Glass (2019) Review
AN ORIGIN STORY FINALE
Director M. Night Shyamalan has always been the case of cinematic scrutiny and sometimes movie frustration when it comes to his feature films. While he had directed movies like 1992’s Praying with Anger and 1998’s Wide Awake, many moviegoers were introduced to Shyamalan with his 1999 supernatural horror The Sixth Sense, which starred actor Bruce Willis and young upcoming actor Haley Hoe Osmond. From his critical acclaim from both critics and moviegoers of that movie, Shyamalan followed The Sixth Sense with the 2000 superhero movie Unbreakable, which starred Bruce Willis again as well as actor Samuel L. Jackson in the lead roles. While not as met with universal acclaim as he did his previous film, Shyamalan’s Unbreakable was well-received and has gain quite a cult following amongst its viewers. After Unbreakable, however, Shyamalan’s movies were less-than satisfactory, with many (critics and moviegoing audience viewers alike) finding the films like 2002’s sci-fi thriller Signs, 2004’s psychological mystery The Village, 2006’s fantasy drama The Lady in the Water, and 2008’s post-apocalyptic psychological film The Happening to be subpar and weaker movies to what both The Sixth Sense and (to a lesser extent) Unbreakable were able to achieve in movie entertainment, with some sighting that Shyamalan’s weak story / script handling as well as his commonplace “twists” that appear at the end of the film. Even worse were some completely deplorable cinematic motion pictures, including 2010’s The Last Airbender and 2013’s After Earth, which were met with both critical and commercial box office failures. In 2016, Shyamalan released Split, a psychological horror film that starred actor James McAvoy, that regained the public’s interest in the director’s movie, citing the feature as a welcomed “returned to form” for Shyamalan’s works as well as receiving critical positive reviews and praise alike and garnishing roughly $278 million against its $9 million production budget. Now, two years after the success of Spilt, Universal Pictures (along with Blinding Edge Pictures and Blumhouse Productions) and director M. Night Shyamalan present the follow-up sequel to both Unbreakable and Spilt with the crossover motion picture titled Glass. Does Shyamalan’s latest feature find strength within superhero origins or does the director’s ambition exceeds the narrative story he wished to tell.
Picking up sometime after the events of Spilt, which saw that Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) has been taking over by his more dominance personalities (i.e the members of “The Horde”), including the most recent personality: a savage superhuman entity known as “The Beast”. At the same time, Unbreakable’s hero David Dunn (Bruce Willis) now runs a home security business and secretly fights crime in Philadelphia as “The Overseer” among other alas nicknames, with his son Joseph Dunn (Spencer Treat Clark) aiding his father in his “moonlighting” vigilantism. Together, David and Joseph are able to track some recent and suspicious activities, soon discovering that the Horde is has kidnapped another group of young girls to be sacrificed to The Beast. However, the fight between David and The Beast is cut short when the police arrive to arrest them, who are being instructed to do so by one Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). Turns out that, Dr. Staple is a psychiatrist who specializes in treating people who believe they are superheroes, with David and Kevin being her latest patients at Raven Hill Memorial: the same institution for the criminally insane where Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) has resided, ever since he was arrested for his crimes. As Staple attempts to convince the three men of their delusional comic book grandeur, Elijah takes advantage of his new inmates’ arrival by setting his own plan in motion….one that will finally force the world to see that real-life superheroes do exist.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I see dead people!” ……I just had to put that in this review (for movie nostalgia purpose). Like many out there, I discovered director M. Night Shyamalan’s work from his most popular film to date (i.e The Sixth Sense) when it was released back in 1999 (I remember seeing it in theaters and was completely captivated by it). It was definitely something truly special, especially coming from the particular age of films being released around that era (i.e the late 90s / early 2000s), and the movie’s ending twist was completely awesome. Thus, it’s safe to say that The Sixth Sense is one of Shyamalan’s best movies (and I think many will agree to that). Unbreakable (his follow-up film after The Sixth Sense) wasn’t as good as his previous film, but was still a solid motion picture, which (like I mentioned above) does have a cult following, especially those who have a certain flavor for comic book superheroes nuances. Plus, both Willis and Jackson gave excellent performances in the movie. After that, however, Shyamalan’s feature films were mostly mediocre and were pretty “blah”; following a lot of the same tropes that accompany the director’s style (i.e. a secret hidden “twist” at the movie’s ending). Even looking beyond that, the movie themselves were averagely subpar, ranging from okay-ish to terrible. Don’t even get me started on The Last Airbender and how much of a disservice the movie was to the cartoon series that inspired it. Thus, my interest in seeing Shyamalan’s movies waned over the years…. until that was Spilt was released and sort of “renewed” my interest in the director’s filmmaking. Whatever you may think of Shyamalan’s classic “twist” tropes, Spilt was well-acted (most notably thanks to actor James McAvoy’s solid performance and quite an engaging movie to follow. Personally, I loved it and thought it was a great film.
