UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2019)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard
An M. Night Shyamalan multiverse? Sounds like just a standard plot for him.
2000’s Unbreakable was a strange delight, coming right after The Sixth Sense and continuing the Shyamassault. When Split came in 2017, it was met with critical acclaim and pure excitement over its final scene containing Bruce Willis’ David Dunn – the hero from Unbreakable. The two movies had been connected – possibly Shyamalan’s best – and now Glass was here to bring it all together, including Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price/Mr. Glass. What could actually be better? What a way to start of 2019? Surely? It had to be?
Set weeks after the events of Split, David Dunn/The Overseer – fully decked out in a rain mac – is pursuing James McAvoy’s Kevin Crumb and his multiple personalities in an attempt to stop his abduction of more young girls. When the pair are captured by Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson) - a psychiatrist who treats patients convinced they are superhuman beings – they are brought to a mental institution for studying. That same institute also holds Elijah Price / Mr. Glass (Jackson) – the superhero with Type I osteogenesis imperfecta but the mind of a pure genius – Dunn’s sworn enemy from the events of Unbreakable. With the three finally together, Dr. Staple gets to work attempting to convince the three that they are simply normal men whose ‘powers’ can be explained away so very easily. But it’s never that simple in the world of Shyamalan.
After the acclaim Split received, hopes were naturally high that Glass could provide a fitting finale to a trilogy that never seemed feasible/possible/likely a few years back. Merging the best elements of both movies into one surely should put Shyamalan on the road to glory, a victory lap having been out in the wilderness for so long. Unfortunately, Glass isn’t that movie. To begin, Glass isn’t a terrible movie, it’s not The Happening, but I left the theatre feeling underwhelmed and disappointed at the lost promise and potential that I had witnessed. It could have been so good, however, Shyamalan’s now-laser like focus on delivering third act twists takes precedence over set-up and when the finale isn’t that great, it makes it all the more frustrating. The first hour or so is pretty great, the scenes within the institute mostly work (especially when three ‘heroes’ are together in one room) though even this set-up becomes a drag when the same beats are being recycled throughout the first half. Then we get a poor plan to set up the underwhelming ending which had a glimmer of hope for real redemption but that was shattered like…glass. There was a distinct lack of energy or momentum also which, given the pacing of Unbreakable and Split, came as a surprise – as did the subpar writing. The recycled beats aside, the attempts at being meta are overkill and the references to ‘Drake’ and ‘Nicki’ made me sad in how cringe they were.
It must be hard being Bruce Willis, I felt for him. He really had to try to give the impression he was even phoning it in here. It’s a sad sight to see someone who was once a massive box-office draw just seem so uninterested – Shyamalan wisely treats his character with respect from arm’s length. Sam Jackson is clearly enjoying being back in the role and Mr. Glass is the most intriguing of the three by far, however, McAvoy once again proves to be the MVP – here’s a man who really gives his all. Paulson is very good as the shady Dr though Anya Taylor-Joy is unforgivably shafted and underused throughout the entire movie. The visuals Shyamalan and DoP Mike Gioulakis opt for do work. The institution is suitably gloomy and ordinary and the use of neon actually works in Glass as well!
Glass definitely has its moments, the aforementioned ‘interview’ scene being the highlight along with others scattered throughout, but I absolutely couldn’t help but think Glass could have been so much more. The finale will be contentious and it didn’t work for this reviewer (it nearly did, but they went a step too far) but a fair bit of what came before was at least decent. However, Shyamalan’s superhero/comic book experiment hasn’t paid off which is the biggest shame in all of this. There are some awesome moments and it’s certainly not The Happening levels of bad but, overall, Glass is a massive disappointment.
January 17th 2019