After several years M. Night Shyamalan has brought us the long-awaited sequel to his underrated classic Unbreakable. But is the sequel, titled Glass, worth the wait?
Unbreakable is one of those films that grew on me over time but to this day remains one of the best entries in the superhero genre. Specifically, because it’s not just a film about a hero. It’s also a drama and at other times a chilling suspenseful mystery thriller. This was at a time when M. Night Shyamalan was overflowing with inspiration and it showed in his work. Now, most of us hope that his inspiration is back in overdrive with this weekend’s release of Glass.
Many fans–including myself– have been campaigning for a sequel for years. And then to everyone’s shock, it came in the form of Split in 2016. When the music from James Newton Howard’s haunting score “Visions” overcame the speakers, at least three people in my theater screamed, “Oh my god” because we knew what was coming.
There sat David Dunn at a diner preparing to go after his new adversary with several personalities. It’s one of the best endings for him as a director and one that got many of us Unbreakable fans super hyped.
So did all this build up to a third film that brings back David Dunn and Mr. Glass pay off? In some ways yes and in other ways absolutely not. As good as Glass becomes the final film seems to be a victim of Shyamalan wanting to do too much with very little.
It feels like Shyamalan sat on the sequel for so long that he couldn’t focus all his ideas into a satisfying format. As ambitious as it might be, it just doesn’t fly off the runway the way it should.
Glass tells the third story in Shyamalan’s grounded superhero saga about David Dunn– a normal man who has incredibly indestructible gifts and strength. At the start of this film, he is on the hunt for Kevin Wendell, the maniac killer who has an insane amount of personalities including a super strong persona known as “The Beast.”
As seen from the advertisements, his hunt for Kevin leads him down the unfortunate path of being institutionalized by a woman named Dr. Ellie Staple. But to make matters more complicated, he finds himself locked up with his old pal, Elijah Price.
One thing I’ve learned through the years as a viewer of Shyamalan is the best way to view one of his films is to purge all expectations before going. Most people–including myself– were probably expecting an epic conclusion that brought all these characters together in a monumental way.
Going into the film, I knew it was best to just expect him to do something completely different and for the most part, this helped my enjoyment of the film. After all, this is an M. Night Shyamalan film, not a Christopher Nolan or Joss Whedon film.
Glass is very much as small and intimate with its character exploration as Split. Most audiences might find this disappointing, especially since Unbreakable, for the most part, felt bigger than itself in its intimate character portrayals.
Even with reserved expectations, the story at times can be frustrating. Portions of the film feel like Shyamalan is begging for a grander scope but holds himself back for unexplainable reasons. It’s like he is ready to jump out the plane and fly but is scared to go any further.
This is felt a lot during the climactic finale. A huge grand plan is described by one of the villains and it sounds like an awesome setup for a conclusion but then the movie completely switches course to a much smaller outcome. It’s not that the choice was terrible but you almost wish you had the option to Bandersnatch the story to see what that outcome would’ve been like on-screen.
Glass also suffers from wanting to tie itself into comic books to a point of obnoxiousness. Unbreakable’s commentary on the comic book medium felt extremely organic and not clumsily inserted to explain narrative points. In Glass, it feels extremely forced at every turn with explaining away key plot points in the film.
Minor spoilers ahead: One of the film’s major twists is discovered because someone is discussing villains in a comic book store and the execution of the scene is silly at best. It’s one of the few scenes that ripped me completely out of the movie. Minor spoilers end.
At this point, you might think I completely hated this movie but I did not. Glass is a subpar film but it’s elevated by some fantastic performances from its three main leads.
More specifically James McAvoy chews every piece of this film from the inside-out with his complex and terrifying portrayal of Kevin Wendell. Every time he was on the screen I did not want it to end. This time McAvoy manages to make the character more sympathetic and tragic. There are strong parallels to Bruce Banner and Hulk inside this performance and it’s absolutely fantastic.
Others will also be relieved to see Bruce Willis not phoning in a performance this time but shockingly the script did not give him much to do. I would’ve loved to explore David Dunn more but Shyamalan had too much he wanted to say outside of the role of David. Sam Jackson also does a tremendous job returning to the role of Mr. Glass, he just gets bogged down by Shymalan’s use of comic book dialogue at different times, explaining away how each story shift aligns with comics.
In between all the mixture of ideas, Shyamalan wanted to accomplish with this film is a message about resilience and perseverance. It’s bogged down by a lot of other incomplete thoughts but when it works, it really resonates.
Throughout the film, the characters are struggling to believe in their power and they are having rational reasons to doubt their gifts. The frustrating thing about this film is M. Night does not give the concept enough room to breathe. I think if he removed a twist or two and boiled some of the unnecessary sections out this truly could’ve been an inspiring film unlike any other. It’s just too bad that as a writer Shyamalan sometimes gets in his own way.
Overall, Glass is a mixed bag of a sequel that could’ve been so much better. It’s certainly not the worst film he’s made as a director but it’s also not as good as Unbreakable or Split. It’s an admirable film that reaches for greatness but falls slightly short for trying to accomplish too much. That said, James McAvoy and company make the film worth seeing just for their outstanding performances alone.
What did you think of Glass? Were you disappointed by the film? Do you agree with this review? Tell us in the comments below!
Glass is in theaters now.