To prepare to see Glass, I watched Split over the weekend. I found it to be a tight film with a fantastic performance by James McAvoy as a psychopath with 23 personalities (plus a potentially super-human one called The Beast). When the final scene (a Marvel-type Easter egg) showed Bruce Willis as Unbreakable‘s David Dunn, it seemed tacked-on, as though director M. Night Shyamalan woke up in the middle of the night with the inspiration to thread together these seemingly disparate stories. Now we have Glass, bringing the characters from the two films together in an intriguing if frustratingly unsatisfying way.
Taking place a mere three weeks after the incidents in Split, the man we’ll just call Kevin Wendell Crumb (McAvoy) has had his latest kidnapping of nubile young women thwarted by the now white-bearded David Dunn who parades around in a dark raincoat as a vigilante for good on the streets of Philadelphia. But their ultimate showdown gets interrupted by the cops, and they are both sent to a mental hospital under the watchful eye of psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). To Dunn’s surprise, another inmate at the hospital is his old brittle-boned, evil-mastermind nemesis Elijah Price, aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) who has been kept there heavily sedated for almost 20 years. But this reunion is entirely on purpose: The doctor is particularly interested in what makes these three supposedly super-human men tick.
Glass, like Unbreakable, intellectualizes the roles of superheroes, from their ubiquitousness in pop culture to their origins to their mythology to the straight-faced question that asks if their existence is possible in real life. Perhaps these extraordinary people actually walk among us, or perhaps they are just delusional people that feel they are invincible. This analysis of superheroes is fresh and interesting, and the film offers a lot to chew on.
But the film spends too long drawing out this intriguing setup–remember how slow Unbreakable was?–only to pull the rug out from under you (as Shyamalan loves to do) too soon. Without giving anything away, I’ll just say that narratively Shyamalan plays the audience, showing us the horizon where you think the film is going, only to say, no, sorry, we’re not going there. Like, at all. In fact, this is all you get. It ends up being a head-scratching anti-climax, like, “Wait… what?” (In fact, now that I have reflected on it a little more, I’m not even entirely convinced that this “sequel” to Unbreakable even needed the McAvoy character woven in.)
Based on tendrils of plot at the end of the film (which also feels tacked-on), Shyamalan obviously has more stories from this universe up his sleeve. If so, I suggest that he start talking to Netflix or Prime so that the world he has created gets the necessary room to breathe.