M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is a film that seems to feel like in its own sort of league from the many other superhero films that also come out over the years, and that’s one among a few things that I find to be most welcoming about it. Nearly twenty years after the release of Unbreakable came out and offered a refreshing perspective on the superhero genre, with its deconstruction of the general structure, Shyamalan’s many ideas continued flowing with the potential of reaching a greater stature. When Split came out in 2017, there was that reminder Shyamalan has yet to lose his touch – because of the bridge presented between the two films. So with bringing both films together in Glass, one would only be left wondering how much further can we bring these ideas to come together in order to create a different sort of superhero film by bridging the gaps between both films. For a while, I’ve been wondering about how exactly everything would be culminating in the end, and though I didn’t quite get the answers that I was hoping for, there’s still a lot to be admired about what how the threads come together in Glass.
Being the film that links the narrative threads that were left hanging in Unbreakable and Split, Glass is a film that leaves you wondering what’s to be expected once all of these forces have joined together on the spot. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has taken on the role of The Overseer, a security guard with incredible strength and stamina, and while on the job he also runs into Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde (James McAvoy), who can change his body chemistry with every personality he retains in his body – which ends up placing him in the captivity of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). While there, Dunn ends up meeting with an old enemy, Elijah Price or “Mr. Glass” (Samuel L. Jackson) who has other plans on his mind now that all three of their powers are in the same space. With so many loose threads coming together in this film, what Shyamalan wants to explore in Glass goes beyond the realms of superhero culture but also the stigmas placed upon them. In a sense this also could be M. Night Shyamalan’s most human film, but as an expansion of ideas he brought up in the previous two films, it’s not quite as effective as it should be.
Like Unbreakable and Split, Glass is also a film about trauma. As a culmination of where these traumas would bring these people to understand themselves more, where society continuously would shun them to that point where they would be made to act “normal” by their own terms, it feels as if Glass is where Shyamalan finds himself wanting to understand these people more by sticking so closely with them. But it also serves perfectly towards the deconstruction of comic book culture too, by feeding upon the inner obsession formed in order to allow oneself to connect with a sense of humanity in those who are still troubled by the nature of what they have yet to accomplish with their own gifts. In a sense it also serves itself perfectly as a film all about the stigmas faced by those who are mentally handicapped, which allows the film’s tragedies to resonate more deeply, for he frames them within a position of power – but also builds upon how society has come to fear said people for misunderstanding them too.
It’s impressive enough to me just knowing that M. Night Shyamalan could have accomplished a feature of this sort mostly confined towards one setting, but that’s also what I find to be what allows a sense of connection with his own characters to build up so perfectly too. M. Night Shyamalan promises here what also may be his most beautifully made film to date, in terms of pure craft, but also in terms of how he uses this space to weave together three threads that would at first seem like they come out from loose ends. But I also find that what’s most wonderful about what he manages to achieve from Glass is the feeling of being much larger in grandiose through how these ideas can come into one, but also towards how it explores his characters’ psychology. In that same sense, he builds upon how traumas that build from one small event can come to define how a person yet also what the suffering would have meant for themselves. But he’s also interested in how these characters would have changed over the nineteen years of waiting, then looking back upon the impact they’ve left behind – whether it be both positive or negative, for the past and present.
Yet for how heavy I know Shyamalan really would have wanted to go for with Glass, I’m not entirely sold in on how it all wraps itself up. It concludes on the note that maybe there are more of these people beyond what we’ve already come to know, suppressed and calling for help too, but its delivery feels almost like it wraps itself up too neatly. Which would be true for a character like Mr. Glass and how his intellect cannot be underestimated, but after Unbreakable I can’t help but feel as if we could have come a whole lot more closer to the complicated mindset that would have allowed Mr. Glass to thrive upon his own name as a supervillain, even coming forth from his bodily weakness. The film’s final act is fittingly chaotic, but finishes off in an almost indulgent manner – bringing out some of Shyamalan’s worst traits as a storyteller, particularly the infamous twist. The hints also seem sparse and while believable within the film’s grasp, M. Night Shyamalan seems to pull it out of the blue at a point where it seems so on-the-nose, and in a distracting manner at that too.
I do wonder how well would Glass fare upon repeat viewings because I know that this is what I’ve wanted so long from M. Night Shyamalan since Unbreakable. But at the same time, coming to terms with what exactly he brings here and how it all wraps up also leaves me feeling conflicted about how his delivery had worked. Despite this, it’s engaging in the best ways that one can expect from a Shyamalan film and also boasts fantastic performances from its leads (Sarah Paulson especially makes for a wonderful overarching villain), though it also may seem as if Shyamalan has found himself succumbing even to some of his worst indulgences as endearing as they may present themselves to be in here. Sometimes, that self-awareness can be rather grating, as par for the course for a film that deconstructs the familiar superhero narrative and how it has been embraced by many – but in its best moments, Glass exemplifies the best of Shyamalan’s own talent. Here’s hoping that more of these can come in the near future.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Universal Pictures.
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Screenplay by M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by M. Night Shyamalan, Jason Blum, Marc Bienstock, Ashwin Rajan
Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Anya Taylor-Joy, Sarah Paulson, Samuel L. Jackson
Release Date: January 18, 2019
Running Time: 129 minutes