This brings me back to talking about Glass, Shyamalan’s 2019 feature film, which acts as a sequel to both his Unbreakable film as well as Spilt. Like many, I was surprised by the Split’s final scene, which tied the movie’s cinematic tale to the same universe as was Unbreakable; pondering the idea that a “shared” future installment of both those films could be in the works in the near future. Well, that interest was soon brought to light as Shyamalan announced Glass soon after and promised that all the film’s main actors (i.e Willis, Jackson, and McAvoy) would be returning to their respective roles in this upcoming crossover motion picture. My interest in seeing Glass was furthered fueled by the release of the film’s trailers (first one was released during San Diego’s 2018 Comic-Con event); showcasing what Shyamalan’s latest film could be when tying both the narratives of Unbreakable and Spilt together for a continuation feature film. Like I said, I was definitely hyped to see Glass (even placed it at #6 on my “Top 15 Most Anticipated Films of 2019”). So, I finally had a chance to see Glass a little bit after its theatrical release. What did I think of it? Well, it may not be stupendously awesome (it lacks it certain areas), but Glass is definitely a strong follow-up movie to both Unbreakable and Spilt, bolstered by its solid cast and an intriguing story. It’s not a necessary film to these two movies, but Shyamalan crafts an absorbing cinematic tale of comic book heroes and villains.
As you (the reader) can imagine, Shyamalan returns to the director’s chair for Glass, two years after he released Spilt; crafting a movie that helps to shape a continuing narrative for both that movie and Unbreakable. To his credit, Shyamalan actually does do a good job in creating the film, weaving together the narratives (characters and all) of two of previous movies into an engaging and perplexing crossover feature. He knows the world of the two movies and merges them together in an engrossing way that feels genuine rather than some abrasive and confusing (i.e. not something like the Jetson meets the Flintstone). Still, I do have to admit that anything of a “crossover” event (be it book, TV show, or film) is worth getting excited about, especially with Hollywood’s recent fascination of creating shared cinematic universes. Much like a lot of his previous films, Shyamalan pulls “double duty” as both the movie’s director as well as developing the movie’s script, building upon the Unbreakable mythos of comic book superheroes. In truth, the Glass isn’t just about the character of Mr. Glass, but rather the combination of David, Kevin, and Elijah and how they all are apart of something “special”. In truth, the concept and themes of the previous two films play an instrument importance in this movie; resulting in Glass evolving the narrative of extraordinary people have always walked among us (the populace) and have inspired our myths through varying medium…. including comic books.
Additionally, Shyamalan circles back around to the other thematic key message about people can discover (and do) great things through their power of belief. This, of course, plays a paramount importance in Glass, showcasing the feature’s three main characters and how the utilize their specific abilities and power through their own personal struggles and beliefs. It definitely has a classic superhero tale yarn that many comic books fans will appreciate as well as the “deconstruction” of the mythos behind the superhero (as what the film’s character of Dr. Staple tries to do). The result of all of this is realized in the movie, with Shyamalan staging an intriguing and almost absorbing tale of good and evil and what it means to be “super”. Yes, I know that sounds a bit silly, but it works for what Glass’s themes and concept are built around.
