Shyamalan has always been his own worst enemy, with a career arc downturn that had the feeling he has always been smarter than his audience. His last two films are at his most humble, letting the twists come naturally. This “accidental” trilogy is engaging, suspenseful, and the payoff is low-key, rather than showy.
For me, M. Night Shyamalan used to be opening day appointment viewing, where you could hand over your hard-earned money and be immersed in a world he created that was as distinctive as only he can could make it. The Sixth Sense was a trendsetter that changed popular big-budget movie culture for decades, with everyone taking their hand at the last-second twist, forgetting it was the well-drawn script that was responsible for the unveiling. What made Unbreakable so special was you were watching a comic book movie without knowing it (he must have tied the studio heads to their chairs to keep from marketing that for the film, but this was pre-Marvel studio days) which was before Christopher Nolan took his grounded superhero approach with his Batman trilogy. Then there was Signs, his third critical and ultra-commercial success in a row, that set a new standard in storytelling, not for thrill’s sake, which it surely had, but for writing a story with deeper hidden themes about love and faith.
Split was a straight horror film, until it wasn’t, that gave his fan base (and the ones that have given up) hope that he found that movie magic that made him a top-tier director of twisty thrills, and that mysteriously left him in the last 5 minutes of The Village and was confirmed with the crashing of the Will Smith vehicle After Earth. So, how fair have the expectations really been over his work? Glass has had massive expectations since the end credit scenes of Split and the comic con panel of Glass last summer. Only shattering those expectations would satisfy everyone after his first two films, but I have a feeling of rekindling the M. Night magic will satisfy fans more than his critics
The film starts with the Beast (James McAvoy) at it again, kidnapping four cheerleaders because of their impureness. The Overseer (Bruce Willis – bad nickname) begins to find the missing girls, with the help of his son (Spencer Treat Clark, reprising his role), which leads to Dr. Ellie Stapler (Sarah Paulson) bringing the band back together so to speak, along with Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), as she begins to help them deal with their delusions of grandeur. She believes there are times in their life that have left them broken, and they are making up their comic book superhero personas to deal with the pain.
Glass’s ending is being called divisive by many, and it may be for some, but strictly by being a victim of its own high expectations and a renewed faith in Shyamalan’s work. Like his previous works, his film is like taking a road trip with no map and seeing where the wind takes you. The turns you may take are indicative of what you encounter on the end of your journey, for better or worse. That’s what happens with Glass; it takes a turn at its final showdown that may leave some feeling left without a payoff but is rewarding for fans of the series (a trilogy that seems by accident, almost). If anything, the trilogy could have benefited from a previous Unbreakable film to flesh out the Shyamalan comic book universe, since there has been so much time since the first, and you feel they have only scratched the surface of the film’s characters, which you only examine skin deep with a few childhood flashbacks.
Check out Dan Hart’s YouTube Review of GLASS.
The film’s script is well-paced, and suspenseful, while the direction is visually engaging and pulls in the viewer. The musical score by West Dylan Thordson (Foxcatcher) is, actually, quite wonderful, enhancing key moments in the film, and giving the story a weighted depth. McAvoy, who was so good in Split, takes that Crumb character’s final jaw-dropping scene and expands in at almost film’s length here. The character (or family of characters) of Kevin Wendell Crumb is the main source of comic relief while being the most interesting character, who drives the film.
Shyamalan has always been his worst enemy, with a career arc downturn that had the feeling that he has always been smarter than his audience. His last two films are at his most humbled, letting the twists come naturally. This “accidental” trilogy is engaging, suspenseful, and the payoff is low-key, rather than showy. If you think about it, only two endings could happen; one would satisfy critics, the other would satisfy comic book fandoms. At the very least you must give the director credit for doing something different from the Marvel or DC’s of the world, and creating a distinct tone, entertaining, if not as fresh as expected.
M.N. Miller has been a film and television writer for Ready Steady Cut since August of 2018 and is patiently waiting for the next Pearl Jam album to come out.