Glass Review: M. Night’s Sequel to Unbreakable is worth the 19 Year Wait.
In my opinion, Unbreakable is M.Night Shyamalan’s best film, and Glass is the sequel that took 19 years to become a reality. I don’t want to go into too much detail about the plot of Glass because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone. So, without giving anything away, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) uses his supernatural skills to track down Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy). Upon their meeting, David and Kevin end up being captured and taken to a top-secret mental health facility. It is at the facility where they meet Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychiatrist that is determined to prove that David, Kevin, and Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass do not have any supernatural abilities.
Ok, confession time: I thought The Sixth Sense was only OK. I predicted the whole “he’s dead” twist about 10 minutes in and therefore didn’t love the film as much as everyone else. That said, I enjoyed Signs and The Village for what they were but my two favorite Shyamalan films are Unbreakable and Lady in the Water. Even though I know I am in the minority with my opinion of Sixth Sense vs. Lady in the Water, I do completely agree that The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth are terrible films. I certainly remember that after having those three massive flops on his hands, Shyamalan lost a lot of his credibility as a filmmaker. However, in 2015 audiences and critics gave Shyamalan a second chance with The Visit followed by Split in 2017. I loved James McAvoy’s performance in Split, but I didn’t care for the film as a whole. I saw The Visit rather late in its theatrical run and to be 100% honest, I didn’t care for it whatsoever. I thought the whole thing was poorly acted, dull, and amateurish.
So, in a nutshell, M.Night Shyamalan’s career is one that can best be described as a rollercoaster ride as it has had its fair share of ups and downs. However, it should be acknowledged that no matter the film, Shyamalan has proven to be quite the ambitious filmmaker and one that isn’t afraid of risks. And while those risks don’t always work in his favor, I do admire him for taking those chances. That said, Glass is one of Shyamalan’s better films. He uses this film to build upon something that he created 19 years ago, and you can tell that he wanted to make this film for a very long time. Glass is, without spoiling anything, a superhero origin story that looks and feels unlike anything that we’ve seen from Marvel Studios or the DCEU. Glass feels like an independent superhero film that pays homage to not only the superhero movies of today but to the original comic book creators that paved the way to what they have become today. In other words, Glass is a personal and heartfelt love letter that celebrates the magic and wonder of comic books.
There is a lot to say about Glass but its hard to talk about it without spoiling it so I will keep this as brief as possible. In the initial 30-45 minutes, M. Night reels the audience in. I found myself deeply engaged in this story and was so interested in seeing how he was going to connect all the stories and characters. The following 45 minutes is where I had a problem with the film because, after such a strong first act, the second act just felt too long and tedious. There was simply too much build up and explanation when there didn’t need to be as much. It almost felt like the middle of the film was used as a time filler and was added to stretch out the runtime. However, it is the final 40 minutes that the film becomes phenomenal. This is where everything comes together, and you get that famous Shyamalan twist that I don’t think anyone saw coming.
I do know that a lot of people have used the headline “critics are split on Glass” in their reaction posts, but I knew that was going to be the case as soon as I exited the theater. This isn’t a film that is going to work for everyone, and even though I really enjoyed it, I can completely understand why others don’t. It is a very jarring and divisive film that is bound to be loved by some and hated by others. I can see how many will dislike the self-aware nature of the film. There are several scenes where Mr. Glass breaks the fourth wall and explains things or how the characters fit into the story. This aspect of the film worked for me, but it won’t work for everyone. I also get how some people will say that the film doesn’t have a clear tone and that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. Again, I can see that, but I loved that the tone went from serious to dramatic to campy. I could tell that Glass was made from a place of passion and that M. Night made the film that he wanted within the budget that he was given.
Despite what the trailers and tv spots lead you to believe, James McAvoy is the real star of Glass. While Samuel L. Jackson and Bruce Willis do get share the screen with McAvoy, they are clearly in supporting roles. This again may upset some people since the movie is titled Glass so many would assume that the film is going to be all about Mr. Glass, but he isn’t even introduced until midway through the film. I would argue that the film should have been called Kevin or the 24th personality, but for whatever reason, the title of Glass was chosen.
James McAvoy is once again fantastic as Kevin as well as the 23 other personalities. To be completely fair it was McAvoy’s superb performance in Split, that despite my lukewarm reaction to the film, made it such a blast to watch. I loved how Shaylaman connected the character of Kevin to David and Elijah all while the audience got to see McAvoy transform once again into all these different personas. When the Beast is finally released, you know that shit is about to go down and to see that unfold is fascinating to watch.
Also, joining McAvoy from Split is Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey. While Casey’s role is a lot smaller here than it was in Split, she does serve a purpose and works well as one of the secondary supporting characters. The same can be said about Spencer Treat Clark who plays David’s son Joseph. Like Casey, he doesn’t have a huge role in the film, but there is enough story being told that leads us to believe that another film is coming down the pike and that these two characters will have a much larger role in that film.
I always enjoy seeing Samuel L. Jackson on the big screen, but rarely do I feel like Samuel L. Jackson disappears into a role. As Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass, I felt like I was watching Jackson act and play a character that wasn’t just an extension of himself. While Jackson doesn’t get nearly enough screen time especially when you consider that the film is supposed to be all about his character, I will say that he does shine the brightest amongst the cast. I feel like Jackson did such a great job of playing a multi-layered villain and would love to see him embrace more roles like this one in the near future.
Bruce Willis returning to the role of David Dunn is something that fans have been waiting a long time to see. As expected, Willis does a good job playing an older David Dunn but something about the lack of his screen time seemed strange. It almost felt like M.Night wasn’t able to get Willis to commit to the entire shoot, so he ended up shooting all his scenes in just a few days. There are certain points in the film where you can help but ask yourself, “where is David?” as he seems to vanish from the movie from time to time. I don’t know Willis’ actual screen time, but I would say that he is only in the film for about 20 to 25 minutes at most.
However, my big problem with the film wasn’t the slow middle or the lack of screen-time between Jackson or Willis but Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple. As someone who typically loves Paulson, it feels somewhat bizarre to say that her performance is the film’s weakest link. Paulson feels so out of place in this world that Shyamalan has created and what made things even worse is that too much of the plot is focused around her character. Unlike Kevin, David, and Mr. Glass, Dr. Ellie Staple feels like a poor man’s version of an evil Professor X. She isn’t very interesting to watch or listen to which could be another reason why the middle of the film feels so bloated. I can’t say that Paulson’s performance is bad but instead just not fitting to her as an actress. Paulson feels like a total miscast which is a shame because I liked the intention of the character but didn’t like the execution of it.
As someone who appreciates and values a mainstream filmmaker who isn’t afraid of thinking outside the box, Shyamalan continues to be an ambitious filmmaker who isn’t scared to of making films that will divide audiences. Glass lives up to the hype and was worth the 19-year wait. Is it flawless? Absolutely not, but I don’t believe Shyamalan has ever made a film that was. That said, Glass is one of the most original comic book movies in recent years. Shyamalan’s explores a lot interesting ideas on top of a strong beginning and a spectacular ending. While Glass may not work for everyone but there will certainly be plenty of people who love it.
Glass may end up leaving some disappointed, but many others will exit the theater wanting more. I see this film as the beginning of a whole new franchise with a ton of potential. With so many big budget superhero films released nowadays, it is nice to see a smaller scale superhero film that is more about characters rather than action. I am curious to see what Shyamalan has in store for us next and can’t wait to see what the future has in store of these characters as well as the superhero genre as a whole.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Glass is a 7 out of 10.