The technical presentation of Glass is a pretty good and does seems to be a well-crafted feature film. Like most of Shyamalan’s previous movies, Glass is a relatively “low budget” film, but that doesn’t mean that it is made with low budget quality. Whatever your stance on Shyamalan’s film endeavors is (be it good or bad), the feature themselves are made rather good and Glass is no exception. The production layout designs Chris Trujillo (as well as set decorations by Olivia Peebles) and art direction by Jesse Rosenthal are rather good, lending their creative talents to make the film’s background setting intriguing. This includes the claustrophobic, stark (and downright austere) interior make of the Raven Hill Memorial Institute as well as the varying set-pieces throughout the feature. Additionally, the cinematography work by Mike Gioulakis is pretty good, contributing some interesting “dramatic” shots to the film as well as collaborating with Shyamalan utilizing an interesting color scheme palette (i.e. purple, green, and yellow) that’s quite intriguing and very “cinematic” looking in several scenes.
Also, I do have mention the film’s score, which was composed by West Dylan Thomas, is really good and does help strengthen several crucial scenes, be it dramatic purposes or scenes that are evoke a sense of empathy. The movie’s soundtrack definitely has one good song, which is titled “Belief”, is my personal favorite musical score piece that plays at various part of the movie. It definitely has that heroic foreboding melody that sounds quite moving and symbolic. And yes…. I already download that song on iTunes (and I suggest that you guys do as well). There is one negative problem I have about the technical filmmaking effects on Glass, but I’ll mention that one below (in a few sentences). Suffice to say, that (on the hole) Glass’s presentation is a solid one.
Unfortunately, Glass, despite me personally liking the film, had some issues that held the movie back from reaching its full potential. The most notable that many will automatically notice is the movie itself. What do I mean? Well, to be quite honest, both Unbreakable and Spilt were definitely one of the better films of Shyamalan and were (for the most part) satisfying as a stand-alone feature, creating a self-containing “one and done” type movie. Thus, Glass, for better or worse, is a sequel to both those films and, despite Shyamalan’s attempts, feels like an unnecessary continuation to the two movies. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Glass and how the movie “ties” the two films together, but the movie definitely is the weakest of the three and (again) didn’t really needed to be made as both Unbreakable and Spilt had good story endings in their own respective features. It’s a not a huge deal breaker for me, but you know what I mean.
Another problem I noticed with the movie was in its execution. It goes without saying that Shyamalan is a very “visual” director, creating some great dramatic sequences throughout his motion pictures. That being said, the overall handling of each of his movies is a bit of mixed bag. Yes, Shyamalan definitely knows how to play up suspense, mystery, and intrigue; creating a sense of “allurement” in the feature and does so in Glass. However, the film’s pacing is a bit off, with large chunks of the first two acts being tad bit underwhelming with mostly dialogue sequences. It’s still good (rather good character moments from three primary characters), but I was expecting a bit more “oomph” to these two cinematic acts.
The third act brings up the film’s energy up with a showdown sequence, but even this particular moment in Glass comes across as a bit wonky. The first reason is the actual showdown itself or rather the “potential” it could’ve had. Like I previously mentioned, the film is made with low production budget, so I wasn’t expecting that same blockbuster “big, bang, boom” caliber from other superhero movies of today (i.e. Avengers: Infinity War or Aquaman). However, the narrative told in Glass (with its comic book nuances of superheroes and supervillains) doesn’t follow through on its superhero potential. Thus, the climatic piece of the film’s third act is tad underwhelming and I kind of wish that Shyamalan decided to “go big” instead of staying small. The second component, which coincides with the first one, is the simple that Shyamalan has a hard time in staging a titular showdown. Of course, this big sequence is the “main attraction” of the feature and one that should be a spectacle of some sort. While that’s partial is true (and does work), Shyamalan stages it all a bit gangly and uninspiring. This is added by some odd and weird camera angles that really seem like a distraction and sort of take away from the whole epic grandness of what’s playing out. So, is it Shyamalan’s fault or is it his cinematographer (Mike Gioulakis) fault? To be fair…. it’s both. Again, I still liked these sequences more so than others, but I think the film’s potential of what could’ve been is where my movie criticism draws ire from.
