Review: Does Glass shatter or can M. Night Shyamalan keep a grip on his trilogy?

Give M. Night Shymalan credit for seeing the future of blockbusters was comic book films. In a modern cinematic landscape where Blade showed the viability of the genre, Shyamalan entered the game with Unbreakable, a film that’s looked on more fondly in hindsight than it was in 2000. I think eventually the same will be true with Glass, the finale of the Unbreakable saga that shockingly continued with the out of nowhere 2017 crowd-pleasing Split.

On first viewing, Glass comes off as an unsatisfying conclusion to the saga. That’s due to coming in with expectations of how this final act should proceed. As usual, Shymalan has his own ideas. Though the series has its roots firmly placed in comic books, Glass is not the comic book film you’re probably looking for.

The trailers contribute to these early expectations as it teases a massive throw down with the headliners from the first two films with Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass in the middle.

Initially, Shyamalan happily indulges viewers lured in by the prospect of a more traditional comic book film. Bruce Willis’ Unbreakable David Dunn tries to track down Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy, Split), the man with 24 distinct personalities. David is most interested in stopping Kevin’s most bizarre personality, the super powerful serial killer The Beast.

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With his son, Joseph’s (Spencer Treat Clark) help, David is closing in on The Beast. But just as he’s about to stop him for good, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson, Ocean’s 8), arrives and takes them both into custody at a mental institute. David is surprised to also find Mr. Glass also receiving treatment. Staple has a calm yet stern manner and wants to help the trio overcome the delusion that they’re special.

This is the core question Shyamalan has asked since Unbreakable: in a real world can anyone be special let alone super? Glass is more of a psychological thriller, which is made even more unnerving by the fact that Mr. Glass doesn’t say a word for the first half of the film.

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On that front, Glass is every bit as intense and riveting as its predecessors. McAvoy once again steals the film. We’ve seen Jackson and Willis play variations of their characters before, but McAvoy’s performance is so magical it’s hard to turn away. McAvoy’s ability to snap from one personality to the next is incredible. Glass isn’t the kind of film that would get award nominations, but McAvoy already turns in one of 2019’s best.

Anya Taylor-Joy returns as Casey, the girl who survived her encounter with The Beast and formed a bond with Kevin. Casey definitely feels like the Betty Ross to The Beast’s Hulk.

Poor Charlayne Woodard has to wear some of the worst makeup to artificially age her that I’ve seen in years. Shyamalan did right by bringing back the old cast members, but he needed to find a better way to make Woodard look older. It’s probably a necessary evil since Woodard is five years younger than Jackson, who’s playing her son.

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There’s times when Shyamalan gets a little too comic meta with characters actually talking about special editions, origin stories and comic cons. That dialogue would have been fine back in 2000, but in a post-Marvel Studios world it comes off as embarrassingly out of touch.

Direction-wise, Shyamalan easily maintains the creepy, uncomfortable tone throughout with smart perspectives and clever camera angles.

For better or worse, Shyamalan’s career has been based on the twist and the payoff. Glass’ twist isn’t that crazy or the bombshell we’ve seen in some of his other films.

But the problem is the ending is way too flat and anti-climactic given the 129 minute investment. Much longer still if you consider the time spent on the previous two films.

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Maybe the biggest issue is the ending doesn’t have to feel like such a letdown. If any film Shyamalan made that begged for a post-Credit scene it’s Glass. And it didn’t even have to be that long. Just a tease to suggest the story is far from over.

Shyamalan failed to stick the landing, which leaves the Unbreakable/Split/Glass trilogy on a lackluster note, but not enough to derail the entire saga. And maybe over time we’ll appreciate what he attempted upon further reflection.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Photo Credit: Jessica Kourkounis/Universal Pictures

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