Movie Details & Credits
|Universal Pictures | Release Date: January 18, 2019|
Glass, M. Night Shyamalan’s unexpected sequel to both Split and Unbreakable, works best when it’s acting as a sequel to Unbreakable and at its weakest when it’s trying to tie in the newer additions to the continuity. It’s filled with all the big ideas that the director is known for, but due to what feels like rushed execution, strange narrative choices and a shocking third act, it’s likely that fans of both Unbreakable and Split are going to come away disappointed.
It’s hard to really talk about Glass without revealing all of its secrets, but it begins by reintroducing us to Bruce Willis’ David Dunn. He’s continued his life as a vigilante with the help of someone close to him.While that relationship quickly becomes one of the strongest threads of the film, his crime-fighting career though is slightly lacking. When we meet him he’s breaking into homes and beating up teen YouTubers who have apparently time-traveled back to 2006 and decided that happy slapping is in again. It’s hardly the most noble of causes and this narrative beat hints at the slightly rushed and often questionable decisions that Shyamalan makes throughout the story.
Meanwhile, James McAvoy’s Kevin Wendell Crumb is still up to his old tricks, i.e. kidnapping and murdering teenage girls–something that the second and third act of the film apparently forgets completely. Unfortunately, Glass shares Split’s biggest flaw: its reliance on an incredibly problematic representation of mental health and more specifically Dissociative Identity Disorder. The already misunderstood mental illness is played for scares, falling into many of the most outdated tropes and ideas about people who live with it — as well as playing on dangerous and lazy cliches about villainous trans characters — though it was encouraging to see another side of James McAvoy’s character here in Glass, it was never properly explored.
Then there’s Mister Glass. Samuel L. Jackson’s character, who we haven’t seen since the events of Unbreakable 19 years prior, has always worked as an interesting Loki-esqe villain who’s empathetic and interesting. While that still holds true in Glass, the movie stumbles when it tries to afford those same characteristics to Kevin and the Horde. The more Shyamalan tries to push the idea that all of the metahuman characters are inspiring simply for having powers, the less impact the message has.
As that message is presented, we never really get an understanding of why we should think that Kevin represents anything other than his worst actions. Despite it being called Glass, McAvoy is really at the center of this film with an over-the-top performance which gives him plenty of time to showcase all of Kevin’s “personalities,” Though there is certainly a world where you could make an affecting, scary, and thoughtful film about a character with DID–which it seemed like the introduction of Sarah Paulson’s Ellie Staples could enable–instead Glass just relies on stereotypes. Despite a major plot point being Staples’ idea that the characters’ potential mental health issues cause their superhero delusions, the film never truly explores that avenue and only ever presents them as superpowered archetypes.
Coming into Glass, one of the most exciting prospects was the addition of Paulson, who alongside Anya Taylor-Joy adds a gravitas and integrity to the unreal concept of the film. And Paulson is good in Glass, but both she and Joy aren’t given much to work with and both have arcs which are equally unexpected and inexplicable. Paulson’s Ellie Staple in particular has a glimpse of something really exciting that could have been engrossing–if not slightly overdone–to explore, but ultimately felt more like it was a last minute addition than a full blown twist. Joy is always exhilarating to watch but here her character Casey Cooke (the only survivor of the Horde) is given an arc so counterintuitive and baffling that it seems like a waste.
There’s a great relationship at the core of the movie, but to reveal it here feels like taking away one of the best parts of the film. Lets just say that Glass excels when it delves into ideas of family and the people who impact our lives both good and bad. It feels great to see Jackson and Willis return to the world of Unbreakable, but where that film took joy in its love of comics here the references are strained, like an ongoing meta-framing device where Mister Glass references different parts of comic book structuring in the story. The problem is that the script uses made up terms that don’t make sense like a “limited edition” series and “collecting the main characters.” It’s a shame as that could have been a neat and unique narrative device but alongside Ellie Staples’ negative comments about comic conventions they just fall flat. The core pair are both incredibly watchable though, and it’s undeniably fun to see Glass and Dunn face-off once again.
But this time the stakes somehow feel much lower; the drawn out pacing leads to a third act which feels confused and takes away from much of the impact of both Split and Unbreakable. Not only is it filled with plot holes that contradict earlier parts of the film, but it’s big reveal feels almost sacrilegious and like it was done more for Shyamalan than for the audience or the story. It’s not just the big surprise that leaves you wanting: the final act presents us with a couple of twists that don’t really make sense, and the very end feels tacked on, corny and at odds with much of what we know about the characters and the world they live in.
Despite a strong cast and an interesting concept Shyamalan never quite manages to pull together the two worlds of Unbreakable and Split into one cohesive film. Never sure whether it’s a heroic superhero story or a psychological thriller, Glass feels more than a little scattered and with its uneven and disappointing third act, ultimately unsatisfying.