Of course, there is also the director’s classic twist ending (Shyamalan’s “bread and butter”), which does show up in Glass at that exact moment of when it’s expected. Personally, I liked the film’s twists and the movie does have a good ending, but I agree with many out there about these twists. Yes, a narrative twist (one that carries a sudden and shocking revelations) is a good one and help the overall entertainment value of a feature film. Unfortunately, Shyamalan always utilizes this narrative tactic in almost everyone of his projects, which results in a “twist” also appearing in a commonplace manner. Thus, the twist that appears in Glass isn’t one of shocking value to us (the viewers), but something rather almost expected. Like I said, I agree with many out there by Shyamalan’s twist…. not every movie narrative needs a twist.
The cast for Glass is (collectively) a solid grouping of actors and actresses, with most of the primary cast returning to reprise their roles from their previous M. Night Shyamalan films. Naturally, there all are up to the task of returning and actually do elevate the movie beyond its shortcomings (again, it might vary on what those shortcomings are). First, there is character of David Dunn, the main protagonist character from Unbreakable, who is played by actor Bruce Willis. Known for his roles in Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, and Moonlighting, Willis delivers perhaps the most “grounded” performance of the three primary lead characters and does commit to the role (from start to finish), playing up the quiet and vigilante self-righteous ways that of character David Dunn lives up. Plus, it’s neat to see an older and seasoned iteration of David Dunn, with Willis never overacting and / or making the character feel out of his element. Definitely a better performance from Willis than what he portrayed in 2018’s Death Wish.
The flip side to Willis’s character of David Dunn is the villainous character of Elijah Price (aka Mr. Glass), who is played by actor Samuel L. Jackson. Known for his roles in Pulp Fiction, The Hateful Eight, and Die Hard with a Vengeance, Jackson seems to relish in his return of playing the character of Elijah / Mr. Glass, chewing through his dialogue with great glee. He doesn’t have much in the first half of the feature, but the second half belongs to his character and seeing his villainous “mastermind” plan come together is great fun (almost akin to a comic book villain). Jackson has always been known for his dialogue delivery in theatrical features and so does in Glass, making his returning to “Mr. Glass” a joyous one. It may not be his most memorable role of his career, but it’s definitely an entertaining to watch and see in both this movie and in the Unbreakable film.
While Willis and Jackson do excellent jobs in returning to their aged nineteen-year-old Unbreakable character roles, the real “rock star” of Glass is actually actor James McAvoy, who plays the character of Kevin Wendell Crumb, the man who suffers from personality identity disorder (embodying over 24 different identities within). Known for his roles in Atonement, The Last King of Scotland, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, McAvoy seems to excel in returning to play such a complex movie character once again, allowing to expand upon Kevin’s inner personalities (aka “The Horde”). Like in Spilt, McAvoy’s acting talents are showcases beautifully by quickly “flipping” into each of Kevin multiple personalities and how radically different each iteration is in how he portrays them. Additionally, while it’s great to see McAvoy play some of the “dominant” personalities of The Horde (i.e. Patricia, Dennis, and Hedwig), the movie also allows several of the other personalities their sort of “moment in the spotlight”, which McAvoy is up to the task in making those personas great as well (however brief they might be). All in all, McAvoy’s return in playing the multiple facades within Kevin are great and he’s definitely the highlight of the feature….and I think that’s a unanimous praise / remark by all viewers.
Also, as a funny “crazy credit”, the ending credits sequences gives McAvoy credit to playing all the various members of “The Horde” (i.e. Patricia, Dennis, Hedwig, The Beast, Barry, Heinrich, Jade, Ian, Mary Reynolds, Norma, Jalin, Kat, B.T., Mr. Pritchard, Felida, Luke, Goddard, Samuel, Polly, and (of course) Kevin Wendell Crumb.
