I finished watching Glass and spent the entire walk home a bit confused. Did I like the movie? I’m still not sure. Fragments of the genius behind last years Split can certainly be gleamed but there is just so much mediocrity to muddle through between those moments that I can’t help but walk away disappointed.
Without spoiling anything; picking up soon after the events of Split, Glass follows David Dunn (Bruce Willis) embracing his gifts in the form of enacting vigilante justice with the help of his son (Spencer Treat Clark) in the trusty “dude in the chair” role. He crosses paths with Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy) in his Beast persona; they throw down and are rudely interrupted by Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple. The rest of the film takes place in a psychiatric facility where Elijah Price (the villain from the standout Unbreakable played by Samuel L. Jackson) has been kept for the past 20 years. The four then clash wits for the remainder of the run time to various degrees of success as Mr. Glass is born and his goals revealed.
The most apt comparison I can make to Shyamalan, and Glass specifically, at this point is this; have you ever stepped into your local pizza joint and found yourself enthralled by the guy in the back tossing and twirling the dough in the air? As he throws the pliable dough into the sky above him and catches it, still spinning, seemingly effortlessly you may find yourself thinking, “Wow, I wish I could do that!” Then the chef realizes you’re there, starts to get a bit full of himself and tries to get fancy with his tosses. The graceful throws now turned to showboaty pitches to try and satisfy his audience. Only he forgot that there was a fan above him. The dough clips one of the fan blades, sticks for a few rotations and finds itself splattered all over the chef and the room he occupied. Your attention no longer solely on the display of aerial pizza shenanigans but instead on your surroundings. Is that mold in the corner? And what are these pellets on the ground? Definitely mouse droppings… Gross! Yeah, you can still make a pizza but they have seen behind the curtain and they definitely won’t be buying a slice.
The man has great ideas, and by all means Glass was a fantastic concept. Which makes it all the more disheartening to see how poorly executed it was. Performances aside (they were all great, though Willis has been phoning it in for years so he gets a “meh”), the film is a pedantic slog through surface level comic book theory with middling action sequences that looked as if they were plucked out of a student film. In a time where Marvel churns out movies like butter and Aquaman can bring in a billion dollars without breaking a sweat you would think that audiences wouldn’t need to be taught what a showdown was. Had Shyamalan opted to tell a coherent story from start to finish and leaned into the idea of abuse and tragedy spawning abilities in a mundane world instead of filling his run time with meaningless exposition he could have had something great on his hands. But, after a standout sequence where the brilliant Sarah Paulson deconstructs our main trios delusions of grandeur piece by piece, he veers off and never course corrects.
The vignettes of the childhood horrors each character lived through were interesting storytelling choices that really added to the various characters arcs, not just in this film but across the entire trilogy. And the inclusion of “passenger” characters to compliment the three main “heroes” also helped to push home the differing motivations as well as the burdens each carries. Just two more aspects of the rad film hidden somewhere in the story that is Glass.
Thematically the film still manages to be poignant but within the context of the rest of the movie, a bit misplaced. Shyamalan relies heavily on his rug pulling in the final act and while some of the reveals are tantalizing, they do little to remedy the fact that I had to actively try and stay awake for the preceding hour and a half. The ending does leave the door wide open for sequels and is probably one of the most compelling aspects of the film as a whole. Unfortunately, Shymalan has already stated there are no plans on continuing this particular story so any good will that nets him has already been thrown away.
As I wrote this review I found myself disliking the film more and more and it isn’t because the film is awful, it isn’t. It’s just not great and it really should (and could) have been. At best Glass is a mediocre end to a fantastic trilogy and a cool experiment in long form storytelling in cinema that failed to pan out. At worst, it is a boring relic of a cinematic age where superheroes didn’t fly across screens every few months and being a nerd was still considered uncool. Shyamalan, you’re better than this.