Half Full and Half Empty
Back in 2000, M. Night Shyamalan was at the height of his game when he released Unbreakable. Before the Marvel universe, before the superhero craze went out of control there was the story of David Dunn, a man who had superhuman abilities but had trouble processing how and why. Shyamalan dived deep into a character piece that is still one of my favorite movies of all time. It explored a different story of the traditional superhero comics while also grounding the movie.
Then in 2017, Split was released a good movie that was made even better with the reveal that it tied into Unbreakable. Audience cheered and rejoiced, myself included, that one of the greatest movies of all time was getting a long awaited sequel and that the Shyamalan superhero trilogy that was postulated in the early 2000’s would finally come to life.
To say expectations for Glass were above the roof is an understatement and going in, I had to tailor my opinion to make sure I viewed the film with an open mind. I am happy to say that Glass does indeed succeed…for the most part. It retains the interesting character piece of Unbreakable, and the questions of super human people from both Split and Unbreakable. On the other hand, the film can feel underwhelming with a third act that doesn’t do the potential the movie has justice. It’s both amazing yet frustrating at the same time, exemplifying the perfect example of how it feels to be a fan of Shyamalan.
The movie takes place 19 years after the events of Unbreakable as David Dunn (The Overseer) is hunting down Kevin Wendell (The Horde). After a series of events they find themselves in a psychiatric institution with Elijah Price (Mr. Glass) being examined by Dr. Ellie Staple.
All the performances in the movie are great, but it is James McAvoy as the DID Kevin that steals the show. McAvoy’s ability to transition between 23 distinctly different characters is astounding and really speaks to the man’s talent. It is scary how seamlessly he can turn from being a nine year old boy to a sophisticated old women within the blink of an eye. Certain scenes in the psychiatric facility truly show the range that McAvoy has and it is entertaining yet heartbreaking at times to watch as we see his character suffer. While the portrayal of DID is highly exaggerated and can be seen as offensive, he does brilliantly with what he has.
It is also a lot of fun to see Mr. Glass and David Dunn return to the big screen. Like I said, a sequel to Unbreakable has been 19 years in the making so it is a lot of fun to see what they have been up to and how they have evolved as characters in those years. The first act delivers magnificently, allowing us to see the vigilante life of David Dunn and his mission to help others. And when Mr. Glass puts his plans in motion, it is interesting to see his mastermind plans come together.
The movie is truly at its best when it is deconstructing our characters and challenging the audience on what they think is real. The second act of the film can be slower and more methodically paced than most people are expecting, but it pays homage to the tone and consistency of Unbreakable. Questions about superpowered beings, the idea of the delusions, and the constant tension of not knowing exactly what is real is where the film shines. The second act has teases of this and I ate them all up, but it also does leave a bit more to be desired. Instead of filling the movie with action scenes, I would have loved to see more scenes where our characters are faced with their owned delusions challenged by Dr. Staple.
The movie also heightens in tension with a constant ticking in the background that adds some intensity to the scenes it takes place in. The score was noticeable and added a unique layer to the movie that enhanced both conversation and action, a feat that normally doesn’t happen in my opinion.
The action is decent but also unnecessary. The first act has some great superhero action that we have come to love from superhero movies, but the way they are shot feels unnatural. The camera constantly has us in the face of the characters instead of observing what is going from an outsider’s view. It can be jarring and takes me out of the movie at times.
The film had a great opening act, an interesting and hooking second act, but then it starts to all fall apart and shatter in its last act. What should be a great opportunity for Shyamalan to continue to explore the very same questions he was posing in the second act, he cashes in for a few twists that feel forced and a bit unbelievable. It feels tacked on rather than a true vision of how the film could have gone. They set up a great showdown between our three characters but then are too concerned with changes of heart and reveals that ultimately don’t do our characters justice. It’s disappointing to see especially when the movie was doing pretty well up until that point.
And while Glass is the ending to Shyamalan’s trilogy, there are different ways to view the film. On one hand, it is a decent sequel to Split, on the other hand it is an intriguing follow up to Unbreakable, but ultimately the thoughts I had exiting out was that it butchered the potential it had given the alacrity and depth of its well developed characters in previous films. Shyamalan definitely had some great ideas, but they feel scattered by the third act making this last act in the trilogy feel underwhelming.
There is a lot to love about Glass, but there’s also a lot to scratch your head at. Seeing these characters together on screen is a treat, and Shyamalan’s big world building ideas and intrigue with the concept of a grounded superhero story make the movie stand out and become memorable. But the fact that he couldn’t carry that momentum and intrigue into the third act makes Glass less impressive than it could have been. If you haven’t seen the other films, you may be a bit confused walking in, but I could still recommend checking this movie out. If you are a fan of the other two films, I would tailor your expectations and rather than looking at the glass as half full or half empty, just be thankful there is water in it.