We watched it last Sunday, as it was a holiday weekend. First of all, let me first admit I’m an M. Night Shyamalan fangirl. I love the way he tells stories and have enjoyed even the movies he made that were panned almost universally by critics. There is a gentleness, or politeness, to his darkest tales. He doesn’t cross the line into nihilism regarding violence and human suffering. There is always light at the end of the tunnel. Also, he’s a genius at suspense, able to create a sense of danger and doom using simple methods, such as the wind blowing.
Glass is stylistically Shyamalan. It’s dark and gritty and light at the same time. It grabbed me at the beginning, when I realized the superhero in Unbreakable was about to go head-to-head with Split’s antihero. Bruce Willis makes a great superhero; James McAvoy a great villain. In addition to his other storytelling skills, Shyamalan knows how to choose actors. See also the third “super” in Glass: Samuel Jackson as Mr. Glass.
And then all three supers are locked in a psych ward, and the suspense from the beginning slowly leaks out. Perhaps that’s not fair. It simply becomes another type of story, one not about the suspense of the one good guy faced with defeating two villains, but about how unusually gifted people are misunderstood and suppressed by the world around them. This concept places the three on the same level, really. It’s not that one is good and the other two bad, because the shadowy organization that imprisons them treats them the same way, and all three must fight against this shadowy organization. Yes, David Dunn’s (Willis’s), goal is still to save innocent lives, while the other two are inclined toward hubris, but there is a uniting moment at the end that makes it clear they are exactly Mr. Glass’s prognosis from Unbreakable: in need of each other.
That uniting moment is really what lost me. I just didn’t buy it, for a number of reasons. Travis Perry wrote a good review over at Speculative Faith, in which he called it “artificial.” I agree, and not just because I dislike the concept of the dark uniting with the light. Hollywood loves to use that religious trope, and I dislike it intensely. However, Shyamalan usually doesn’t use it, which makes me think his Glass is just a set-up to a new superhero universe. A weak one.
Let me explain: what happens at the end of the film is orchestrated by Mr. Glass, whose super power is supposed to be super intelligence. But what he accomplishes seems obvious. Anyone with hubris and a modicum of survival instinct would have figured out how to accomplish what he did. Yet, the “true” bad guy, the representative of the shadowy organization, shrieks in horror at the end at how she had been outwitted by him.
All in all, I enjoyed watching the film. I like how Shyamalan sets scenes; I like his actors. If he does use this as the setup for new superhero films, I’ll watch them. But that’s because I’m an ardent Shyamalan fan. Ultimately, though, this is not his best effort. Also, Willis’s Dunn disagreed with Mr. Glass way back in Unbreakable about their [heroes’ and villians’] mutual need for each other. It’s hard for me to swallow that Dunn was wrong and Glass was right. Ugh. I don’t know. I might watch more films in this universe, soley out of curiosity to see how Shyamalan will climb out the philosophical hole he’s dug for himself.