Movie Review – Glass (2019)
Editor’s note: The views and opinions expressed in this review are solely those of Marlon Wallace and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of WBOC.
Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan created a dark, gritty, realistic, super-hero or comic-book film with Unbreakable (2000). It perhaps set the precedent for Christopher Nolan’s Batman films and the like. Shyamalan originally conceived the film as the first part of a trilogy but because the film didn’t do as well as expected in the box office, the trilogy was put on hold. Shyamalan’s career took a dive over the following decade and a half, but after a bit of a comeback, he decided to revisit this material.
Using discarded material from his 2000 film, he crafted Split (2017), a horror flick that was secretly a sequel to Unbreakable. Nobody knew that his 2017 film was a sequel. It was a surprise, a Shyamalan twist as it were, that people were shocked and/or confused by. For some critics, that’s what made the movie ultimately congeal because of that twist. However, one of the most praised things about that 2017 flick is the central performance from James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class and Atonement) who plays Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with 23 personalities. Watching McAvoy plays all those 23 personalities was very fun and also very scary.
Unbreakable was a film that focused on Bruce Willis (The Sixth Sense and Pulp Fiction) who played David Dunn, a man who realizes he has super-strength and is virtually invincible. He also has a psychic ability to determine who is a criminal or bad guy and who isn’t. The movie was about his life and discovering who he is and what his purpose would be.
Split was similarly about Kevin’s life and discovering who he is, as well as his purpose. This film though isn’t really about discovering who a character is or going on an emotional journey that ends with a grand realization about who someone is. All this movie does is rehash stuff we’ve seen in both Split and Unbreakable.
Sarah Paulson (Carol and Ocean’s Eight) co-stars as Ellie Staple, a psychologist and head of a mental hospital. Ellie’s focus is to treat people suffering from the delusion of believing they’re super-heroes. Her job is try to convince them that they’re not super-heroes. However, Shyamalan never really delves into her as a character as he did David or Kevin. She exists merely to argue against the existence of super-heroes, which is ridiculous given that the opening 20 minutes of this film is about showing off the super-powers of both David and Kevin.
Maybe, if this film began in the mental hospital, and we never saw David and Kevin using their powers, then we could buy the argument she makes. Unfortunately, the opening 20 minutes show David and Kevin using their powers. It’s not unfortunate because the ending to Split was a tease about us seeing these two individuals confront and fight each other, so Shyamalan had to satisfy that tease. Satisfying that tease though undermines what he does for the rest of the movie, which is try to convince us that what we just saw wasn’t what we just saw.
The question is why is Shyamalan trying to convince us of that. Why is he even trying to make that argument? Ellie isn’t like Dana Scully from The X-Files who is this highly scientific and highly skeptical person of the supernatural. She could have been a Dana Scully-type, but her role falls apart in the way she treats David.
First of all, David’s behavior in this film is curious, if not head-scratching. For some reason, Shyamalan chooses not to use David to his full potential. Given the ending, it makes sense for David to be muted and weakened, but it makes the action scenes between David and Kevin feel somewhat lame or not as epic as they could have and should have been. The way the fights are choreographed and filmed are awkward as well with the camera looking directly into the face of David or Kevin and barely giving us a wide-shot of them fighting.
Samuel L. Jackson also co-starts as Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass, a man confined to a wheelchair because his bones are easily broken, so it’s made walking nearly impossible. Elijah is the villain from Unbreakable who was the one who discovered that David was a super-hero. Elijah is obsessed with comic books and seeks to prove that super-heroes are real. His stated plan to do so is clever, but in a Shyamalan twist, Elijah actually has a secret plan. Sadly, the secret plan is more lame than the stated plan. A plot-hole is also that the secret plan could be more disproven or dismissed than his stated plan, so it’s not a twist that ends up being better.
A better twist would be if Elijah teamed up with David to fight Kevin. Predictably, Elijah teams up with Kevin because they understand each other’s pain. An undercurrent of Shyamalan’s films in this series is the theme of pain that his characters endure, often pain endured as children that they carry into adulthood. When Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan and The Witch) who plays Casey Cooke, the victim from Split who manages to defeat Kevin, returns to try to help Kevin, their moments of catharsis and empathy are the most resonant things.
McAvoy’s performance in general is the best thing about this film as it was about the previous movie. Unfortunately, we get less of it this time around, but still enough. However, Shyamalan gives us less of David than I thought we’d get. If Elijah and David had teamed up, that would have solved that issue. Given that Willis and Jackson have worked together several times before in films like Die Hard With a Vengeance or Pulp Fiction, maybe Shyamalan didn’t feel the need to pair them as much again. Strangely though, in a film titled “Glass,” Shyamalan gives us less of that character than I thought as well. It makes the whole thing more disappointing than anything else.
Rated PG-13 for violence, including bloody images and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 9 mins.