by Greg Vellante

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday January 17, 2019


This is normally the point where I'd precede this review by saying that by reviewing M. Night Shyamalan's "Glass," I'm unavoidably spoiling both "Unbreakable," his 2000 film starring Bruce Willis as a man who survives a deadly train crash and discovers he has superhuman strength, and "Split," the 2017 James McAvoy-starrer about a man with multiple identities which was revealed to be a stealth sequel to the former film during the final seconds of its runtime (what a twist!). But, of course, what would be the point in revealing that, as anyone going to see "Glass" likely already knows these plot points. Hell, the poster is a spoiler in and of itself.

But M. Night Shyamalan isn't much concerned with "spoilers" here, a common buzzword in the superhero-universe-building phenomenon that has overtaken mainstream cinema since the release of "Iron Man" in 2008. He's far more interested in crafting his own world, one where "superheroes" are more so everyday citizens with extraordinary abilities. There's Willis' strongman David Dunn, McAvoy's personality-shifting rascal Kevin Wendell Crumb (who holds 24 distinct identities known as "The Horde," including his physically-harmful manifestation known as "The Beast"), and the titular character, "Unbreakable's" villain, Elijah Price, a.k.a. Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson). After a moderately tense first act that serves mainly as a stepping stone, all three characters are joined together in a psychiatric hospital by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who believes their "abilities" are all just perceived delusions that lead them to believe they have powers akin to comic book characters.

Confused yet? Much like a cacophonous Marvel production, such as last year's "Avengers: Infinity War," "Glass" is too cluttered and overloaded to work on its own and needs its predecessors to define its existence. This movie is an undeniable mess, but at least it's far more interesting of a creation than the commerce-grubbing big-budget tentpoles that flood the multiplexes year after year. With a budget of just $20 million, the film's modest production shines through in its simplicity. With minor set pieces and essentially one location predominating the entire film (the hospital), it's a bit of a shock that this movie even made it past the mainstream gates (with a finale that is anything but explosive, I'd imagine producers were hesitant about the film's reception, though its likelihood to return profits is quite high).

But that's part of the film's charm: The movie is focused on crafting characters within a world, rather than a world filled with characters. With just two movies defining each individual, David, Kevin, and Elijah are more fleshed out and cared about than Tony Stark, Thor, The Hulk, and Captain America are in the 1,001 movies in which they've appeared in the past decade. One set of characters are designed for profit, while the others are conceived from a storyteller who is admittedly passionate about their construction. If anything, "Glass" deserves to be applauded for such.

If only the movie weren't such an all-over-the-place snooze, meandering about with a methodical buildup that ultimately amounts to a finale lamer than its titular character's legs. Willis often looks like he's sleepwalking through the film, Jackson is indubitably having a lot of fun with his role's return, and McAvoy is downright exhausting with his longwinded portrayal of a mentally ill man that is (much like "Split") often played for laughs (an infuriating creative choice that represented much of my problems with his origin film). All in all, this is one worth watching if you're interested in the directions these characters take. Or, at least the direction Shyamalan steers them in. It's a fascinating, disorderly act of cinematic dissonance, but there is far worse that could be done with such unnecessary, convoluted material.

This glass isn't half full, per se, but I'll be damned if it still didn't leave me feeling parched.


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