Shyamalan’s superhero essay is stuck in therapy
Film Review | by Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Here’s the truth about Glass: It’s not as bad as Rotten Tomatoes may lead you to believe.
It’s also not great. In fact, Split wasn’t that good either — it just had a particularly inspired twist.
The thing is M. Night Shyamalan is a filmmaker who takes risks, but unfortunately for him he’s back on everybody’s radar, engineering a surprise comeback after audiences had given up on him. Any presumed failure is now amplified x1000.
Add Shyamalan’s excessive confidence in his own abilities and a rather patronizing approach to the superhero lore, and you have Lady in the Water all over again.
I’m being unfair. The master of twists is likely to make a tidy profit with Glass, unlike with that mermaid nonsense.
Regardless, the final episode of his “superheroes are real” trilogy should have been better than this. Then again, I can appreciate Shyamalan’s efforts to subvert expectations and bring the whole enterprise to an unexpected end. Overcooked and silly, but inarguably different.
As advertised, Glass brings together David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) — the hero and villain from Unbreakable — and the Horde (James McAvoy), of Split fame. Not for an epic battle, but to lock them together in a psychiatric hospital under the supervision of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). The doc tries to dissuade them from the illusion they are special. Her message doesn’t get much traction with Price, who thinks he can recruit the Horde to prove to the world that “superhumans” exist.
Dr. Staple’s notion that the stories you tell yourself define who you are is much more interesting than the “comic books are historical records” angle, although the latter prevails. It’s Shyamalan’s movie after all.
In a normal super-flick, David Dunn would take on Price, a.k.a. Mr. Glass, and the Horde — a lethal brains-and-brawn combination — but Shyamalan has something more meta in mind. They may think of themselves as foes, but they are brothers in “otherness”. This underlying idea isn’t bad, but Shyamalan botches the execution. McAvoy is superb as Kevin, the man with 24 personalities, but Mr. Glass doesn’t become an active participant until midway through.
Bruce Willis looks a bit more invested than usual, but he’s given little to do, which feels like a waste.
A major sea change that Shyamalan seems to have missed is that audiences have become well-versed in comic books and their standard plot devices since Unbreakable in 2000 (blame the MCU), so all the insights the auteur keeps flaunting is information we already have. It’s exasperating.
Still, I’ll give him points for effort. Better to try and fail…