In 2019, it would seem that superhero movies are everywhere. In the first few months of the year alone, Captain Marvel and Avengers: Endgame are releasing from Marvel while DC is fighting back with Shazam. Nineteen years ago, however, that was definitely not the case. Thus, when M. Night Shyamalan created Unbreakable in that year with its comic book-centric themes and characters, it caught everyone by surprise and can now be viewed as a foreshadowing of the era to come. Flash forward to 19 years later and Shyamalan concludes his story with Glass, but does he deliver on the promise of what he first brought to light?
After atoning for the crimes of Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price (Samuel L. Jackson), David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has been operating his own home security service with son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) around the Philadelphia area. David still uses his superpowers to protect people and after the events of 2016’s Split, and Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) a.k.a. “The Horde” is still loose. Looking for Crumb and the four girls he recently kidnapped, David ends up facing one of Kevin’s personalities, The Beast, and they fight in a warehouse before both are captured by police.
Committed to an insane asylum, both David and Kevin are placed under the supervision of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychologist who specializes in people who believe that they have superpowers. Elijah is also confined in the facility but is heavily sedated because of his intellect. Dr. Staple wantsto show all three that what they believe to be superheroic abilities areexplainable by science, and that they are just human after all. She eventuallytaps Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), the girl that The Horde kidnapped in Split) to help bring tactile and humansupport for Kevin.
When Elijah does make a move, he proposes to Kevin’s other more dominant personalities that they should team up and show the world that they are indeed more than human. By joining forces and challenging David in a very public event, Elijah feels that this will force other superpowered humans to come forth and go public. Is Elijah being truly altruistic though, or is he hiding some shameful secret behind this motivation.
I won’t lie and say that Glass doesn’t have faults because there aremany. There are significant chunks of the film that aren’t paced well and can move along faster. Still, it is still amusing that Shyamalan was able to bring back several lead actors from both Unbreakable and Split to bring this “Eastrail 177 trilogy” (referring to the train accident that David survived) to an end. After all, it isn’t revealed until the very end of Split that it was indeed a sequel to the movie from 2000. The director doesn’t just bring back actors and old scenes, he even uses scenes cut from the final films to add even more depth to this story.
McAvoy, Willis, and Jackson are all their usual excellent selves, and itwas actually pretty amazing that with Willis at 63 and Jackson at 70, they canstill act in such physically demanding roles. Taylor-Joy doesn’t quite get asmuch of the spotlight as she did in Split,but her role still proves pivotal for the development of the Kevin character.Perhaps Shyamalan and Co. got lucky that Clark continued acting after Unbreakable, and he shows that he isn’t just a kid who can cry on cue anymore.
Some have said that the climax and ending of Glass is underwhelming but I disagree. Yes, Shyamalan does play a bit of sleight of hand in a sense, but that doesn’t take away from the message he eventually delivers. In a way, it actually allows the characters to break away from walking into the superhero tropes and stereotypes that Elijah keeps bringing up yet allows them an alternative way to present what the director presents as the truth.