their fights are shot quite close up to their faces with occasional shots showcasing the action from afar. It’s a real shame because someone with an eye for intense action could have made these scenes incredible.
Another lost opportunity can be found within the dialogue. Everything is made to sound grand and awe-inspiring which is terrible when you compare it to how grounded Unbreakable and even Split were. In Unbreakable it was Elijah who delivered these lines and it was fine because the rest of the cast reigned it in. In Split, it was The Beast but he was seen sparingly. In Glass, however, they’re all in this one film giving speeches about the importance of the superhero and it’s smothering and dull.
There are thankfully highlights. Anya Taylor Joy and James McAvoy still have that great rapport from Split. Casey can speak with each of the personalities and watching her adapt and recognise each one when it emerges is impressive. Speaking on James McAvoy he is once again the MVP of this film. He is acting his ass off. There is one issue in that some of his personalities come across as auditions in his acting reel (which includes a pair of Irish twins) and some of them are somewhat cartoonish.
On the other side of the spectrum is Bruce Willis who is so subtle in his performance he may be asleep at times. This is further compounded upon when you see McAvoy roaring like a tiger beating his chest charging him and Bruce is just standing still.
The biggest issue with Glass though is the pace. The film starts strong reintroducing us to this overexaggerated reflection of our world. Unfortunately, the film then slows down to a snail’s pace setting up how people are feeling about how these few individuals feel that they may or may not be superhumans. It’s a solid hour before we get any proper preparation for the brawl we all want to see and by then the film has overexplained itself to death.
Shyamalan is trying so hard to show us a superhero film that we’ve never seen before that at times he insults the very fans who will head to see this. He also doesn’t rely on any of the tropes of the superhero genre which is also something of an issue because throwing some of them in would have reinvigorated the film in the dull second act.
What did save Glass for me though was an impressive third act that didn’t have the usual Shyamalan twist but had a genuine surprise in it. This came from several key factors but to go into them would be treading on spoiler country. Nevertheless, Glass is a decent film.
For me Glass is the weakest of the “Eastrail 177 Trilogy” but still an enjoyable time at the cinema especially for fans of Split and Unbreakable.