One of the biggest spoilers I’ve seen recently was in the form of a trailer preceding Glass; it was for the upcoming Spiderman movie so now I know, in no uncertain terms, that Spiderman will survive whatever chaos ensued in the last Avengers saga, Spiderman will indeed survive. (I hope I didn’t burst anyone’s bubble with that disclosure; however, Spiderman has been—and will no doubt continue to be a lucrative franchise.) Which brings me to Glass, the sequel to Unbreakable and Split, two films that I thought were perfectly fine standing alone, but the writer/director of those M. Night Shyamalan, obviously had other ideas. If you saw Unbreakable, it turned out to be an effective, different kind of “superhero’ film anchored by good work from Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, and if you viewed Split, and the tour-de-force by James McAvoy as Kevin, the keeper with many different (and fairly distinct) personalities, you might very well feel that Shyamalan’s job was done—at least as far as these characters were concerned. However, the Split coda also gave you reason to believe the story wasn’t over yet.
So here we are in 2019 with Glass, the third in the superhero/supervillain trilogy, and for the first half or so, it’s an excellent film—my favorite from 2019 (okay, it’s early in the year). Willis is still in action as David Dunn, using his “gifts” (including superhuman strength and psychic abilities) to roam Philadelphia and rid the city of miscreants and evildoers. (His son (Spencer Treat Clark—also from Unbreakable) tries to encourage Dad to stay indoors for a spell, as he fears Dad’s cover will be blown.) After Dunn crosses paths with Kevin (in his Hedwig mode), he finds the girls that Kevin imprisoned and saves them from becoming a meal for the Beast. These heroics also lead the two men—hero and villain—to fall under the control of Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple, who heads the local mental institution where, not so coincidentally, Samuel Jackson’s Elijah Glass is being held. A mental and emotional battle of wills takes place between doctor and inmates, with Jackson/Glass seemingly subdued while McAvoy/Kevin seamlessly and effectively switches personas in some impressive long takes. This first half of slowly increasing the tension; it also does an excellent job of presenting the father/son dynamic (Willis and Clark still work well together), the physical toll of the heroics, the institutional nightmares that traps Dunn while giving a voice to the “mercurial’ Kevin, and the quiet but observant Glass—who can’t remain silent forever. (It is Samuel L. Jackson in the role, after all.) The setting is almost an Orwellian nightmare, with surveillance and personality-control mechanisms in full display, along with the ineffectual human element in charge of them.
So...how is Glass shattered? Once certain characters’ master plans (and there are a few of them in play) are explained to us at length, and the motivations of other key players come into play, it becomes a jumbled, depressing, violent mess. By now, you also become quite aware of the actors as opposed to the characters, as familiarity has by now breeded contempt. If you were hoping for a satisfying resolution, you’re not going to get it here, as certain characters behave in ways that are not only implausible, but fall afoul of certain ground rules that have been established. In any case, Glass is a missed opportunity, especially given that compelling first half.