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Glass Review

January 18, 2019 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
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Glass Review  

Directed By: M. Night Shyamalan
Written By: M. Night Shyamalan
Runtime: 129 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language

Bruce Willis – David Dunn
Samuel L. Jackson – Elijah Price/Mr. Glass
James McAvoy – Kevin/The Beast
Sarah Paulson – Dr. Ellie Staple
Anya Taylor-Joy – Casey Cooke
Spencer Treat Clark – Joseph Dunn
Marisa Brown – Carol
Charlayne Woodard – Mrs. Price
Luke Kirby – Pierce

Released in the dumping ground period of January in 2017, M. Night Shyamalan’s Split appeared to be a return to form for the previously long-declining filmmaker; at least in the case of his fans and his box office credibility. Off the heels of his successful found footage horror movie, The Visit, Shyamalan was suddenly back in the limelight with his first bonafide blockbuster in years. Additionally, it was the first movie he directed that received a “Certified Fresh” rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes since his 2002 film, Signs. That detail might seem insignificant when it comes to delivering a crowd-pleasing cinematic event, but it has recently become a major talking point.

What offered a great deal of incentive for Split was that it turned out to be a type of stealth sequel or follow-up to his 2000 film Unbreakable. In a time where sequels, comic book movies and shared cinematic universes are all the rage, a filmmaker such as Shyamalan offering his own spin on those ideas definitely gained a fair bit of attention, propelling Split, at a budget of $9 million, to a $278 million worldwide gross.

Unfortunately, Glass, which serves as a sequel to both Unbreakable and Split, proves that nostalgia can be a delusional, if not manipulative, mistress. Shyamalan finally delivers the Unbreakable sequel fans have been asking to see for years. However, movies such as Glass beg the question: Is it the sequel that moviegoers want, or do they simply like the idea of a sequel? Because the reality that Glass provides is less than satisfying.

Glass begins mere weeks after the events of Split, but it’s been 19 years since the events of Unbreakable. David Dunn (Willis) continues to moonlight as a vigilante after discovering his superhuman abilities in the original film. Dunn and his son, Joseph (Treat Clark, who also returns from the original), run a security hardware store, and Joseph get to play as his dad’s so-called “man in the chair.” Dunn has now set his sights on the dangerous Kevin Wendell Crumb (McAvoy), who continues to prey on innocent girls.

Eventually, they are taken into custody and committed to a psychiatric ward under the care of Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson). Coincidentally, their psychiatric ward is already home to Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass (Jackson), and Dunn and Kevin are placed in close proximity to Elijah’s holding cell. Dr. Staple wants to convince her patients that they are simply suffering from highly unique delusions, but Elijah has grander ambitions. As shown in the trailers, he has a plan to manipulate Kevin into doing his bidding, to expose the abilities of super-powered humans to the entire world.

The popularity of Split was always somewhat strange. The movie was nothing special, and its connections to Unbreakable seemed to allow audiences to overlook that film’s many flaws. For all of its own problems, Glass is an overall stronger film than Split, but that comes from a perspective that was indifferent to the latter.

The first half of Glass is actually well done and takes the plot in a very natural direction. The challenge here is the film’s second act, which is a very slow burn after Kevin and David are taken to the insane asylum. Fans of Split will likely be tested in dealing with the slow-burn narrative. It’s unfortunate that Shyamalan fails to deliver on a rewarding final act.

Glass is in no way void of interesting ideas. At times, it’s a very interesting deconstruction of comic book superhero ideas and tropes, as well as a presentation of how super powers and super-powered individuals would work in the “real” world. The confrontations between Dunn and Kevin are well shot and actually have a good sense of weight and realism in a way that’s palatable and makes sense.

The issue is that after such a fast start, Glass really slows down. Going for the slow burn is not necessarily a bad idea, but the film never really regains the momentum of the opening act.

There are a number of plot twists and reveals in this movie. Without giving them away, they are badly written and thought out. Characters make incredibly ponderous, mind-boggling choices that make no sense based on the previous films. For example, Anya Taylor-Joy reprises her role as Casey Cooke from Split. After her experience with Kevin in the last movie, Shyamalan opts to take her character in a direction that comes completely out of left field. Perhaps fans of Split will find Casey’s new outlook on a certain character interesting, but it seems like a disservice to the character.

Additionally, Shyamalan’s grasp of subtle dialogue appears to have waned. Granted, this could be misremembering the dialogue of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but the dialogue exchanges in those films came off as a lot more subtle and understated. In recent years, Shyamalan’s dialogue has grown much more trite and clunky. Glass suffers from this quite a bit.

There’s even a shoehorned bit of a character overhearing a random conversation that puts all the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s the one line that ties all the threads into a neat little package. Using that gimmick is not necessarily a taboo, but the way that dialogue device is used here is sloppily done and in a location that is painfully out-of-place. This is easily a scene that appears as if it was added as a result of test screening reactions for people who were confused by the film and couldn’t follow along.

Samuel L. Jackson definitely shines again as Mr. Glass. There’s a better sense of his backstory and upbringing that Shyamalan shares here that’s painfully sad and tragic. However, the ultimate end game for Mr. Glass, Dunn and Kevin is a letdown.

People may have forgotten, but upon its original release, Unbreakable was a very polarizing film. The movie was coming in with a lot of hype as Shyamalan’s next film after The Sixth Sense. Critics and audiences were somewhat indifferent to it. None of the trailers or marketing materials suggested any of the comic book allegories that were a significant part of the narrative, which put many people off. Whether it was time, or a whole new audience enjoying the experience, the once harsher views of Unbreakable appear to have softened.

Unbreakable, while not a masterpiece, is still one of the strongest installments in Shyamalan’s filmography. While Glass has its share of interesting ideas, a fun and compelling performance by Samuel L. Jackson, it’s not able to make up for some instances of rather weak writing and a very sloppy second half.

The final score: review Not So Good
The 411
M. Night Shyamalan's Glass is definitely an improvement over Split. Actually, the first half is strong and starts off as a nice reintroduction into the world presented in 2000's Unbreakable. Unfortunately, after the slow burn in the second act, M. Night Shyamalan is never quite able to regain the momentum and early promise with which Glass begins. There are some nice qualities that Glass brings to the table in an era where there's a superhero or comic book movie every other week. However, Shyamalan gets a little too drunk on his own style with the second half and takes the story and characters to places they didn't really need to go.