Glass is the long awaited conclusion to the trilogy which began with
Unbreakable (2000) and continued with Split (2018). It examines the nature of
the superheroes and super villains in a rather academic and self-referential
The film seems to suggest that heroes and villains are just flip sides of one
another or opposite sides of the same personality. But this theme has been dealt
with much better by comic writers like Grant Morrison and novelists like Robert
Glass has a talented director and fine cast, but the movie is much less
impressive than the sum of its parts. The film has some good supporting
performances by Sarah Paulson (from American Horror Story) as a scientist
studying superhero obsession and Anya-Josephine Taylor-Joy (who was magnificent
in Thoroughbreds) as the “good girl’’ who escaped the killer, but the leads in
the film were not always as convincing.
The story clumsily combines ideas from The Incredible Hulk, Silence of the Lambs
and Fight Club. The film also combines elements of horror, mystery and action in
a plot which is very dependent on following and occasionally violating superhero
The film was directed by M. Night Shyamalan (his full name is Manoj Nelliyattu
Shymamalan) whose scripts were very influenced by the works of Steven Speilberg
and the Twilight Zone era writing of Rod Serling.
He was one of the most promising directors to emerge in the late 90s/early 2000s
and his first two films The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable were superb, but despite
a few bright spots like last year’s Split and Devil (2010) (which he scripted
for another director), he has completely failed to fulfill his early potential.
Shyamalan is also remembered for his part in an embarrassing hoax. In a
documentary called The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan about his life, he
said that he had drowned, died and came back. It later turned out that it was
all a publicity stunt.
At one point in Glass, a character in the film discusses comic/adventure story
tropes making the point that many of these stories include a brain, a reluctant
hero and an anarchist (which I think corresponds to Obi Wan Kinobi, Luke
Skywalker and Han Solo in Star Wars.)
The film features Samuel Jackson as Elijah Price, a.k.a. Mr. Glass, filling the
brainiac role. He has brittle bones and he can’t walk, but his ideas set the
whole main plot in motion. This mastermind with a tragic past engineers a risky
escape from mental institution (the guards there are unusually stupid) along
with his brutal ally, the beast (no relation to Hank McCoy.)
Jackson was marvelous in Pulp Fiction, Do the Right Thing and The Caveman’s
Valentine, but here he basically seems to be sleepwalking through the role or
painting by the numbers.
The film costars James McEvoy, who is perhaps best known for playing Professor
Charles Xavier In the current string of X-Men roles (he is good in the role but
he won’t make me forget Patrick Stewart). His character suffers from associative
personality disorder so he has many personas with distinctive accents and
quirks. Collectively the personalities are known as the horde. Comic fans will
probably be reminded of such comic characters as the sentry/void and Mary
Walker/Typhoid Mary from Daredevil comics.
McEvoy who is a decent actor is not equally effective in all the roles and he
often seems to be self-consciously acting with a capital A. When he becomes a
teen character with a heavy accent he overacts and mugs shamelessly for the
camera. His hulk like character, the beast (who is often shirtless) creates
disorder and is sometimes fulfills the anarchist role in the film.
Bruce Willis plays David Dunn (his name is alliterative like many superhero
names such as Bruce Banner or Peter Parker) plays the reluctant hero role. He
also has a Clark Kent like/average Joe work identity as a security guard.
Instead of a costume he wears a poncho and while most of the characters McEvoy
plays are self-aggrandizing maniacs. Dunn likes to stay in the background and
does not call attention to himself. Willis is actually fairly likeable and
convincing in the role.
After an enormous amount of buildup, the film has a big shockingly violent
confrontation between the Willis and Jackson characters which generates some
excitement but the conclusion is abrupt and completely underwhelming.
Glass has gotten mostly negative reviews but it has some very good moments. Its
provocatively intelligent hit and miss script seems somewhat undercooked
(perhaps Shyamalan needed more time between films).
The film is mostly recommended to people that adored the first two films in the
trilogy. If you are walking in cold or are not a comic fan you will probably be
frustrated and disappointed. Although it does resolve many loose ends and gives
some closure, the film is much more fun to think about or write about than it is
to actually watch.