Starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Spencer Treat Clark
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
There’s something to be said about Glass and the sheer fact that it exists. A continuation of 2000’s Unbreakable, the film is a follow-up to 2016’s Split, which itself was revealed to be a sequel to the initial superhero film in its last moments. Few seemingly standalone films manage to create a franchise out of themselves, but that’s precisely what Shyamalan did. Kudos must be given, even if it’s unfortunate that Glass ends this particular story on such an unsatisfying note.
Glass follows the main characters of Unbreakable as they find themselves interacting with the main characters of Split, all while Sarah Paulson plays the ties that bind them together.
True to many Blumhouse titles, the film takes place, for the most part, in a single location: the psychiatric mental health facility that has housed Elijah Price (Jackson) for the last 19 years. We arrive in the second act following David Dunn’s (Willis) capture alongside The Horde (McAvoy). Paulson plays Dr. Ellie Staple, the therapist whose specialty is helping those who believe that they are superheroes. It’s her mission to cure these three by any means necessary, including locking them in rooms where their “weakness” is used against them.
The first act is rather fascinating as we return to the world of David Dunn. He now owns a security business with his son Joseph (Unbreakable‘s Spencer Treat Clark reprising his 2000 role). Joseph clearly still idealises his father, although now he seems to want to protect him as much as help him.
During this (and well into the second act), Casey (Taylor-Joy) is determined to somehow reach Kevin Wendell Crumb through the multitude of personalities after learning of his capture. Her desire to help him draws her to the psychiatric hospital over and over, even though he was her captor and near-murderer.
While all of this seems like a lot, the amount of attention some of these characters are given is minimal. After the first act, Joseph falls largely by the wayside and Casey’s sole purpose seems to be the salvation of Crumb rather than her finding her own footing. Her one moment of strength is a throwaway comment about how she got her abusive uncle put away. However, it’s so casual and fleeting that it reaffirms the unnecessary placement of that subplot in Split.
The second act stumbles awkwardly. We’re now subjected to interview after interview in tight, claustrophobic rooms as Dr. Staple tries to convince each character that their powers are but mere delusions, a byproduct of a particular physical malady on their frontal lobe. Though not uninteresting, this portion of the film runs too long as it builds to the third act. And hoo boy does that awkward stumble turn into a full-on face plant.
It’s here that the film really doesn’t know what it wants to do. Elijah Price’s Mr. Glass promises a reckoning that could see hundreds, if not thousands, perish by suggesting, over and over again, that Dunn’s The Overseer and Crumb’s The Horde, specifically “The Beast”, will come blow-to-blow at the unveiling of Philadelphia’s brand new tallest skyscraper. However, the three don’t even make it onto the front lawn of the psychiatric hospital. And while there is an explanation later on, it’s unsatisfying and rings hollow. Mr. Glass’ ultimate mission could have just as easily been accomplished without his tricky meddling and mind games. He’s definitely a “chaotic neutral”.
Shyamalan’s obligatory ultimate twist (the third act presents one after another after another after…) isn’t really all that exciting, nor does it have much of an impact. However, it raises the interesting concept of older generations vs new ones, discussing how people who cling to the past are woefully unprepared and unwilling to deal with a new future, one that may very well leave them behind.
The performances are stellar throughout (minus Willis, who feels like he’s phoning it in), with McAvoy once again offering an award-worthy performance as he shifts effortlessly from one personality to another. Taylor-Joy also shines, albeit in the limited scope she’s been given, and Jackson is once again delightful as a deviously manipulative supervillain.There are definitely those who will appreciate and laud Glass for not jumping the shark and fully embracing its comic book foundation. For me, this is simply a case of a film that didn’t know how to bring all of its threads into a satisfying tapestry.
Glass aims for superhero highs but ultimately fails to reach such ambitious heights. Unsure if it wants to be grounded in reality or embrace its fantastical premise, Glass is unable to strongly deliver on either.