Nineteen years ago, M. Night Shyamalan crafted Unbreakable, which is now regarded as one of the best superhero films of all time. As time went by and audiences craved another classic from Shyamalan, he released Split to wide acclaim, and it was seen as a return to form. Acting as a pseudo-sequel to Unbreakable, fans were drooling at the thought of the “Eastrail 177” trilogy being concluded with the upcoming Glass. Unfortunately, this finale falls flat multiple times throughout its runtime, yet it provides enough entertainment to last the 129 minutes.
For the past decade, superhero films have erupted onto the scene, and truly shifted the culture of cinema. That’s not to say the superhero genre has only been around for the past ten years, but there is a clear line between pre and post-Marvel Cinematic Universe. And these MCU films, while extremely enjoyable, tend to be very formulaic. Shyamalan is well aware of this fact, and Glass seemed as if it was going to subvert expectations at every corner imaginable. Most of Shyamalan’s early work was exceptionally known for taking specific genres and flipping them in an unseen way. It’s the gift of an incredible storyteller, and unfortunately, Glass feels as if it falls into these clichés time and time again.
The film is tonally inconsistent. There is no problem with humorous moments. However, too often does it feel like a joke is made that removes the gravity of events transpiring. With regards to the humor that does work, it tends to fall into the meta-humor aspect of the film. While Glass does not do much to set itself apart from a standard comic book film, Shyamalan does make a few poignant remarks about comic book culture in general. It also very clearly comes from a love of said culture, so it does not come off as arrogant at any point.
Glass is a film that primarily grounds itself in the mindset of Elijah Glass, who is brilliantly portrayed once again by Samuel L. Jackson. It is also extremely evident that Shyamalan has a love for these characters. He continued to write the main trio in such a way that felt organic to where we last saw them in previous films. Bruce Willis reprising David Dunn once again was such a fantastic feeling to experience all these years later. Unfortunately, it felt as if he got the short end of the stick regarding character development. And yes, while Unbreakable was his moment to shine, it appears as if some story elements regarding his life since Unbreakable got cut. These moments would have allowed the film to feel more cohesive as Glass is a finale at the end of the day.
James McAvoy gives another impressive performance as Kevin Wendell Crumb and his various personalities. Each personality is played with such nuance, and whenever he transitions mid-sentence, it is mesmerizing to observe. Newcomer Sarah Paulson portrays a psychiatrist in such a way that confuses the viewer with regards to the film itself, and without spoilers, is a brilliant technique that her and Shyamalan handle very well. Anya Taylor-Joy also returns from Split, although the reasoning does not make much sense and she feels like a character that does not fully belong. Nevertheless, she fits into the role nicely and plays off of McAvoy very well.
Another unfortunate aspect of Glass was that it felt rushed. The film seemed to churn through significant moments fairly quickly, and never allows the viewer to process before the next plot point occurs. It would have greatly benefitted from an extended runtime, even if it was 20 minutes or so. If it was not meant to be formulaic, it is entirely plausible that Shyamalan could have crafted a plot that felt more pure to the two previous films. As previously stated, there are moments that could be expanded upon to allow audiences to resonate even further. There also seems to be too many illogical choices and plot conveniences to name, and for such a grounded set of films, that feels inexcusable.
Nevertheless, Shyamalan deserves credit for this film. What he did at the end of Split was an unprecedented move, and to continue down that path to create Glass should be applauded. Rather than create an action-packed blockbuster, he stuck to his roots and ended his character driven trilogy that was 20 years in the making on his own terms. The “Eastrail 177” trilogy is a trilogy rooted in realism, duality, grief, and identity. For the most part, Glass shines a light on these themes, yet it’s upsetting that they felt mishandled in comparison to its predecessors. Overall, Glass feels like the Shyamalan that viewers have come to expect in recent years. Full of personal cameos, plot twists, and more, it is a film that is enjoyable at the very least. But to quote Jackson in the movie, it had the potential to be so much more.
What is your favorite film of the “Eastrail 177” trilogy, and why? Let us know in the comments below!
Glass hits theaters January 18.