M. Night Shyamalan’s newest blockbuster ‘Glass’ is a stilted, poorly paced, confusing and anti-climactic third instalment to his superhero franchise Eastrail 177. The franchise includes the intelligent and thoughtful exploration of the comic book superhero ‘Unbreakable’ and the chilling psychological thriller ‘Split’. Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Elijah Price or Mr Glass, the super-fragile genius and Bruce Willis returns as the Overseer whose character is the very antithesis of Jackson’s. Kevin Wendel Crumb, a killer and kidnapper suffering from dissociative identity disorder (James McAvoy) joins the two when fate and psychiatrist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) bring them together at a mental institution. Ellie Staple reveals that she has three days to try and convince these men that they are in fact regular men who are suffering superhero-sized delusions of grandeur.
Shyamalan’s writing provides no justice for Mr Glass and the Overseer, as for the majority of the film Jackson’s character remains sedated and silent, only to spring to life in the last 45 minutes to spout clichés about comic books and reveal his grand masterplan. Similarly, Willis’ character receives the least amount of screen time out of the star-studded cast and his loveable gruffness and empathetic sensibility fade into the background and as an audience, we forget that he is a part of the film. Stealing most of the screen time, is Sarah Paulson, a newcomer to the franchise, who plays a rather one-dimensional character that spends most of her time unnecessarily monologuing.
In true M. Night Shyamalan fashion, the film features a twist revealing that elements of the story are not what they are made out to be and that the characters are not as predictable as we thought, and in true M. Night Shyamalan fashion, the twist is unnecessary, anti-climactic and feels as though he was forced into including one to stay on brand. This is precisely why the highly anticipated twists, aren’t surprising anymore, because we know the Shyamalan formula.
I will commend the films effort to question the audience’s fascination with superheroes and comic books. This theme was introduced in ‘Unbreakable’ and is carried through, making interesting observations about our psychological tether to superheroes and the fact that as a society we have seemed to develop an inferiority complex, where if we can’t be an indestructible morally sound hero or have an unbeatable intellect, at least we can read about them. While an interesting concept to explore, drawing it out into the third film does very little to generate narrative, tension or excitement.
The metaphors and subplots included throughout the film are messy and inappropriate. There seems to be the overarching metaphor that a person’s trauma can make them powerful or be regarded as a superpower? This feels like a dangerous normalisation of traumatic experiences and may even go as far as invalidating the negative emotions or reactions a person may have to their own traumas, making them feel inadequate or weak for not turning their painful experiences into empowering ones.
The inclusion of Casey (Anya Taylor Cole), Kevin’s escaped captive, whether intended to or not makes us pity McAvoy’s character and gives him an uncomfortable and inappropriate romantic subplot with his former captive. This is based solely on the fact that they are both broken souls and perpetuates the idea that a woman, while struggling with her own issues, can save an abusive and dangerous man from himself, treating Casey’s as a rehabilitation centre for McAvoy’s character.
This highly anticipated final instalment from Shyamalan is a disappointing end to a thus far successful franchise. The metaphors are messy, and the pacing makes the lacklustre story almost unwatchable. James McAvoy’s performance allows for welcomed comedic breaks and change in pace, but even this becomes predictable and overused throughout the film. At its core, this could have been a good film but was poorly executed due to Shyamalan’s attachment to his formulaic style. It appears as though Shyamalan was suffering from his own unique delusion of grandeur.
Image credit: Jessica Kourkounis/Universal Pictures