Super Saturday Review: Glass

Glass (2019)
Dir: M. Night Shyamalan

The conclusion of an unexpected trilogy, thanks to some clever plotting M. Night Shyamalan’s determination to get this series made paid off. While it took an unusually prolonged period of time to get here, somehow, this conclusion still feels oddly undercooked. 

Committed to a psychiatric facility together, David Dunn (Bruce Willis), Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) undergo group therapy from Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) to deal with what she calls their ‘delusion’ of having superpowers. 

Each instalment of the trilogy has had a title clearly referring to one of the main characters, though I wouldn’t say the focus here is entirely on Elijah a.k.a. Mr Glass. This is where the film was always going to struggle, trying to bring together and conclude the stories of three complex, disparate, characters, including one who has over 20 personalities fighting for attention. On top of the central trio, there are also other compelling characters like Dr Staple with her questionable methods and motives, and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) returning from her complex relationship with Kevin in ‘Split’. For much of the film I felt like it never relaxed, having to jump from one place and character to the next, with very little to hold the scenes together.

What hits me as being the biggest flaw I can put my finger on is an egregious lack of subtlety. ‘Unbreakable’ was enticingly ponderous, a contemplative superhero origin story that lays out all the framework without revealing what it really is until the very end. ‘Split’ too, kept its underlying premise hidden until the final scene. On the other hand, this film keeps having characters make explicit references to comics, heroes, and what part of comic books the film is paralleling. This exposition soon becomes excessive, overbearing, and annoying, as it doesn’t trust that the audience is capable of following the format without needing it to be constantly signposted.

Shyamalan is known for his twists, this film has them too, though I wouldn’t say they were quite as perspective-changing as some he’s employed before. There are a small handful of reveals, you could call them twists if you like, but personally, I felt they worked in varying measures. Maybe I was hoping for something more epic, but there’s no one big unforeseeable twist that takes the film to another level, the way Shyamalan became known for doing at the start of his career, something his success was built upon.

What’s undeniably impressive about this film is that even with three headlining A-list stars (and then some other big names on top) the production budget is reported to only be $20m. That’s something Blumouse productions really excel at, making major releases on modest budgets. This means that it was immediately profitable on its first day of release and by the end of the theatrical run had taken over £240m. It explains why the film steers away from an effects-laden, city-centre showdown. Yet to end as it does, SPOILER ALERT… In a rainy parking lot, feels underwhelming and almost dismissive. Though it can be reasoned on, argued with, and even rationalised that it certainly strikes a different note to almost any other ‘superhero’ movie, it left me wanting much more, hoping for some genius turns and reveals that would redeem it, but no such final twist came.

It must be said, I’ve only seen this once, so it’s very possible that on a second viewing many of the things that didn’t work for me the first time round might be better, but I was hoping to be immediately wowed by the culmination of this cinematic long game Shyamalan’s been playing. It certainly doesn’t shatter all expectations built by the impressive work that precedes it, and ‘Glass’ is the biggest crack in an otherwise audacious trilogy, leaving its chances of being hailed a triumph in shards. 

Available to stream now on Disney+ in the UK, as well as being available elsewhere I’m sure, this isn’t a waste of time by any measure but it’s also unlikely to leave you wowed by the time the credits roll in the ways that its predecessors did. I hope that when I watch it again sometime in the future (more likely now I can stream it easily) I’ll find more to appreciate, I really want to, but it didn’t have anywhere near the impact I hoped for the first time round.

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