[Note: As of now, I won’t include plot synopses in my reviews; reviews will just be me spewing my thoughts. I’ll see how it goes, but this is subject to change. I hope you enjoy.]
I’ve never been an M. Night Shyamalan apologist. I hold The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable in the highest regard, but nearly every other film in Shyamalan’s filmography has failed to meet even the most basic of my expectations. Sure, any movie he directs will feature good cinematography, but cinematography alone can’t compensate for his innumerable sloppily-written screenplays, and two movies (despite how great they are) can’t define his entire career. However, things have been looking up for Shyamalan; I mean, his last two movies prior to Glass weren’t total trainwrecks, so surely he’s close to gaining his mojo back, right? Still, I awaited Glass with a heavy dose of skepticism. I found Split’s connection to Unbreakable to be cheap and unwarranted, so it frustrated me that the long-awaited Unbreakable sequel wouldn’t even be a full-on sequel, but also a separate sequel to a movie that I cared much less about.
All of this leads to a plot twist so shocking that it would make M. Night blush: I really liked Glass. At least I think I did? My reaction when the movie ended was one of genuine bafflement. It threw so many highs and lows at me that by the end of it all I just had to sit there and attempt to process what I just saw. No, I’m not going to deny that this movie is messy, and, man, it is messy. There are plenty of Shyamalan trademarks including hamfisted dialogue, unparalleled absurdity, forced comedy, and one heck of an awkward cameo (this cameo, particularly, was so forced that I didn’t know whether to applaud or roll my eyes.) Glass truly feels like M. Night writing whatever the heck he wants with no regard for expectation or approval from audiences. However, this works to the film’s benefit more than it does its detriment. I often found myself admiring his bold decisions even if he doesn’t always stick the landing. More than anything, I was surprised how often it actively goes out of its way to avoid being the movie you expect it (or want it) to be. For example, instead of featuring David Dunn fighting crime throughout the whole movie, he spends the majority of his time in a cell isolated from Mr. Glass and The Horde; instead of the climax being a big-budget spectacle reminiscent of a superhero movie, the “big showdown” is…well, you’ll see. Many will view these choices as subversion of expectations purely for the sake of subversion, but I find them to be calculated choices that stay perfectly in line with the themes of Unbreakable. Unbreakable is such a great superhero movie because of how often it opts not to be a superhero movie, as it instead grounds its characters and action at every turn possible; it’s ultimately very fitting for Glass to be a slow-burn psychological thriller set in a mental hospital that holds its characters front and center.
Perhaps Glass’s most impressive feat is that it actually sold me on the Unbreakable/Split trilogy. As I alluded to earlier, I found Split’s initial connection to Unbreakable to be an unapologetically lazy form of fan-service, but Glass made me realize how The Horde is ultimately vital to the conclusion of David Dunn and Mr. Glass’s story. I was horribly worried during the first act, as I felt that it was disproportionately more of a Split sequel than an Unbreakable sequel. But as the movie progressed, it began to interweave and utilize all of its characters in a satisfying way, showing that they’re all pieces of the same puzzle (it still wouldn’t have hurt for David Dunn to have gotten a bit more screen-time.) Shyamalan has publicly stated that he always planned for The Horde to be connected to Unbreakable. I now can see why. At the end of the day, The Horde is a perfect means to further drive Mr. Glass’s theories and questions from Unbreakable; The Horde fascinates Mr. Glass just as much as he (it?) challenges and gives purpose to David.
Shyamalan has also stated that he always knew how Glass would end. I find that admirable; he knowingly hyped up his fanbase for an ending that was destined to be controversial. Countless reviews have labeled the third act of Glass as “anticlimactic” or the moment where it “goes off the rails,” but for me it was the exact moment where I realized what M. Night was going for. One of the twists is undoubtedly flawed in its execution, but I found nearly every other aspect of the conclusion to be immensely satisfying. It’s less of a conclusion to Glass itself and more of a conclusion of the trilogy as a whole, dotting all of its “i’s” and crossing all of its “t’s” while also raising questions about the overarching themes and whatever might be taking place after the credits roll. Also, let’s not forget that Unbreakable was initially divisive upon its release. It would be a supreme irony if Glass shared the same fate as its predecessor and ended up receiving acclaim as time goes on, but I feel that it’s almost inevitable. I want to rewatch the entire trilogy in order to truly assess how I feel about the end result, but as of now I think Shyamalan has created something unique here. In the age of countless superhero movies, this is his superhero trilogy. It’s flawed; it’s different; but, most importantly, it’s special. Perhaps it would make for a great comic book.
Photo credit: Universal