‘Glass’ Review: M. Night Shyamalan’s Attempt at a Trilogy Falls Well Short of Its Predecessors

Here’s our review for the new movie ‘Glass’, which follows up from M. Night Shyamalan’s films ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’…

By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer

M. Night Shyamalan has had a rocky relationship with audiences ever since he burst onto the scene with ‘The Sixth Sense’ back in 1999.

That breakout hit left him with unrealistic expectations about the rest of his career because he was being billed as the next Steven Spielberg rather than just being the first M. Night Shyamalan.

Thankfully, the writer and director followed up ‘The Sixth Sense’ with one of the best comic book origin story films of all time titled ‘Unbreakable’.

While it was not based on any comic book that was actually printed — and Night was given explicit orders from the studio not to refer to his movie as a comic book story, he still managed to deliver a well plotted, well acted and ultimately well executed superhero origin story.

‘Unbreakable’ was a blueprint for the way a great origin story should be told — a reluctant hero struggling with coming to grips with his own powers and a mysterious teacher trying to help him live up to his true potential. And because Shyamalan has become known for his jaw-dropping twists at the end of all of his movies, ‘Unbreakable’ actually delivered by revealing that Bruce Willis’ fully realized superhero had been coaxed out of anonymity by a mastermind supervillain that was posing as his mentor.

It was a brilliant film and in many ways ‘Unbreakable’ stood toe to toe with the best comic book movies out there — and still stands alongside great films like ‘The Dark Knight’ and ‘Logan’.

Sadly, Night struggled to gain the same trust in audiences after that with somewhat well received features like ‘Signs’ and ‘The Village’ but he really fell flat with his attempt at a eco-horror film called ‘The Happening’ that ended up as the butt of jokes more than a true thriller.

Night largely disappeared from the blockbuster films after that movie flopped but he managed to slip under the radar with his 2015 film ‘The Visit’ that was well received and then he seemed to return to true form with 2016’s ‘Split’.

That movie featured a claustrophobic kidnapping story about a group of teenagers taken by a serial killer with multiple personalities. It was an intense film kept in close quarters as James McAvoy just chewed up the scenery in the lead role as the man afflicted with 23 different personalities and he played each one with devilish precision.

The surprising post credit scene — in true comic book film fashion — connected ‘Split’ back to ‘Unbreakable’ by revealing David Dunn (Bruce Willis) was still a hero in his native Philadelphia and he was jumping on the trail of this serial killer on the loose.

Not long afterwards, Night revealed plans for ‘Glass’ — the third film in a long planned trilogy that would connect ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’ into one final movie bringing all those characters together. The tease about the film had fans excited — after all Night delivered huge in both of the previous movies leading up to ‘Glass’ so there was no reason to believe that his grand plan wouldn’t play out in spectacular fashion.

Unfortunately, what actually ended up in ‘Glass’ was much more akin to ‘The Happening’ than Night’s brilliant start in ‘The Sixth Sense’.

Once again, Shyamalan just can’t get out of his own way with the constant plot twists and turns as he tries to make the movie smarter than it needs to be while ultimately ruining the concept he started with in the first place. Perhaps he was trying to live up to the expectations people had after those first two films were both so critically acclaimed but ultimately Night ends up with a largely forgettable third movie that will likely leave you confused and disappointed when the movie is finished.

With that said, let’s get to our full review of ‘Glass’, which lands in theaters on Friday, January 18…

Plot

It’s been three weeks since the end of ‘Split’ as serial killer Kevin Wendell Crumb went missing and it turns out David Dunn has been hot on his trail ever since. It seems after discovering his heroic powers, David has continued to stalk the streets of Philadelphia at night to keep people safe while running a security business during the day with his son Joseph, who serves as the voice in his ear whenever he goes out as a vigilante determined to stop crime.

