A few weeks after “Split” and 18 years after”Unbreakable”, M. Night Shyamalan’s”Glass” ends its strange Comedy Trilogy by bringing together all the main actors in a Crossover style. These include David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the security guard who found out in 2000 that he was practically indestructible and could see people’s sins when he touched them (a “sixth sense,” if you will); Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), the flimsy comic book enthusiast aka “Mr. Glass”, who positioned himself as the archenemy of David Bowie, and was a fan of the; and Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), the multiple-personality serial finisher from “Split,” whose Horde of inner voices is a superhuman beast.
These three are classic comic book archetypes — the reluctant hero, the clever villain and the implacable anarchist — but Shyamalan is not relying on a classic comic confrontation, at least not in the usual sense. Expecting “Glass” to be a superhero movie, even a version of M. Night Shyamalan, is the surest way to disappoint.
Rather, it’s a corny deep dive into the filmmaker’s ideas about superhero movies, with the deconstruction of comic storytelling mixed with tension tropes. The title character seems to have received this honor initially simply because it’s his turn (the unbreakable man and The Split Man already had theirs), but it turns out to be thematically appropriate. He may not be the protagonist, but Elijah Price’s existential dilemma — “What is my place in this world?”- is the Focus of the Film.
David has spent the years since “Unbreakable” running a home security store during the day and being a vengeful angel at night. Nicknamed “the Overseer” by the media, he is supported by his son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), who stays back in the Batcave to observe David’s body camera feed and advise him via headphones. Finding the still-at-large serial finisher from “Split” is a top priority, but also avoiding discovery by the police, who dislike vigilantes because cops are a bunch of squares.
Elijah Price, meanwhile, spent the intervening years in a hospital for delinquent lunatics, whose name, like many movie houses, has the word “raven” in it. David and Kevin Wendell Crumb land here too, and we get to the flesh of the story where Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) tries to deal with their “deception” of being superhuman. She works specifically with people who think they have comic powers. This is a bit of a non-starter for the audience-we’ve seen these guys in action; this is not a deception – but it’s enough for David to doubt his reason. David’s son and Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) are eventually involved, as is Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), the girl Kevin escaped at the end of “Split” after developing affection for his real crazy person.
As a Fan of “Unbreakable” and “Split” I like, like Shyamalan, the comic elements of the former and the horror elements of the latter in the nutty, confident, periodically exciting fusion of “Glass.”(The links to “unbreakable”, including the use of its deleted scenes, are also well done.) Elijah is not only the bodily weak fool who teams up with a Brutal thug to achieve his goals; this is the fool who is fully aware that it’s always like this in comics, who believes that he fulfills his destiny by becoming a comic book super-villain and commenting on it frequently.
But Shyamalan is determined not to give us what he claims to us. He even teases a certain climax in the third act, then fiendishly (boring?) he does not offer. The story turns to madness, and the conclusion is unsatisfactory, although it is difficult to say how much Shyamalan meant it. I guess his thought was, “This is so different from what you thought! Isn’t that great?!”
But I enjoyed most of the movie, contrary to what I expected. James McAvoy gives an even more awesome performance than the versatile Kevin, who gives each of his personalities his own voice, gait and manners, alternating between them without not found a beat. The content may be frivolous, but the ability to convincingly pass it is a Masterclass level. And while I wish there had been another sequel somewhere centered on David and Joseph Dunn’s crime-action antics, here’s an exciting snapshot of them, which must be enough. I don’t like all of Shyamalan’s decisions, but I get a kick out of it when I watch him do exactly what he wants to do.