Dan's Review: No Surprises in M. Night Shyamalan's Half-Empty "Glass"
Jan 18, 2019 11:23AM
By Dan Metcalf
James McAvoy in Glass - © 2019 Universal.
Rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language.
Starring James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard, Adam David Thompson, Luke Kirby.
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.
Sometimes, that shiny new thing you thought was really awesome loses its shimmer slowly. That’s the basic feeling I have about M. Night Shyamalan, who broke into the movie business with The Sixth Sense in 1999, a film that garnered Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Film Editing Oscar nominations. Shyamalan was the new thing, the rising star on the cusp of greatness. His next films were mild critical and decent commercial successes (Unbreakable, Signs, The Village), but a pattern became apparent. All of his movies tended to rely heavily on the gimmick of a “twist” the audience didn’t see coming; a character who doesn’t know he’s dead, foreshadowing messages from dead people, a hidden community. After the tepid response to The Village, M. Night went into a tailspin with Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth – all deplorable films that proved Shyamalan’s only apparent talent was his clichéd gimmick. I suppose it’s also problematic to keep throwing “twists” on audiences who know it’s coming. When Shyamalan released Split in 2016, I was mildly entertained by what seemed like a better-than-average horror flick – until the “twist,” at the end credits, which revealed that Split was indeed a 19-year old sequel to Unbreakable. Without going into too much detail, Unbreakable’s premise is that comic books are the underground historical script for real superheroes and supervillains, which leads us back to Split, that showcased Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), a zookeeper with multiple personalities was the host for a “beast” possessing superhuman powers, feeding on innocent victims.
Glass picks up with David Dunn (Bruce Willis) patrolling the streets of Philadelphia in a search for “The Beast,” who has kidnapped a gaggle of high school cheerleaders, chaining them up in an abandoned warehouse. Dunn, (A.K.A. “The Overseer”) has the power to see the evil deeds of people when he touches them. He’s also indestructible (the main idea of Unbreakable). Dunn finds the girls and battles with the beast, but both men are captured and placed in a mental institution run by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who studies people who share the delusional belief that they have superpowers. One of Staple’s other patients is Elijah Price. A.K.A. “Mr. Glass” a supervillain who suffers weak bones but also possesses a master criminal mind. The three patients are eventually thrown together in a breakout, with dire consequences for all. Little do they know that they are being hunted by a secret society that is determined to wipe all “supers” out.
Spoiler alert: that’s the “twist” (apologies), but I did not reveal who’s behind the secret society, so try to act surprised when the “twist” you knew was coming is revealed.
So, Glass proves that despite Shyamalan’s talent for spinning an intriguing yarn, the payoff is disappointing, to say the least. It doesn’t help that he’s trying to “shock” us by reiterating the premise behind Unbreakable. Yeah, we get it. Comic books are real. Okay, then. Crammed together with this worst-kept secret is a movie full of unfathomable plot devices, shaky science and improbable outcomes, coupled with another great performance from McAvoy, who plays 23 distinct characters with creepy and sometimes sympathetic flair (but yeah, the beast basically kidnaps hot teen girls and eats innocent people, in case you forgot).
Another non-surprising “revelation” about this whole experience is that it appears M. Night Shyamalan is creating his own cinematic universe, based on comic books. I’m not ready for an M. Night Shyamalan cinematic universe (MNSCU?) since we’re all fairly content with the few we already have (DC’s hit-or-miss success notwithstanding).
Marvel’s got this, M. I’m not interested.