Main cast: James McAvoy (Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde), Bruce Willis (David Dunn/The Overseer), Samuel L Jackson (Elijah Price/Mr Glass), Sarah Paulson (Dr Ellie Staple), Anya Taylor-Joy (Casey Cooke), Spencer Treat Clark (Joseph Dunn), Charlayne Woodard (Mrs Price), Adam David Thompson (Daryl), and Luke Kirby (Pierce)
Director: M Night Shyamalan
M Night Shyamalan paid $20 million out of his own pockets to make Glass. Ouch. Still, given the low budget, this movie will make a tidy profit, although I hope they didn’t spend too much on marketing. This movie was hyped to be some kind of smart, solid dark superhero thing – well, they said that about Zack Snyder’s disastrously joyless films for the DCEU too, snort – and there was a lot of goodwill for this movie and the previously “cool to dump on” director, but alas, Mr Shyamalan flushes all that away with this meandering mess.
Oh, and it shouldn’t be a spoiler at this point that Split and Unbreakable take part in the same setting as part of Mr Shyamalan’s darker take on superhero movies. Glass is meant to be the penultimate movie that sees the main characters of both movies collide in a clash of the titans. Well, meant to, anyway.
Set shortly after the events in Split, we now discover that David Dunn is now running a store that sells security devices with his now much older kid Joseph, and David also moonlights as the vigilante hero call The Overseer. He didn’t give himself the name, by the way, he is called that by people online who dissect footage to speculate whether he’s real or not, and it’s a name that is a step up from The Tip Toe Man, that’s for sure. His son does the tech stuff that keeps him informed of directions and places, sort of like his personal GPS. He tracks down Kevin and his multiple head mates, now called the Horde by the press, and in the process manages to go even in battle with Kevin’s Hulk-like persona The Beast. These two are interrupted by the cops and Dr Ellie Staple, and end up incarcerated in Arkham Asylum, er, Raven Hill Memorial Hospital. That’s the same place where David’s archnemesis Elijah Price is currently held under heavy sedation.
Dr Ellie Stapler is a psychiatrist who claims to specialize in treating people with delusions that they are superheroes, and she intends to convince David and Kevin that they have brain injuries and past traumas that give rise to these delusions. Meanwhile, she’s just going to operate on Elijah’s brain to fix him. Alas, putting all three in one place is never a good idea, and sure enough, Elijah soon merrily manipulates Kevin for one more grand showdown with David. Fun!
Oh, this movie. Where do I even begin? How about the fact that it is tonally so different from the previous two movies that it may as well be a standalone flick? This one is less of a drama or thriller with supernatural overtones, and more of a bad American Horror Story take on edgelord superheroes. Hey, it even has Sarah Paulson doing a variation of her more typical roles in that TV series. Everyone here has a superhero nickname now, don’t forget that, and there isn’t much horror here as much as sharp edgy pretensions.
Then, there is the script, which is a typical Mr Shaymalan’s brain turd with more pretentious navel-gazing than intelligence. Ellie’s plan doesn’t make sense, even if she’s just trying to adopt a more humane approach in managing superheroes, and nobody sane would have allowed her to pull of the nonsense she does here without transferring her to a new job of collecting penguin droppings in Antarctica. The Arkham Asylum-wannabe is supposed to boast the state of the art technology to hold the three men captive, but oops, when it is convenient to do so, the top security army vanishes and woosh, doors, computer systems, and everything else break apart like wet toilet paper while it seems like only five staff members are on duty. There’s more nonsense here, mind you, but we’d all still be here by March if I go on, so let me just say that the script is too much of M Night Shyamalan’s typical more-gimmicky-than-substantial offering.
Also, much of the movie is spent rehashing details of the previous movie. While this is understandable, especially since Unbreakable came out almost twenty years ago, but there is just too much here to the point that the flashbacks and long expositions eat into the screen time. Dr Stapler is turned into an exposition monologue plot device to a degree that she comes off as a terrible, non-authoritative psychiatrist – it is hard to imagine how she can have one of Kevin’s personality and several others believing her wishy-washy mumbo-jumbo. Mr Shaymalan should have given Dr Sattler more scenes in which she is pressing her beliefs on her charges instead of having her rehash her charges’ background stories to their faces. As it is, this character is neither believable or threatening – she’s just an annoying character from American Horror Story slumming it in between seasons of that show.
On the bright side, the cast is solid, although Bruce Willis is wasted here as David is relegated to the sidelines most of the time because Mr Shyamalan understandably wants to shove a mostly shirtless and one-time bare-assed James McAvoy on the audience. Seriously, it’s hilarious how often Mr McAvoy has to take off his shirt to become the Beast before putting on a shirt to take it off again the next time Mr Beast is needed. Not that I don’t appreciate the scenery, mind you, but it’d be a better and happier choice, I feel, to have Kevin pull a Dr Manhattan and just go about completely naked. Anyway, Mr McAvoy is of course excellent as usual, even when Mr Shyamalan keeps pushing Kevin’s 9-year old boy persona Hedwig onto everyone in an obvious effort to make a cannibal serial-killer seem more sympathetic, while Samuel L Jackson effortlessly steals the show every time he is in a scene, again as usual.
On the other hand, I’m not sure why Anya Taylor-Joy, Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard are even here, as their scenes for the most part can be taken out without affecting the story.
Ultimately, though, the biggest failing of Glass is how it turns into outright garbage in its last half hour. All of a sudden, Mr Shyamalan loses his mind and expects me to view a cannibalistic serial killer and a psychopath that has engineered the deaths of so many people as some kind of woobie martyrs at the hand of the oppressive establishment. Is this movie supporting acts of terrorism? I hope not, but it sure feels like it, as these two characters are abruptly feted as some kind of defenders of the truth. This is movie that needs a more morally ambiguous ending, but Mr Shyamalan instead pulls an American Horror Story and assumes that certain actually death-worthy piece of crap characters are people to be lauded for, just because the movie creator loves these characters and assume that the audience will too, regardless of what these characters do or the high body count of innocent people they leave in their wake.
Glass is a messy movie, and M Night Shyamalan should feel bad for both serving up this thing and breaking the hearts of people who thought that he would treat them better.