As David Dunn closes in on Kevin Wendell Crumb after he kidnaps four cheerleaders in his latest abduction scheme, the pair are eventually captured and sent to a mental institution where Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) has been charged with convincing them that they are suffering from delusions about being a superhero or a super villain, complete with super powers. It seems Dr. Staple specializes in this comic book superhero fantasy and it’s her job to convince both men that they aren’t special but rather just normal, everyday people.

The mental institution that houses David and Kevin also happens to be the same place where Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass has been living for the past 19 years after he was arrested for committing all sorts of terrorist acts in an attempt to find an unbreakable man that would counter his frail, brittle body.

Needless to say, Dr. Staple works tirelessly to convince these three men that they are just suffering from a mental disorder while deep down inside, each of them knows something much different.

The rest of the plot would involve a lot of spoilers but let’s just say putting these three together in the same place at the same time was probably a bad idea.

Acting

Sometimes its said that a movie is greater than the sum of its parts — well ‘Glass’ is the reverse because the biggest redeeming quality of this film are the pieces that make up this convoluted puzzle. Bruce Willis rekindles the same kind of somber yet heroic feelings that he had in ‘Unbreakable’ and Samuel L. Jackson is subdued but still at his best while portraying Mr. Glass for a second time.

Obviously the stand out actor in this film is once again James McAvoy playing Kevin Wendell Crumb and all of his 23 personalities. He’s outstanding but sadly Shyamalan doesn’t know when there’s too much of a good thing because he spends nearly two plus hours of this movie watching McAvoy switch from one personality to to the next like a hyperactive child who just has to keep pressing a button exhaustively.

The other issue here is the emergence of ‘The Beast’ — the supernatural personality that was talked about in ‘Split’ but didn’t finally show up until near the end of the movie. Once again, less is more because Shyamalan just can’t wait to beat you over the head with the Beast at every turn in this movie and while McAvoy is still great, he’s better when he’s teasing the monster hiding under the bed than actually unleashing his inner animal.

Anya Taylor-Joy also returns after serving as the ‘final girl’ in ‘Split’ and she shows off her potential to lead films in the future rather than playing a supporting role. Once again, however, she’s working with limited material in this movie.

Directing and Writing

Perhaps the toughest part of this movie to accept is knowing that Shyamalan can be a prolific writer and director yet he still manages to trample over all the good work he did in ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’ with this third film in the trilogy.

As previously described when talking about what worked so well on ‘Split’, Shyamalan thrives in close almost claustrophobic spaces. He’s excellent at those kinds of movies. It’s when he starts expanding his universe when things fall apart and that’s exactly what happened in this movie.

Rather than telling a thrilling cat and mouse game between hero and villain, Shyamalan decides to put all of his central characters in one place together almost immediately and then starts deconstructing them through the psycho-analysis courtesy of Sarah Paulson’s character. Rather than building on what he had already assembled, Night prefers to dismantle his characters and then put them back together again by the end of the movie.

What Shyamalan somehow failed to realize is that he had three fully realized characters — a hero, a maniacal villain and an evil genius — and finding a way to put them all together in a combustible plot that reaches an explosive conclusion would have worked so much better.

Instead, he insists on deconstructing the very characters he spent two films building and it’s rather frustrating over the course of two plus hours sitting in the theater.

Final Verdict

Make no mistake, there are watchable parts of ‘Glass’, especially when you see James McAvoy just really let loose as Kevin Wendell Crumb and during those moments when Samuel L. Jackson is lucid and quietly plotting behind the scenes as only an evil genius could do.

Unfortunately those performances are ruined by a plot that goes nowhere early and then offers up several unnecessary twists and turns by the end. Because he’s so well known for keeping the audience guessing, Shyamalan forgot to just deliver a great ending to what started as a phenomenal superhero story.

Instead you’ll be scratching your head at the end of this movie wondering what the hell he was thinking when he decided this was the way to end the trilogy.

‘Glass’ gets two out of five on the Skolnick Scale

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