I can still vividly remember watching the closing few minutes of Split for the first time. Once-beleaguered writer/director M. Night
Fast forward two years and the final scene of Glass, Shyamalan’s unexpected trilogy capstone that brings it all together, has just played out. This time I’m the one who wanted to loudly exclaim my disbelief. Except, it wasn’t out of any sense of awe – I just couldn’t believe how how much of a disjointed, sloppy, up-its-own-backside mess this film was.
Glass starts off solidly enough though, as Willis’ David Dunn has embraced the superhuman abilities he discovered in Unbreakable. With the help of his now-grown son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), he’s protecting the streets as The Overseer, as the public has dubbed him, a much less gadgety Batman with his own Oracle in his ear as he goes out for walks to “feel” for bad people. He’s also hunting for “The Horde”, the collective name given to Crumb’s disparate personalities led by the animalistic Beast, who is still out there abducting girls. When hero and villain clash publicly, it puts both right in the spotlight – and padded rooms – of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) and the Raven Hill mental hospital. The very same hospital housing Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), David’s original archnemesis whose mind is as brilliant as his bones are brittle. And he’s very smart.
Even worse, in a mainstream pop culture obsessed modern world like ours where a giant talking tree and a machine gun-toting raccoon’s adventures in deep space could break out hearts, Shyamalan’s “take us seriously, WE ARE YOUR NEW GODS” deconstructed comic book revisionism rings very silly and archaic. While Jackson slips into the fractured frame of Mr Glass with ease, having almost all his lines be some rote groan-inducing metaphor about comics as mythology does him no favours.
At least Willis appears to have momentarily risen above the sleepwalking fugue his career has become of late, even if he really only does his best work in the film’s opening chapters and is then either promptly forgotten for large swathes of what follows or is clearly replaced by a stuntman in a poncho. Admittedly though, this does give us more time to spend with McAvoy, who – just as he did in Split – steals the rickety show here, bounding through personalities, each with unique mannerisms and bearings, with a masterful touch. When he becomes The Beast, intensely roping neck and veiny swollen muscles almost appearing at the point of tearing trying to contain his monstrous rage, he truly becomes a creature straight from the comic book page.
And while it coasts along torpidly for the most part (side characters like Split’s returning Anya Taylor-Joy not having much to do), once we hit the barreling third act straight Glass goes flying off the track in a cacophonous mess much like the engineered train wreck that started off this entire quasi-franchise in Unbreakable. Not even The Beast can claw it back on track to decency again. Whatever inkling of goodwill Shyamalan has built up until this point is absolutely shredded by a criminally sloppy, oftentimes plain nonsensical finale that feels like the production just ran out of time, money, and possibly the will to live. It doesn’t help that it’s painfully apparent that Shyamalan is not an action director, his staging of shots, action choreography, and grasp of scene geometry and flow often befuddling.
In a frustratingly underwhelming sequence (made even more so by the expectations of the very genre the movie is pulling its influences from) characters just stand around and do nothing in the most illogical ways. That’s when they’re not engaging in soliloquies that Shyamalan clearly believes is far more profound than they actually are, overly bombastic orchestral music swelling to signal big moments that simply aren’t there. And when the now-expected trademark Shyamalan twist does come, it’s not so much “WHAT?!” as it is “so what?” that you will be responding with.
If the promised clash of the quasi-comic book titans that was Unbreakable’s David Dunn and Split’s The Beast is the aspect that enticed you the most about this movie, then my suggestion is to just stick around for that opening tussle – as badly edited as it is – and then cut your losses and leave. This entire base concept of Glass, tying together two films nearly two decades apart, is certainly ambitious, but none of that creative vitality is to be found here with Shyamalan. Just when we thought the filmmaker was back to reclaiming the lustre of his first few projects – BAM! PLOT TWIST! – and he’s back to frustrating mediocrity again.
Last Updated: January 18, 2019