A uniquely structured film for the genre, Shyamalan’s Glass deconstructs society’s infatuation with superheroes and delivers with a thrilling conclusion to a trilogy that began 19 years ago.
M. Night Shyamalan returns to round out one of the most unique trilogies we’ve ever seen. A saga that started in the year 2000 with Unbreakable, with a surprise pseudo-sequel in 2016’s Split, comes together for Glass. For many, Unbreakable is Shyamalan’s crown jewel. The film critiqued and deconstructed the idea of comic books before they truly entered the mainstream through Hollywood. In some ways, Unbreakable was ahead of its time and could have had a much greater effect in an era of cinematic universes and billion dollar franchises. Luckily, this is where Glass shines. Where Unbreakable was a superhero thriller and Split a mystery horror, Glass feel like much more of a direct sequel to the former with Split‘s characters woven in.
Glass rounds out a trilogy 19 years in the making. Because of this, audiences will have to be caught up on the two films or end up being pretty lost throughout. Shyamalan does not hold your hand through the film’s plot or thesis points, rather, letting the audience break it down themselves. This was a fresh feeling, especially for the existing superhero genre where conventional films spoon-feed you. Glass stars Bruce Willis reprising as David Dunn, James McAvoy reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumbas and finally Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price. As the title suggest, Mr. Glass is the primary focus of the film and his character arc is by the far the most important one. Samuel L. Jackson continues to show why he’s a legend in the business as he effortlessly returns to a role played 19 years ago and steals the show every time he is on screen. Likewise, James McAvoy’s talent is unmistakable and his character(s) are always believable and engaging. Finally, Bruce Willis plays the stoic, once reluctant hero to a tee. While the film does not give him as much of a character arc as I would have liked, he mostly remains the same character who we saw at the end of Unbreakable. Overall, the strongest element of Glass is the ensemble cast, who drive the film’s heart and emotion.
At the end of Split, audiences were given the classic yet unexpected Shyamalan twist that the film takes place in the same universe as Unbreakable as we see David Dunn cameo. Glass picks up practically immediately from there as we follow David using his unique powers to track down The Beast, McAvoy’s most dangerous personality. What neither of them realize is Mr. Glass’ presence throughout plus many other twists. The film takes the slow burn and thrilling nature of Unbreakable, the mystery nature of Split, and combines it into a film that respects both. The majority of the film takes place in a psychiatric hospital, as a doctor, played by Sarah Paulson, attempts to explain the place of superheroes in the world and in turn, explain the three main characters.
The thesis point of Glass is the deconstruction of the superhero genre the world as fallen in love with. M. Night Shyamalan originally deconstructed the nature of comic book and their role in society in Unbreakable through the eyes Elijah Price and the unwanted powers of David Dunn. Here, the deconstruction evolves from the good guy vs bad guy nature of comic books to the infatuation of superheroes in today’s culture. Glass truly feels like it has evolved for the audience that it is speaking too. In when Unbreakable released in 2000, the only mainstream superhero films at that point where the Superman films, Batman films and X-Men. It is a stark contrast to what superheroes are in today’s society. Since then, Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the DC Extended Universe have completely taken over at the box office. There hasn’t been a year where a superhero film didn’t dominate or finish in the top 3 grossing films of the year. Shyamalan looks to critique and deconstruct exactly what makes us so infatuated in the first place and delivers his point of view on the entire genre.
At its core, Glass is both a love letter and a breakup with the superhero genre. This concept can be quite divisive for fans of the medium and will either have them loving the lens that Shyamalan looks through or reject his point all together. On a technical level, the film is shot uniquely and has moments of comic book flare with its extremely limited budget. What many might have an issue with is the story itself, how character arcs are handled and the message the film wants to leave the audience with. In a year where Aquaman just passed a billion at the box office and Marvel is gearing up for a box office takeover with Avengers: Endgame, superhero love is at an all time high, the deconstruction of our love for them can be both jarring and encapsulating, speaking to how unique Glass truly is. My gripes with this film are limited, mostly in how some characters are handled and concluded. Shyamalan’s style is through an extreme slow burn and here, it’s a trilogy worth of burn to finally get its conclusion. Sometimes, the burn in this film can get apparent and it truly kicks off in the third act.
Overall, Glass is a strong finish to M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy. Where Unbreakable was a critique of the comic book medium, Glass is a deconstruction of the comic book movie craze and the billion dollar industry we live in. A slow burn can take a second to get used to and Shyamalan’s overall message can either have you reject or embrace his perspective. For myself personally, Glass has a place in today’s comic book movie craze and there is definitely a place for films like this in the middle of the blockbuster battle between Marvel and DC.