For a while there, it looked like M. Night Shyamalan was on the verge of a major comeback. Two years ago, there was a lot of buzz about the film Split. Not only was Split a legitimately thrilling and disturbing film but major buzz was generated when it was discovered the film was a sequel to one of his early hits Unbreakable starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. To no surprise, a follow-up film was announced and now you have the finale of the Eastrail 177 Trilogy: Glass, which had many people excited going in but you’ll likely be disappointed heading out.
Glass begins three years after the events of Split, David Dunn (Willis) has assumed the alias of ‘The Overseer’ with his son Joseph. David is looking into the disappearance of four young girls who are being held hostage by The Horde (James McAvoy) who is still on the loose after the events of Split. After a confrontation with David, The Horde and Dunn are taken to the Raven Hill mental hospital where Dunn’s longtime rival Mr. Glass (Jackson) is also being held, the three are held captive by an unknown organization looking to disprove the existence of superheroes. However, the dangerous Mr. Glass has a far more sinister plan in the works and David, as well as the Horde, are the pawns in the grand scheme.
Sounds like a pretty good setup right? Well, what happened? It feels like M. Night Shyamalan tried so hard to subvert expectations, that he created a complete mess of a narrative. First of all, the film expects you to have seen both Unbreakable and Split, so if you have seen the first movie in a while, the discussion of superheroes and comic book noir is going to completely go over your head, and if that happens, you are in trouble. The second problem is that a lot of the characters do not have as much to do so as they are not given enough screentime in a 130-minute film. Bruce Willis’s character is set up to have a big role in the 1st act but then is largely forgotten about until the ending. The cast of secondary characters such as Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark don’t serve much of a purpose to the overall story and leave the film feeling unbalanced.
What the big point of ire will be is the ending and I’m not talking about the twist, I mean the entire 3rd act. The film setups an epic superhero final battle between good and evil, and as the audience is waiting for this battle to take place, it never does. Shyamalan begins this extremely confusing and hard to follow narrative which subverts the film ending into a meta-history lesson of comic books. Again, if you didn’t see Unbreakable and are only watching this as a sequel to Split, you are going to be completely lost. While you are sitting there lost in the trees, you keep waiting for someone to happen…and waiting…and waiting…and then you’re just waiting for the film to end…and waiting…by the time the credits roll, you realize that this film was not what you were expecting at all and suddenly it’s January release makes perfect sense.
All in all, Glass isn’t bad in the sense that it is unwatchable, you can see the potential in the film, the problem is that M. Night Shyamalan goes back to his old trope of trying to be more clever than he actually is and forgetting what made Unbreakable and Split work in the first place, keeping it simple.