Heavy spoilers for Split and some light spoilers for Glass
When Split released in 2016, a lot of fans and critics alike, hailed it as the comeback of M. Night Shyamalan, and in many ways it was; it was a well-made, well-written, well-acted, and well-shot psychological drama about dealing with abuse, as well as having the signature twist that elevated the movie and made you running out of the theater to buy a ticket to see it again. So, when Glass was announced, there was hardly any surprise but there was a lot of excitement for it; Shyamalan was not only back in the spotlight, he had to deal once again with high expectations. On its surface, Glass has enough in it to deal with that demand; it picks up sometime after the events of Split with David Dunn (Bruce Willis’ character) becoming a vigilante and being on the lookout for Kevin (James McAvoy’s character from Split) who has abducted 4 cheerleaders, which sets up the confrontation between the two that we were teased with from the end of Split.
So does Glass live up to expectations and the excitement it had? No, and a lot of that has to do with Shyamalan’s decisions. Let me clarify that this is not an attack on Shyamalan’s personality or ability as either a writer or a director; this is a critique by a fan of Shyamalan’s work, who wanted this movie to be awesome, but left the theater disappointed. My major issue with this movie is that it is BORING; some may find it to be a “slow-burner”, but that implies that the movie takes its time to build towards something worthwhile. While it does build to something (and whether you find it worthwhile is debatable), for three quarters of the movie there’s nothing else going on, which is not how slow-building movies work; things do happen, but they may not be important from a narrative stand-point, but may be pivotal for character development, setting the mood, building atmosphere, laying the groundwork for theme and philosophical explorations. Glass quickly turns into a movie that takes place in a single location—a psychiatric hospital—and tries to set up its characters and eventual twists and themes from there, and it simply does not work; David Dunn is given no time or any meaningful direction (only made worst by one of the most bland Bruce Willis performances I’ve ever seen) for the entire movie, Kevin is only made slightly bearable by McAvoy’s standout performance, and Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson’s character from Unbreakable) is made worst because he is the only character capable of driving the plot out of the cliff it has fallen into. However, not even David Dunn’s mediocrity or Kevin being transformed from an unnerving presence to an annoying character or even Elijah being transformed from a haunted and troubled genius to an over the top villain for the next “Now you see me” movie, can compare to Dr. Staple’s character (played by Sarah Paulson); she is incredibly infuriating, whenever she appears, and the plot hinges on her character being made likeable and producing reasonable doubt in the characters minds (as well as ours), since the entire premise is her producing doubt on whether the abilities they have are even real, and she fails miserably. Her arguments not only don’t make sense, they go unchallenged by the characters–which makes them look like idiots–and make the interactions between Dr. Staple and any other character in the movie, cringe-worthy and infuriating to follow.
But, these are just the character issues I have; the story, themes, twists, and execution of them are even worst. From small issues—like discussing narrative devices and techniques in the movie through comic book references with the smugness of a shitty teenager—to the whole pacing and flow of the movie (from the main plot to side stories and uninteresting, meaningless diversions), Glass is a massive disappointment and a bad movie. Beyond that, in this trilogy, we went from Unbreakable being about a person having the superpower to deal with life’s ongoing blows and pain and trying to makes sense of that (and the other side of that), to Split being about dealing with abuse, to Glass being about…I don’t know, society trying to hold special qualities down and make any challenge to the status quo disappear? That would be fine, if the execution was better and if the twists were not actively ruining the movie; obviously I won’t say what happens, but the final act has 4 major twists and they are all bad in their own ways. The first one (in order of appearance) is so poorly handled and predictable that it only occurred to me that it was a twist as I was writing this; the second one is actually pretty good(!), because it makes sense and completely changes the dynamic and tension of the scene (although it then doesn’t! This is a weird movie); the third one is so complicated and unnecessary, it gave me a sore neck from shaking my head in the theater, and a headache from trying to figure out how this even happened and why; the last one is again predictable, but also blurs the themes of the movie in such a bad way, that it feels like it was written on a napkin and then tossed into the script.
Obviously, not everything is bad in Glass; I thought Shyamalan did an excellent job as a director, considering the limited budget he had and the decision to shoot an entire movie in one location; I thought the acting, especially from Samuel L. Jackson and McAvoy, was excellent. Above all, I appreciate the fact that Shyamalan did something bold with Glass; this is not a safe sequel, this is not something that can be created by someone with no talent or passion. But, unlike last year’s Annihilation and Bad Times at El Royale were bold movies that succeeded, this is a bold movie that fails terribly. It is already a divisive movie that has people either loving or hating it, and unfortunately I’m on the latter side of the argument; I just hope that Shyamalan shows the same boldness and passion for his next project, and hopefully I’ll be on the other side.