Glass is M. Night Shyamalan bringing together two of his separate movie universes under one supposed trilogy, somehow making Unbreakable and Split legibly into one world.
As a jarring pin at the end of Split, it was somehow stupid enough to just work. As an entire film...Yeah. I actually dig it.
Apparently those sentiments are not shared across the board, but other than some flaws, Glass is a fun and interesting exploration of comic books and superheroes, all while building on the previous two films this is a sequel to.
Glass is not perfect. It’s mostly in Bruce Willis still not really being on the form he used to be in probably over more than a decade by now, and Samuel L Jackson - despite being the titular character for this one - is still quite underused. The true weakness, however, is in the final act. Which is where we truly see that Shyamalan needed to cut corners. A true bottle episode of a movie, we’re given a big tease of a showdown when in reality we get a handwave that’s certainly their way of edging around the budget they have.
The film is full of big ideas, but once they get outside the hospital most of the movie takes place in, you realise they can only go so far with it.
It finds its strengths through its characters. McAvoy is once again playing a strong platform for his acting abilities, and though he has to unfortunately share the limelight this time, a lot of character stuff works here. Glass is definitely the large leap between trying to bring Unbreakable and Split to the same level, while also teasing comic book worthy team-ups, but it’s the explorations of character and motivations that make the film.
Sarah Paulson rounds up the leads with a brilliant performance. It feels like she’s another actress who can rarely do wrong, and here, playing Dr Ellie Staple, you actually have a great foil to what Unbreakable and Split have led us to believe about our characters.
That’s the thing with Glass, it’s at its most interesting and engaging when it plays with expectations and meets expectations. We’re giving the counterpoints towards what we and other characters believe to be true with what we’ve seen, and we also get the meta-textual exploration of superheroes and comic books, made all the more fun when you have Samuel L Jackson recruit an avenging villain.
M. Night Shyamalan is a talented filmmaker with ideas that don’t always stick. For every Unbreakable we have almost every movie after Unbreakable, and Glass walks the tightrope across brilliance and disappointment. His craft and concepts here work well, though. It’s great to see Willis’ hero persona be seen with elements of horror. His work with Mike Gioulakis on cinematography duty gives us some great POV shots, and while the poster and trailer shot of the trio being interviewed by Paulson makes no sense visually, you buy into it because it’s just a great visual that pops and would otherwise make that sequence bland.
Praise can’t be given to his cameo, though. Oh Shyamalan.
Glass gives us a great Samuel L Jackson performance, so much so that we wish we had so much more. It’s sad to see the titular character be given not enough, especially when he’s pivotal to the story. This is supposed to be his film, but it doesn’t quite feel that way.
We’re given so many promises and we don’t quite get vindication. Red herrings are abound, but it sucks that it highlights even further how small scale the movie really is.
Glass would be much better if it went more one way or another. It’s tough having 19 years between Unbreakable and the explosion of comic book movies between it. Expectations are getting higher, when really this movie should want to stay more of the same. It wants to do the crossover of unexpected crossovers, but it also is at war with the scale of Unbreakable and the high-concept offered by Split.
Overall, Glass is strong, but not superhuman. It falters due to its scope and scale, but it has it where it’s characters are concerned. We are given great performances over great concepts and ideals. Your milage may vary on the smart enjoyment in comic book exploration and its mirror on the real world. It may also vary on how much Shyamalan you can take, because the final act does suffer from a bit of overload. What can be taken from this film is that it is fun, interesting, a bit too long, and reusing footage from Unbreakable is not a substitute for Bruce Willis’ acting.