It seems almost fitting that the franchise that began with a train wreck also ends with one. It’s been 19 years since Unbreakable impressed audiences with its mysterious take on superheroes in the real world. And it wasn’t until Bruce Willis’ cameo in 2017’s Split that fans realized they were finally getting a sequel. Unfortunately, Glass not only fails to deliver on any of its or its predecessors’ promises, it somehow manages to ruin the two great films that came before it.
David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has spent the last 19 years protecting the citizens of Philadelphia under the guise of “The Overseer”. In his search for some missing young girls, he encounters their kidnapper, Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), who has transformed himself into his most dangerous personality, “The Beast”, and proves to be the first true adversary against David’s seemingly invincible abilities. But the two are ambushed by police and subsequently locked up in a mental institution with Elijah Price, a.k.a. “Mr. Glass” (Samuel L. Jackson), who sees Crumb as the culmination of his lifelong obsession with comic books.
What begins as an epic battle between two unkillable entities quickly descends into a talky, overly-analytical snooze-fest that’s even heavier on comic book exposition than Unbreakable was. What’s worse is that, of the three lead characters, Mr. Glass has by far the smallest part, and poses far less of a threat than Kevin Wendell Crumb, turning Glass into a supporting character in his own movie. David Dunn, i.e. the “unbreakable” hero this “trilogy” began with, has almost no story arc other than “good guy must stop bad guy”. James McAvoy’s career-defining multi-personality performance from Split makes a welcome return here, but it’s used as little more than a humorous distraction and doesn’t enhance either his character or the film in general. Comic book movies are typically action movies, and while neither Unbreakable nor Split were that heavy on action, all the building blocks were in place for Glass. But M. Night Shyamalan prefers to distract you from your expectations to tell a non-story set in a dull place with characters that do next to nothing.
This is the concluding chapter in a trilogy, and the last thing we should have to suffer through is a series of monologues telling us what to think. That’s the problem with setting Glass in an enclosed environment and having a brand new character, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), talk, and talk, and talk. Even worse are the tonal inconsistencies that ripple throughout the film. Humor is often misplaced and there’s no real sense of urgency even when things go wrong. The film begins intensely enough, but doesn’t establish any sort of forward momentum. It would have been nice if at least some of people’s expectations had been met. This may not be your typical trilogy, but once the cards were laid out at the end of Split, M. Night Shyamalan should have played his hand. Not that it isn’t normally good to keep audiences guessing and avoid predictable story paths, but he relies heavily on Unbreakable and Split to setup Glass’ story, and curiously casts them aside at times when they should matter most.
M. Night Shyamalan is known for his endings, so I won’t spoil anything here. But I will say that the three leads – David Dunn, Kevin Wendell Crumb, and Mr. Glass – are each treated with such injustice that it ruins everything Unbreakable and Split began. For Glass, expectations were high and the wait was long. The promise of an epic finale is teased for much of the third act, only to be thrown away in favor of something far less interesting and so absurd that you’ll wonder what the actual point of this pseudo-trilogy was. M. Night Shyamalan took a perfectly good setup, 19 years in the making, and rather than run with it as he should have, completely derailed the entire “trilogy”.
1 out of 5