2 out of 5 stars.
You truly never know what you’re going to get with M. Night Shyamalan. His 2000 film “Unbreakable” and 2016 film “Split” are two decent movies that bookend a particularly awful period in the director’s career. Both those films combine in the new movie “Glass,” the conclusion to Shyamalan’s long-simmering trilogy, but the result is a dud, lacking in any suspense or surprises while making a rather heavy-handed attempt to relate the characters to the usual comic book tropes.
“Glass” is set a mere three weeks after the events of “Split,” in which Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a young man who suffers from a personality disorder (his body houses 23 distinct personalities alongside a human/animal hybrid called the Beast) kidnaps and murders a group of teenage girls. It is set many years after the events of “Unbreakable,” in which David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is the sole survivor of a train crash that granted him superhuman strength as well as the ability to sense criminals by touching them. Currently, with the help of his now-adult son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark, the same actor who played Joseph as a child in “Unbreakable” 20 years ago- hey, that’s pretty neat at least) he works as a vigilante known as the Overseer. He tracks down Kevin, who has kidnapped a new batch of girls, but their encounter results in their arrest and they are sent to a mental institution, which also happens to be housing Elijah Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), a man with brittle bone disease but super intellectual abilities. The trio are treated by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a doctor who specializes in patients who believe they have superpowers and tries to convince them that they instead have a mental illness.
Let me just say that this is a pretty lame set-up for bringing together these characters from “Unbreakable” and “Split.” Especially since their imprisonment serves no other purpose outside of physically bringing them together; none of the characters end up having to overcome any self-doubt or other obstacles brought about by Ellie’s treatments. Instead, they just stew in their cells until the climax pits them against each other, but even that confrontation is lackluster and even laughable, as comic book fan Elijah constantly shouts out all the comic book themes as they occur in real time. It’s obvious that Shyamalan, who also wrote the screenplay, is trying to make some sort of point here (people with superpowers are mentally ill?), but never sticks the landing. We don’t need to be spoon-fed every theme the story is trying to hit on; we see enough comic book and superhero movies each year to know the drill by now. The most disappointing thing about “Glass” is that it misses the opportunity to give us something really different, along the lines of “Unbreakable” or “Split.”
It should be mentioned that you really can follow this movie without having seen both “Unbreakable” and “Split,” despite the fact that those two films stand on their own. In fact, both films were first seen without the knowledge that they were linked together as part of a trilogy; perhaps that’s another reason why “Glass” struggles so much to bring it all together. Sadly, for fans of Bruce Willis and “Unbreakable,” David is put on the backburner for much of the movie, a waste of a great character. We get much more of Elijah this go-around, which makes sense I guess—after all, the film is titled “Glass.” But this movie still really belongs to McAvoy’s Kevin, whose story consumes the largest portion of the plot and who is the most interesting character by a long shot. It all works because of McAvoy’s outstanding performance, as he seamlessly transforms from one distinct personality to the next. He manages to make the character surprisingly sympathetic (weird, seeing as how his monster personality likes to capture and eat people, but okay). But he’s scary when he needs to be, and really sells those action scenes with David (which are sadly few and far between).
After a befuddling series of events, “Glass” concludes with a positive message (I think) and a weak attempt at the usual Shyamalan surprise. But the only twist here is that we thought Shyamalan was back to telling good stories.
Runtime: 129 minutes. Rated PG-13.