Glass SPOILER Review: Glass shows signs of cracking, but stays together to create a fresh take on the superhero genre.
WARNING!! THIS REVIEW WILL GO INTO FULL SPOILERS FOR GLASS!!
YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Director M. Night Shyamalan has definitely gone through quite a rough patch in creating innovative thrillers and, other than The Sixth Sense, most people point to his 2000 cult hit Unbreakable. In some ways Unbreakable was a little ahead of its time as it touched on the ideas of a superhero origin story and the aspects of heroes and villains. That’s why when Shyamalan revealed at the end of his 2016 hit Split that this film takes place in the same universe as Unbreakable fans, like myself, became incredibly excited to finally see Bruce Willis’ David Dunne and Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah Price, or Mr. Glass, return to the big screen.
Following the events of Split, Shyamalan’s newest film Glass follows David, now owning his own security company and delivering some vigilante justice with the help of his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), as he begins to search for Kevin Crumb, better known as The Horde (James McAvoy). Once the two collide, they are ensnared by Dr. Elle Staple (Sara Paulson), a mysterious psychologist who treats those that believe they are superheroes and taken to an asylum where an old enemy of David’s awaits him, Mr. Glass. With all three in captivity together, they must all decide whether Dr. Staple’s accusations are true or if they truly are something more before Mr. Glass’ true plans come to fruition.
Considering how popular superhero movies are in the current film industry, Glass not only looks to tell a more grounded and thought-provoking superhero story, but looks to be a thrilling and satisfying conclusion to his trilogy. Glass tackles the superhero genre with a stronger focus on character driven drama rather than action-packed sequences just like Unbreakable did so many years ago. This is something I love about this series and it feels great that Shyamalan didn’t completely change the Unbreakable formula and go against the action-heavy grain set by Marvel and DC.
Shyamalan truly feels like he is back in full-force with his use of colors to denote meaning to each character and using small details that incite a second viewing. I loved seeing the distinct colors associated with the main three also be showcased with each of their supporting characters and I can appreciate how Shyamalan teases some details to affect a bigger part of the story; even when it doesn’t always work. There are some moments where Shyamalan tries to tease something big, like when Joseph Dunn finds a comic book that leads him to look for the truth about Kevin’s father, where it either feels like too much of a stretch or only exists to make his twists feel vindicated.
There were also where I had myself wanting more moments of dramatic irony to help some moments feel a little bit bigger or to add something for the audience to connect to. For instance, after a discussion with James McAvoy’s The Horde about escaping, Mr. Glass goes through some of the files he finds in a security office and discovers some truths about The Horde. However, this moment also could’ve serviced as a great moment to tease that Dr. Staple isn’t just a psychiatrist and actually part of a secret organization that is set on eliminating those who are more than just man.
Having this be thrown in towards the film’s finale feels incredibly forced and random as Paulson isn’t really given too much to do in the film. Aside from somewhat convincing David and The Horde, as well as myself, that their powers might be in their heads, Staple feels so uninteresting as a character and is only there to deliver monologue that’s tough for audiences to connect to and makes the pace feel incredibly slow. If it was teased much earlier on that Mr. Glass was not only faking his braindead personality, but also knew that Staple was not who she said she was, the scene of Staple talking to Mr. Glass in the same room as David and The Horde would have had more for viewers to connect to and added a different kind of tension to the film as a whole.
There’re also a couple moments where the logic of Shyamalan’s more grounded world break. For instance, Mr. Glass clearly states that he only has a minute until the orderly comes back to finish what he has to do and for only having a minute, he sure accomplishes a lot for such a short time. Frankly, his whole set up for the escape sequence is a little flimsy and while his knowledge of the orderly taking his time to get his desk and how to break the neurology machine so it wouldn’t work kind of makes sense for his character, it’s just something that takes me out of the more grounded world that Shyamalan sets up.
Seeing Willis and Jackson return as their respective characters is an absolute treat and it’s a relatively smooth transition from the 19-year gap of Unbreakable. Willis’ performance is much subtler than his counterparts and he isn’t given too much to do other than be the hero to stop Mr. Glass and The Horde, but there’s still some growth seen with David since we last saw him. Joseph is now working with him to stop crime as his “guy in the chair” and he seems much more prepared and wiser to the crime-fighting world.
Now, before I get to Jackson, it must be said that McAvoy’s performance is absolutely stunning once again. His ability to transition to different personalities is both disturbing and fascinating at the same time. Hedwig is clearly the favorite of the film as he seems to get most of the light in his interactions with Mr. Glass, Casey Cooke (Anya-Taylor Joy), and Dr. Elle Staple. However, seeing McAvoy literally transform before your very eyes is still great to see and he brings a powerfully emotional aspect to the film with his exchanges with Casey.
Jackson’s return to his purple cloak is also pretty spectacular as he brings Elijah’s intelligence and strong beliefs in his ideology about superheroes to the forefront of the film’s climax. The film, however, kind of makes me struggle as what he necessarily is though in terms of classifying him as a hero or a villain. These feelings especially came once the film has the Shyamalan-styled twists that are generally associated with his films.
Frankly, the film’s ending and twists are where I feel the most conflicted about Glass as a whole as I feel that the films ending tries to paint Mr. Glass in a slightly heroic fashion even though they have basically made him a full-blown villain. Having Mr. Glass technically win by releasing the proof of their powers to the rest of the world felt a little undeserving and sort of made the whole experience feel wrong. Especially with Casey, Joseph, and Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) all just reacting happy rather than being conflicted with this result. For instance, wouldn’t Joseph feel a little horrified that Mr. Glass has won considering he is his father’s villain or Casey feel worried that other people like Kevin could end up hurting others?
Not to mention, the film paints him as crazy once it’s revealed that Elijah had actually caused the death of Kevin’s dad through the same train accident that Elijah caused to make David realize his powers. After this, it’s hard to reconcile with him even in death and is never really over-taken by Dr. Staple to be a more hated villain that we would rather him win. That’s not to say that this twist isn’t well built, especially when thinking about how the camera mentioned by Staple help Mr. Glass complete his final plan. Not to mention, there’s a short line from Mr. Glass along the lines of “this isn’t a limited edition, it’s an origin story” that really helps tease his ultimate goal. There’s definitely something there and it’s an interesting idea, it’s just tough to say if he necessarily earns this right to win or if it’s really a satisfying conclusion for these characters.
Now, even with some cracks that could run deep enough for the film to completely shatter, Glass still holds together enough to be the climatic and dramatic end to this long-awaited trilogy. If anything, the film at least shows that Shyamalan is mostly back on course to delivering fresh thrillers that come with his style of filmmaking. Whether or not this is the true end for Shyamalan’s dive into the world of superheroes is tough to say, but, either way, he has once again found a way to create a uniquely dramatic take on superheroes that audiences can enjoy.