Auteur filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan unleashes his third installment in the Unbreakable series, making it a trilogy, with the movie Glass. This comes three years after Split — an entry that could’ve been a desperate attempt at shoehorning into a shared universe if it wasn’t made so well — and almost a full two decades after Unbreakable itself. You have to commend Shyamalan’s commitment to making this work. Everything since Signs has been a miss for him or has gone underappreciated. Glass shouldn’t be having that problem.
The film picks up sometime shortly after the events occurring in Split. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), now grown and acting as an Oracle-type figure, run a security operation where David masquerades as the Overseer. Sometimes he is referred to as the Green Guard — whatever, just don’t call him “Tiptoe Man.” They’ve been tracking the mysterious Horde (James McAvoy) and tail him to his lair where he/they are at it again holding teen girls hostage. Dunn thwarts him and even does battle with the dreaded Beast persona (same actor who is Professor X…ironic), but the two are captured and taken to Raven Hill sanitarium to be studied and potentially cured of their “delusion” that they are superheroes by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Where the title character Mr. Glass fits in, is Raven Hill, the place he happens to be committed. And although locked up, he is always one step ahead of everything.
Form and Meaning
Glass is a case where style and substance combine strongly. Shyamalan carefully crafts his superheroes-in-the-real-world narrative in a subdued manner bypassing the glut of special effects to focus on characters and story. He also spares us the nausea of quick cuts and camera movements. The cinematography in this film is controlled, favoring still, wide shots and close-ups meticulously and symmetrically framed. It’s not the “whiz-bang, blink and you’ll miss it” action you get from Zack Snyder or Marvel.
He tries in vain, at least it seems that way, to be dialectical about heroes and comic books as modern myth making and oral tradition versus scientific skepticism. It’s a neat subplot that to say if it’s undone, or not, by Shyamalan’s twists and contrivances or gets lost in the shuffle along the way would be giving too much away.
A lot is brought to the table that gets trampled over. Besides David’s son and the evolution of their relationship, Anya Taylor-Joy returns, as advertised, but so does Glass’s mother surprisingly (Charlayne Woodard). Each acts an extension of the super characters’ humanity, and in that regard, they’re the people the audience is meant to relate to. This doesn’t always work since none, except maybe Joy, get ample screen time to cement that bond. We don’t get much of a notion what is going on in Joseph’s head and Glass’s mom is two-dimensionally nondescript. Not a lot about her jumps out.
For a show-stealer, you have to look to James McAvoy. That he has a knack for taking on the roles of super-powered people and mutants is no wonder. His range and ability to jump into all these different personalities and make each feel unique and lived-in are superhuman.
Every element comes together to make Glass a satisfactory sequel on par with its predecessors. Shyamalan can make great films. The Last Airbender can be forgiven. Passionate as he is about this material and what comics represent as an art form, he might give us more from this world of his in the future, but he’ll be starting from a clean slate, that’s for sure.
- Reverence for the comic medium (Shyamalan makes it clear he believes in the power of the form)
- James McAvoy's multifaceted performance
- The supporting cast
- Glass's cumulative screen time (you'd think, in a movie bearing his name, he'd be in more of it)
- The required director cameo (we know it's your movie, M, you don't have to be in every one of them)