‘Glass’ is symbolic of the best and (mainly) the worst of Shyamalan
“Glass” (Rated T)
Cast: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy thriller,
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”
This portion of the first paragraph in Charles Dickens’ 1859 classic novel, “A Tale of Two Cities”, seems to perfectly sum up the films and filmmaking career of writer/director/producer Manoj Nelliyattu (M. Night) Shyamalan.
We’ve experienced the glorious highs with his masterpiece “The Sixth Sense”; seen the dark clouds brewing with the troubled “The Village”; and painfully witnessed his nadir, the laughable train wreck “Lady in the Water” – quite possibly the worst movie of the last decade.
Shyamalan at least deserves credit for never being boring and for having courage to tackle unusual, mind-bending but intriguing subject matters and concepts. However, the problem is often in the execution; something almost always seems to goes off track.
Despite a couple flashes of light (“it was the season of light”) in the 20 years since “The Sixth Sense” – with pictures like the creepy grandparent horror flick “The Visit” and the multiple personality psychological thriller “Split” – Shyamalan has clearly mostly been on a downward trajectory, with each picture following “The Sixth Sense” markedly and progressively worse than the one before.
For instance, the year after that now-classic Oscar-nominated picture, we got the puzzling superhero thriller “Unbreakable”, which reteamed him with his “The Sixth Sense” star, Bruce Willis. And while that one started off with great promise, many were left scratching their heads by the time it was done.
The new film “Glass” is a sequel to “Unbreakable”, and it’s also a sequel to “Split”, which ended up being a surprise sequel to “Unbreakable”; we found out in the final few minutes of that 2016 thriller that there was a connection between the two, with Willis making a cameo.
Shyamalan brings together the narratives of “Unbreakable” and “Split”, in this all-new comic book thriller. From “Unbreakable”, Willis returns as David Dunn, as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known by his pseudonym “Mr. Glass”. Joining from “Split” are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast – Crumb’s additional deadly personality, a superhuman, animal-like figure.
Following the conclusion of “Split”, Glass finds Dunn pursuing The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price/”Mr. Glass” emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.
Though not entirely essential, having seen the two previous movies, particularly “Split”, would be beneficial to fully grasp what’s happening with “Glass”.
The premise for this new double-sequel is certainly interesting: a “comic book thriller”. The whole moviegoing world and certainly all of Hollywood seem to be obsessed with anything comic book or superhero, with even horrible editions of these movies breaking box-office records.
But you’ve probably thought about it before (“It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity”): What if there were or are actual super heroes with superhuman strengths and abilities amongst us? What impact would they have on the planet and on each other?
However, the “spring of hope” that the possibilities and opportunities this proposition presents would truly be explored in “Glass”, quickly devolves into a “winter of despair”, as we are served an exceptionally uneven tale with peaks of comic book-inspired action (cool but far-fetched fantasy and ridiculousness) marred by deep valleys of dull exposition, filled with long discussions that do little to move the story forward.
McAvoy gives another bravura performance, though, cycling through his multiple personalities with a plethora of unique accents, body movements and facial structures (a solo McAvoy portraying different personalities for two hours would probably be a highly entertaining production).
On the other hand, Willis seems to be phoning it in, with a very low energy “why am doing this again?” attitude. Samuel L. Jackson – after not speaking and barely moving for at least the first half of the movie – seems to fall right in the middle of his co-star’s energy and enthusiasm levels. I’m not sure what to make of the extremely talented Sarah Paulson’s performance; I’ll chalk up the uncharacteristic choppiness to the wonky script.
The usual and expected “Shyamalan twist” is just plain weird and actually kinda stupid. It’s all rather underwhelming and unsatisfying. McAvoy’s merry-go-round of characters just isn’t enough to carry the picture and help it rise above the silly story and the disappointing supposedly “epic” comic-book showdown scenes.
Ultimately, while “Glass” is not exactly horrible, this third (and hopefully final) installment is not as good as either of the previous films in this series, even the flawed “Unbreakable”. We and Shyamalan truly “had everything before us”, and ended up with “nothing [much] before us”.
As Shyamalan’s personal tale of two directors continues.
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.