There was a time when M. Night Shyamalan was revered as one of the most promising directors in Hollywood. After breaking moulds and blowing people away with his movies Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs it appeared he could do no wrong. And then, in typical Shyamalan fashion, he decided to pull a plot twist on everyone and started going downhill from there. And while his next film The Village wasn’t all that bad, his next few movies after that were quite atrocious up to the point where the very mention of his name became a regular running joke.
Warning: spoilers for Split below
And then Split happened and all was forgiven. In one epic turn, the director proved that he still had what it took to make a great movie and in the typical plot twisting fashion he has been known for, he blew everyone’s minds by revealing that not only was Split an excellent
Glass, the closer to this unexpected trilogy, coming out next month, there is incredible excitement that with Shyamalan on top form that this could be one of the biggest movies of the year.
Well, early reviews in the US are coming out and unfortunately, it looks like while Glass is not to the level of turkey Shyamalan was making a few movies ago, it hasn’t quite been able to live up the incredible hype for this third film, leaving many people feeling a little mixed about the final results:
Performances aside, “Glass” is a pretty mixed bag of exposition-filled dull moments and pedantic dialogue. Shyamalan, who also wrote the movie, unloads comic-book knowledge at the expense of character development, going so far as to explain what a “showdown” is and having a character give a brief history of the comics medium, which seems extraneous in a world where superhero movies have opened in theatres every summer for the past decade. That moment would have worked in 2000, but nowadays, any kid on an American playground has heard of the Avengers. Despite its flaws, the movie has a fair share of entertaining scenes, usually the ones involving all three leads. However messy, Shyamalan still has a few tricks up his sleeve when tying the threads of these separate movies together.
Glass is M. Night Shyamalan’s sequel to his Unbreakable and Split, and like Unbreakable before it, wants to be a deconstruction of the superhero genre. But where Unbreakable was meticulous, re-examining well-worn tropes through well-drawn characters, Glass is uncontrolled. It doesn’t so much analyse or update those tropes as it does lampshade them, and call it a day. Perhaps that would’ve been more forgivable in the early 2000s, when Unbreakable was released, before Spider-Man or Nolan’s Batman or the MCU and DCEU. Now, though, it feels downright bizarre for a movie to act as if the same audience that turned Avengers: Infinity War into a $2 billion juggernaut might need a refresher on what Superman is.
Shyamalan, though, as he proved with “Split,” can still win over an audience, and in “Glass” he’s a poised and confident filmmaker who seizes our attention. Yet the movie, watchable as it is, is still a disappointment, because it extends and belabours the conceits of “Unbreakable” without the sensation of mystical dark discovery that made that film indelible. “Glass” is a sequel that feels more dutiful than necessary. It turns the earlier film’s ominous pop poetry into overexplicit blockbuster prose.
In his past work, [Shyamalan has] displayed a wonderful knowledge of cinematic language, and a masterful control of the camera. But none of that is on display in Glass, which only has a few memorable shots spliced into a visually bland, flat space. This becomes even more noticeable when the director cuts in some deleted scenes from Unbreakable, which look gorgeous, atmospheric, and, well, cinematic. Where did the filmmaker who shot those scenes 19 years ago disappear to? Like Superman exposed to kryptonite, Shyamalan has lost all his powers directing Glass. I can only hope he gets them back soon.
Like Unbreakable and Split, Glass wants its extraordinary feats to be as grounded as possible in the real world. The tension between wish-fulfillment heroics and realism was tantalizing in Unbreakable. Here, it’s more confused. Those of us who have steered clear of gossip sites or promotional interviews may find ourselves, after the big showdown Mr. Glass has engineered, not certain what we have seen. Is Glass the least satisfying chapter of an often enjoyable, conceptually intriguing trilogy? Or is it an attempt to launch a broader Shyamalaniverse, in which ordinary men and women throughout Philadelphia and its suburbs will discover their own inspiring abilities? Marketplace realities make the latter more likely. Here’s hoping the former is the case.
[One] of Shyamalan’s worst tendencies is to not let a clever idea just be clever. Glass‘s overall schtick, a cerebral thriller that follows the beats of a comic book, is a smart one, but Shyamalan falls a bit too in love with his own form. He’s not just showing you a cool thing, he needs you to know why it’s cool in context and needs to explain every layer of subtext. By the end of Glass, every single main player has transformed into Jamie Kennedy‘s character in Scream, a cacophony of know-it-all experts shouting at each other – and the audience – about The Rules of comic book storytelling. This is especially grating in 2019, when your
six-year-old nephew could probably write a treatise on how this stuff works.
In theory, it’s a natural finale. As characters, David, Kevin, and Elijah hinge on an exaggeration of human nature and the difficulty inherent in finding one’s place in the world, with their alignments putting them on colliding paths. Finding a middle between the more aggressive, out-and-out supernaturalism of Split and the internal, emotional stakes of Unbreakable should bring the Eastrail 177 trilogy to a clean close. In practice, however, Glass ends up feeling at war with itself. No easily achievable middle ground exists, particularly not when one of the two extremes, Split, is such a knot of thorns already, as it deals (poorly) with dissociative identity disorder, Stockholm syndrome, and the idea that only those who have suffered deserve to live.
There’s a big part of me that loves that Glass exists in the world. I do appreciate that Shyamalan was going for something here, even though that something doesn’t work. It’s almost like Shyamalan was trying to make his own version of The Last Jedi – a meta-deconstruction of what came before; in this case superhero movies – only he got too engrossed in the deconstruction part and forgot to make it entertaining. In a way, Glass feels like a giant middle finger to the very people who would be excited to see Glass. That, on its own, is inherently fascinating… And I want to word this as kindly as possible, but there are sequences in this movie that, how should I put it: let’s just say maybe bring a caffeinated beverage.
So, I guess in the end the movie can possibly best be summed up as frustrating, as it has some great moments to keep you interesting, but sadly is just not able to live up to its remarkable predecessors. Something which is not uncommon with sequels and trilogy finales I guess. We have still yet to see the film ourselves though and so will have a review of our own closer to its release, where we can weigh in with our opinions on whether the film is worth your money or not.
But I guess in answering the question of whether Shyamalan is back for good or not, it appears we still don’t quite know what to expect from him. Which is perhaps the way he likes it after all.
Last Updated: January 10, 2019