Review – Glass (2019)

by Armando Vanegas

M. Night Shyamalan is known for doing two things: taking risks and disappointing people with said risks. But more often than not, his hits and his misses can be interesting to vastly varying degrees. Honestly, I don’t know if I would’ve been as interested to see his new movie Glass if I didn’t see such a mixed reaction on it just because of how strong the reaction varied from masterpiece to complete dumpster fire. I even remember seeing one of his previous movies,The Village, having more or less the same kind of reaction and watching that movie is quite a ride. While it’s not a masterpiece, it was still compelling despite knowing the reveal because at least Shyamalan took chances with the material. But Glass has the advantage of being a sort of sequel to Unbreakable, a movie I remember really enjoying. Hopefully, this will mean Bruce Willis is going to decide to give a shit this time around. I wasn’t the biggest fan of Split and it seems like this is going to be a significant part of this sort of Unbreakable sequel, but the trailer looked interesting and the mixed reviews had me intrigued so let’s see.

Glass begins with the return of character David Dunn, played by Willis, who has an interesting reintroduction as he opens the movie now living his life as a full fledged superhero named The Overseer. This was an interesting direction to go because this is basically giving us the movie we kinda wanted for a sequel. It even has some kinda silly moments at the beginning that feel like signature Shyamalan in that the worst people he comes across in the opening scene are people doing superman punches on people. Admittedly, it’s not good to do that to unsuspecting strangers, but he unnecessarily gives their scenes of repercussion this huge weight when it comes that add to the overall absurdity of the universe he’s created. If anything, it feels more like what you put in a montage of stuff to see how the Overseer’s cleaning up the city but fine. I love his whole setup with him and his son as acting as an Alfred to his Batman while they run a security center. Again, this seems like he’s finally just accepting the dorky dad qualities that always were a part of his screenwriting. Bruce Willis is sort of trying but not really. It seems like he took maybe only half a No-Doz pill this time and he has scenes where he’s kind of making an effort, but he’s not fully there. It’s still cool that he came back and his character was well established. The minimum level of effort he gives weirdly matches the rather muted performance he gave previously and you do begin to accept it more as the movie goes on. Spencer Treat Clark, who eerily looks exactly like the same as he did in Unbreakable but now in adult form, is solid as his son. A lot of David’s arc was enjoyable due to the fact that it felt like Unbreakable 2 and I was happy with that. It all has that weird dorky clumsy out of touch rhythm that gives the film an unintentionally surreal feeling despite its intention to be a more grounded superhero movie.

Having Kevin Wendell Crumb, James McAvoy’s character in Split, in this movie was initially less interesting to me because I found that movie kind of gross in some way and it also just didn’t really stick with me as a whole. While his performance was great in that movie, the stuff dealing with McAvoy’s mental health feel exploitative to me and it didn’t really seem to have much to say other than “Hey, you people want to see an mentally unstable man kill people?” and I don’t know if I’m okay with that. It was well made, but it felt like too much padding for time until the eventual third act twist. Here, Shyamalan at least tries to give McAvoy some more weight and depth to Kevin to make him a more compelling character other than just an excuse for Professor X to do a highlight reel of characters for a sketch show. A lot of it is still silly and possibly questionable, but James McAvoy is great. Also, he has more of a character this time around as it actually seems like Shyamalan tried to actually construct a character and succeeded. The rest can be said for the rest of the characters and this is somewhat of a miracle to me. Basically, when he finally pops up in the movie, it’s just the greatest hits of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s multiple personalities. However, he manages to sell the creepiness and intensity of what his character brings to the situation as he’s stuck in the insane asylum for most of the movie. Anya-Taylor Joy even make a return as Casey, the lone survivor from Split, who wants to confront him. Her character was strange to me because if I had gone through what this man put me through, I wouldn’t bother trying to get close to him. But how the movie fleshes out their relationship somehow made me retroactively appreciate Split more as far as how the two are dealing with the aftermath. The fact that these are two who were/are hurting and the fact that their past is what keeps them together is a really unexpectedly emotionally affecting and sympathetic aspect of the movie.

Finally, there’s the titular character of the movie, Mr. Glass, the eccentric wheelchair-bound antagonist, played by Samuel L. Jackson, who spends the majority of his screen time paralyzed in a chair. The movie’s called Glass and it does make sense in some ways as he’s the catalyst for a lot of the movie’s big events, but he’s kinda doing nothing until the last act of the movie. It does make it all worth it and I forgot how weird his character really was. I admire the level of commitment from both Jackson and Shyamalan’s writing and directing that he’s willing to make such a daring choice when he’s probably the biggest actor of the movie and the icing on the cake for why Unbreakable is so enjoyable. It’s like this movie is refusing to lean into making his character more of a presence even when even the movie is named after him. He’s not your typical superhero villain in that he has this Cable Guy-like mentality in that he lives his life like the fiction that he’s passionate about and as a whole, everyone in his one-sided inner circle has their lives changed for the worst as a result. Jackson is always good to great even in his worst projects, but it was refreshing to see him just play a weird guy that thinks he’s the typical Samuel L. Jackson character, but he’s more of an oddball side character in a typical Samuel L. Jackson movie who maybe just needs to get out more. This movie really takes its time until we actually get to see him do his thing and when he finally does, it’s pretty fun. His mother, played by Charlayne Woodard, also makes her return from Unbreakable (including some deleted scenes being inserted throughout the movie). While her makeup wasn’t the best, she did well with what she was given as it gave the movie some symmetry as all the characters had their own support system to lean on.

For most of the movie’s runtime, Kevin, David, and Mr. Glass are relegated to an insane asylum run by Sarah Paulson, a suspicious figure who is intent on making these characters believe that they’re not superheroes or supervillains. She’s enjoyable even though the movie probably depends too much on the ending for her true implications to be revealing, forcing her character to not be as fleshed out as it could be and feel like more of a device to get from one thing to the other than it could be. A lot of the stuff in the insane asylum is interesting if silly. But having Paulson there reminded me of American Horror Story: Asylum and it weirdly made me understand where the movie was going and I appreciated the weird tone and pacing the movie lays out for the audience even more. A lot of stuff is clearly there for table setting, but it’s entertaining place setting. Unfortunately, the clever little character study that it was for its first two acts decides to end with a bootleg Marvel fight at the end and all of Shyamalan’s worst instincts start to show up. Damn it, Shyamalan, you were close to an out and out great movie from beginning to end. Then, clovers show up and I’ll leave it at that. It gets really stupid, but it nevertheless continued to be compelling. I’m not happy with the ending I got, but it’s there, and there’s nothing I can do about it.

There’s a lot of genuine emotion being put into this, both in front of and behind the scenes. The idea to make a more grounded and realistic superhero movie is fertile ground for this relatively new genre that seems to have overtaken Hollywood and Shyamalan succeeds in giving it his shot. Yes, some of the writing can be very cheesy at times. It’s hard to avoid that altogether in any Shyamalan movie. Also, it probably takes longer than necessary to get to where it needs to. Still, Shyamalan remembered how to reward his audience by having the slow burn actually mean something. While the movie may not succeed getting to the finish line, this is a well crafted and well written character study that focuses on the nature of being a superhero that will stick with you in some way, no matter how you feel leaving the theater.

I am giving Glass a 3.5 out of 5 Hairpieces!

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