Well, Glass shattered my expectations. After 2016’s sleeper hit Split turned out to be a stealth sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable, all eyes were on M.Night Shyamalan to see if he could knock the third instalment in his “Eastrail 177” trilogy out of the park.
Personally I think he could not. Truthfully I am not a fan of Unbreakable either. I found it to be pretentious and boring. Split I found to be fairly interesting but beyond James McAvoy’s standout performance I found it thoroughly overhyped and undeserving of excessive praise.
You may ask then how I was excited for Glass being that it is the culmination of two films I responded lukewarmly to? well, the trailers for Glass promised a tense and fresh deconstruction of the superhero genre. The film was not that.
The performances overall were quite good. McAvoy’s Horde is one of the highlights of this film, and to see him switch between personalities as quick as he does is brilliant and attests to his prowess as an actor. Samuel L. Jackson is incomparable as always, with the cold and devious Mr Glass being one of my favourite elements of this film. The way his performance highlights the extent to which a damaged child can become so delusional and disillusioned with a world that hates him is genius and likely a highlight of both Shyamalan and Jackson’s careers. Bruce Willis as quasi-superhero and poncho enthusiast is fine. He seems to have less contempt for this role than he does his others, and he is actually using some acting ability as opposed to his usual technique of showing up, reading his lines in a flat monotone and leaving to go home and gripe like a disgruntled grandad. This is probably because he only had to do two of these films in 20ish years as opposed to an infinite amount of Die Hard sequels.
The secondary characters are also quite compelling to watch. Anya Taylor Joy’s Casey is probably one of the most complex. Despite the events of Split, she still tries to help and rescue Kevin after all he did to her. Spencer Treat Clark returning as Joseph Dunn was also a nice surprise, as I find his character to be both relatable and also a good counter to the stoic silence of Willis’ Dunn. Charlayne Woodard as the mother of Mr Glass was also great, as her character is caught between loving her son and accepting the extent of his villainy.
The fight scenes were fairly lacklustre on account of the watered down powers of this universe. They consist mostly of a straining McAvoy wrestling a tired Willis while both make a series or grunts and noises. My biggest issue with this film is that Shyamalan cannot deconstruct a genre which he does not truly understand. Throughout the entire film there are conversations between characters talking about how “this is a limited series” and other references to comic book vernacular which Shyamalan seems to only understand on a surface level. This brings me to my next biggest issue with the film which is the power sets. The three main characters in the film are said to have superpowers. For Mr Glass this is his incomparable mental acuity and intellect, for The Horde it is the ability to transform into “The Beast” and for David Dunn it is his unbreakable status and super strength. These powers sound interesting on paper, but when applied to the film and this universe they are not so far out of the realm of possibility. For all of Dunn’s strength, it takes him several kicks to knock down one steel door. The Beast’s powers of also being a bit stronger than a regular man and being somewhat bulletproof are not so far out of the realm of possibility. Perhaps that is the point of this universe, to show that people can be heroes without being so extraordinary, but I don’t think that is the message that Shyamalan is intending to pass on. This perceived lack of power is what undermines the film’s climax.
The climax of the film sees Dunn and the Beast doing battle on the grounds of the hospital they were incarcerated in while surrounded by SWAT and police teams. The SWAT teams and even some of the hospital staff are revealed to be part of an organisation dedicated to prevent the existence of superhuman people from becoming public knowledge so as not to nullify humanity and its achievements by being naturally better. While Dunn and the Beast are both weakened after their fight both are promptly murdered by this organisation to prevent their existence becoming known. Mr Glass, who had died earlier, had streamed this footage and sent it out to the secondary recurring characters from the prior films. The film then ends with these characters, namely Dunn’s son Joseph, Casey from Split and Mr Glass’s mother sitting in public as the world watches the footage and becomes aware of superhumans.
The biggest issue with this film is that the incredible feats of strength displayed in the footage are not so incredible. A car is slowly flipped in the footage, and Dunn and The Beast are seen fighting each other. These things aren’t spectacular. Scared mothers have been known to lift cars in moments of panic and adrenaline to save their children, so to see a man do it in unverified footage is not impressive. Dunn bends a steel bar in the footage, but it takes him some effort and time to do it, again something bodybuilders have been known to do. The point of these films is to show a grounded superhero universe, but the things that qualify as powers and their extent is nothing extraordinary and ruins an otherwise intriguing and enjoyable film. I can’t help but feel that if these powers were scaled up more to be actually extraordinary and out of a comic book it would greatly improve the rest of the film and provide some honestly excellent character drama.
VERDICT: Overall, I enjoyed moments of Glass and I wish that Shyamalan hadn’t set up elements of the universe in this, the final film in said universe. I would give Glass a 6/10 for good characters, a lacklustre ending and wasted potential.
Also Dunn’s poncho is stupid and he shouldn’t be so weak around water!