Each of the film’s main characters (i.e. David, Elijah, and Kevin) have a respective counterpart supporting character that bolsters their character’s backstory and gives credence into understanding these superhuman individuals. Thus, the acting talents of actor Spencer Treat Clark (Animal Kingdom and Gladiator), actress Anya Taylor-Joy (Morgan and The Witch), and actress Charlayne Woodard (Chicago Hope and Pose) returning their posts in reprising their characters once again as David Dunn’s son Joseph Dunn, Kevin Wendell Crumb’s surviving female victim Casey Cooke, and Elijah Price’s mother…aka Mrs. Price. Again, these three characters are in larger supporting roles to the film’s primary leads, but each one does good work in their roles. However, it’s kind of a bit disappointing to see Taylor-Joy’s Casey Cooke (who was sort of the main character in Spilt) get reduced to a supporting one. Barring that, I liked how all of them returned for Glass, which is a positive for me.
With Glass’s story recalling past characters (and the actors /actresses that portrayed them), the only new major supporting character in the film is Dr. Ellie Staple, a psychiatrist who specialize in “delusional grandeur” of individuals who believe that they are superheroes. Played by actress Sarah Paulson, who is known for her roles in American Horror Story, Carol, and Ocean’s Eight, the character of Dr. Staple isn’t really fully developed beyond her initial idea of trying to “treat” the film’s three main characters. However, given the circumstance of the movie itself (and the narrative that Shyamalan wants to tell), this is perfectly fine. Plus, Paulson does a good job in the role; never really “overacting” the character and speaking in a calm / soft spoken voice with a psychiatrist demeanor. With the movie focusing on majority of those characters (both primary and supporting ones), there are only a handful of minor supporting characters in the Glass, including actor Luke Kirby (The Deuce and The Marvelous Mrs. Mabel) and actor Adam David (Mozart in the Jungle and Outsiders) as two of the employees at the Raven Hill Memorial faculty psyche ward Pierce and Daryl as well as the cameo-like appearance of M. Night Shyamalan character in one scene.
They always underestimate the mastermind as the lives of David Dunn, Elijah Price, and Kevin Wendell Crumb (and his menagerie of varying personalities) converge to showcase their true superhuman potential in the movie Glass. Director M. Night Shyamalan latest film sees the cinematic narratives of Unbreakable and Spilt weaver together in a finale crossover feature film that concludes the tale for each of the respective property. While the movie does stumble in a few areas (most notably in scaling it titular events in the third act and several pacing), the film finds its stride within its entertainment value (especially those who like the mythos behind comic books and superheroes) and great performances all round, including Willis, Jackson, and McAvoy. Personally, I liked this movie. Like I said, it wasn’t really a necessary sequel movie to either Unbreakable or Spilt, but it was still pretty good and definitely entertaining (although not as mind-blowing as my anticipation was). Still, I liked it and was satisfied with the film. That being said, Glass’s overall likeability definitely has a great division amongst its viewers. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is both a “recommended” one as well as a strong “iffy choice” as (like said) some will like it, while others won’t. It’s definitely one of those type of movies. What the future holds for M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming motion pictures is unclear, but I’ll guarantee you that it will involve a late game twist (haha). In the end, Glass (for better or worse) concludes the narratives tales of Unbreakable and Spilt in a way that’s entertaining and absorbing as well as the most polarizing and frustration ways. Like the character of Mr. Glass….it’s all a matter of perspective on what you perceive.
Also, a personal side note, Glass is my 400th movie review since I’ve started blogging (some I’ll be releasing on here from my old blog). A personal milestone for me and for Jason’s Movie Blog. Anyways…thank you to my readers, followers, and fellow bloggers. I couldn’t have done it without you!!!
3.9 Out of 5
Recommended / Iffy-Choice
Released On: January 18th, 2019
Reviewed On: February 1st, 2019
Glass is 129 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language