GLASS Review: 8 out of 10 (A Strong Supernatural Series)
GLASS is the latest superhero thriller written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. The film is a sequel to Shyamalan's previous films Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016), cumulatively forming the Eastrail 177 Trilogy. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard reprise their Unbreakable roles, while James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy return as their Split characters in this third chapter to a film series spanning nineteen years. Shyamalan has had his share of hits and misses—with far more of the latter as his career has progressed. Some might even say it has been a career regression—and they wouldn’t be wrong—at least in this writer’s opinion. SPLIT seemed to be a return for MNS, a well paced thriller with a fantastic performance by McAvoy at the center. Some of its supernatural ideas that were far fetched were then immediately retconned by the final credit scene showing Willis as David Dunn in a café—remarking on both the work of “The Beast” and one notorious “Mr. Glass.” As SPLIT was then recognized as part of a larger universe where superheroes resided, the film immediately fixed many of its own narrative flaws. Soon after, MNS announced the coming together of all these films in this latest chapter—GLASS—with the namesake of Samuel L. Jackson’s character Elijah Price from UNBREAKABLE.
GLASS certainly feels much more like an UNBREAKABLE sequel, with the elements of SPLIT working to sort of carry some of the subplots and story. I would strongly recommend a revisit to the previous films prior to watching this final chapter as this latest film has more than a few callbacks and references to smaller subplot elements. The film is largely focused on the relationship between Dunn and Price—with Crumb and his 24 personalities working more as an extension of both of their stories. And McAvoy continues to impress as he moves seamlessly through “the Horde” of characters inside of him. Shyamalan clearly has a great love for these characters and their backstories, and that clearly comes through in the movie. In watching the film, it is difficult to attempt to narrow down GLASS or the greater series down by genre. Though the movie does carry a sort of superhero film moniker—I liken this much closer to a science fiction thriller than a superhero film—much like UNBREAKABLE is closer to a character drama, and SPLIT working as a horror/thriller. Those with expectations of a Marvel or DC film don’t really understand what the director is trying to do—or even what these films are about.
I am admittedly a fan of the initial film—going so far as to call it a “master class” in tone, color, style, and camera work. And though this latest chapter is not as strong as the original, it still is a solid chapter to the overall series. And although I am still not certain what I think of where this film ultimately lands, I give the movie kudos for its originality. Shyamalan’s schtick has been to surprise and shock the audience with unexpected turns, and he certainly is true to form. Having said that, I appreciated that those ideas didn’t feel cheap or hackneyed. Where the film loses its way is in its second act where with Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple comes in for a longer sequence of analyzing the psychoses of these men who think themselves to be extraordinary. The movie does a bit too much navel-gazing here and it nearly takes the film off its rails completely. But a solid third act and closing brings the film back around. The movie also isn’t without some pretty silly contrivances—including some pretty obvious foils for each character’s strengths and inevitable weaknesses.
Not everyone will enjoy the direction that MNS takes these characters, but I appreciated the boldness of the movie and Shyamalan’s respect and love for these characters. GLASS is a great chapter to an overall solid supernatural science fiction trilogy.