Glass Review by Staci Layne Wilson
Love him or loathe him, you can’t deny that writer-director M. Night Shyamalan is an innovator. Back in 2000, he came out with Unbreakable and was one of the few filmmakers bold enough to present superheroes as dark, brooding, and introspective—just compare Superman (1978) to The Dark Knight (2008). Nineteen years ago, it was refreshing and new to see courageous comic book heroes living in the real world with jobs, families, and dealing with everyday issues while also banishing bad guys with their superpowers. With Unbreakable, he helped break the mold. After a long string of uneven films sprinkled with highs and lows, Shyamalan came out on top with fans again in 2016 with Split, a serial-killer thriller which artfully blended horror with humor.
Glass is the long-awaited Unbreakable sequel which brings back the core characters from that unique universe and merges them with the key players from his most recent hit. It indeed is an interesting idea. Or at least, it would seem so. Unfortunately, Glass is a cluttered, confusing concoction—and if you haven’t seen Unbreakable and Split, or if your memory is hazy, heaven help you, which is not to say that previous plot points aren’t explained. They are… over, and over again. There are also constant explanations of what’s happening right before your eyes: A character actually shouts, as a big fight is about to ignite, “This happens in comic books! They call it a showdown!”
It’s not just the characters who are back—the actors who played them also return. Bruce Willis is David Dunn, a middle-class Philly dad who was reborn as a superhero at the end of Unbreakable, thanks to carefully orchestrated maneuvers by budding supervillain Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price (Samuel L. Jackson). From Split, we have Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man horribly afflicted with a dissociative identity disorder. One of his identities is “the Beast,” a Hulk-like superhuman who has a taste for blood. The sole survivor of his evil attentions, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), comes back for round two, as does David’s grown son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), and Glass’s mother, played once again by Charlayne Woodard (she’s only five years older than Jackson, by the way).
A major new player is Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a doctor who specializes in treating individuals who think they’re superheroes. It is her mission to convince David and Kevin that they’re not superhuman, and are suffering from delusions of grandeur. She throws a heavily sedated Price into the mix, and soon this alchemy creates a (metaphoric) three-headed monster.
While all of the actors are fantastic, the acting is less so. Willis seems incredibly numb even more so than the medicated Mr. Glass, while McAvoy flicks back and forth between his many oddball occupants so often that it feels more like a parlor trick than a personality disorder. Taylor-Joy’s Casey cries continuously. On the other hand, Jackson slows flair and magnetism even when semi-comatose. Woodard and Clark fare well in their minor roles. And of course, many-time Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Paulson can deliver even the silliest of lines with nuanced gravitas.
If you know Shyamalan, you know there’s a twist. While I found the inevitable “a-ha!” moment satisfying enough, there’s no doubt it will polarize moviegoers. Whether or not Glass is sequel-worthy remains to be seen, but I can’t say it’s all bad. There are standout moments, and the cinematography and score help to create a moody, insular ambiance that’s undeniably compelling. But will I watch it again? Probably not.