It’s no secret that M. Night Shyamalan had planned an Unbreakable trilogy which for years sadly never came to pass. It’s also an arguing fact that Unbreakable was his last good film before his downward slope that went on to cement his modern reputation.
But then came 2016’s Split, a competent, well-made thriller that brought hope, and packed a nifty twist that promised much. And now here we are. The closer to the trilogy we didn’t know we wanted.
Unbreakable’s David Dunn (Bruce Willis), and Split’s Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) are locked in an asylum that also houses the villainous Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), and soon come face-to-face with a doctor (Sarah Paulson) dedicated to proving that their “powers” are a mental illness.
After all the surprise build-up of Split’s ending (that, in all honesty, shouldn’t have worked as well as it did), it’s hard not to see Shyamalan’s struggle in following up his comeback picture with what would be both a second sophomore film, and the conclusion to a trilogy which seemed set to subvert the superhero genre, especially given its godlike boom in today’s society.
But alas, Glass is less of a smash, and more of a shatter, as Shyamalan’s writing proves to be the biggest fault of the film. Clearly a culmination of a decent recycled Unbreakable trilogy-closer and a Split, Glass suffers as it never fools you into thinking otherwise. Plot-holes are rife. At first somewhat forgivable, but later on become more of a spit in the face. Glass admittedly does boast intriguing and even monumental themes for the genre, but Shyamalan seemingly just doesn’t focus on them enough to make them mean something.
The idea that a superhero may be simply suffering from a mental illness is quite interesting, but the resolution is incredibly underwhelming. And that goes for just about the whole film. What smattering of brilliance may be present in Glass is outdone by plot points so idiotic and ridiculous that the film struggles to retain its sensibility come the last act. At least one of them feels like it fits, while the rest feel like we missed a film’s worth of set-up.
Shyamalan’s dialogue has often come under critical fire, but little else is it more egregiously displayed than here (“Ya gotta take the D, man/You’d better salt-bae your ass!”) Lines of terrible dialogue are forced in so painfully that it becomes hard not to laugh. Given the intended seriousness of the story, such lines serve only as a disservice to the actors delivering them.
McAvoy remains superb as Crumb, flitting between characters waging turmoil in one man’s head so well, he becomes the highlight of the film (another tell-tale sign that Shyamalan chucked more thought into Split than the whole of Glass). At one point, hilarious, at another, pitiful, and another monstrously terrifying. Jackson serves up some of his trademark charisma to Price once more, though he too suffers from dialogue that nobody could make sound credible.
Willis, meanwhile, is a disappointment, never once giving the impression he’s fully there. In Unbreakable, David Dunn was a man struggling to come to the reality that he may have been superhuman, with Willis conveying this beautifully. Here, it’s hard to tell if he doesn’t care or was just bowing to Shyamalan’s directing.
Glass serves to be one of the biggest disappointments of the year. It is a failure of storytelling, clearly being a rushed job to capitalise on the popularity of a decent semi-sequel, of which nobody cared if it was or not, and missing anything close to genius that it may have displayed. Shyamalan, despite much applause previously, is not “back”. He has seemingly only managed to hybridise his lowest and highest points in a manner that, in itself, is quite spectacular.