In the 20 years since The Sixth Sense made M. Night Shyamalan a household name, two things have become very clear about the filmmaker.
First, he’s got a keen understanding of what makes for an intriguing plot. Second, he’s become progressively incapable of executing those ideas properly.
Never has this been more apparent than with his latest movie, Glass. While it isn’t the worst thing he’s ever made (that honor goes to The Last Airbender), it might be the most disappointing. That’s because Glass, the last entry in a trilogy kicked off by 2000’s Unbreakable, totally wastes its tremendous potential.
Glass picks up shortly after 2016’s Split, when Kevin Crumb, a man with Dissociative Identity Disorder (James McAvoy), kidnaps and eats a couple of high school girls while controlled by a personality known as “The Beast.” Having made headlines, the Beast finds himself the target of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), who has spent the much of the new millennium using his supernatural intuition and superhuman strength to hunt down bad guys and put the hurt on ’em.
The two superhumans go head-to-head right out of the gate, but their epic battle is quickly halted by the Philadelphia police department and a mysterious woman named Ellie Staple. Turns out she’s a psychologist specializing in grandiose delusions—and she’s about to put Dunn, Crumb, and old foe Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) through the wringer.
Except Shyamalan doesn’t build the story’s inherent tension in any meaningful way. The wringer here is more like a casual inquiry, which the script insists its characters find overwhelming and revelatory, even though it doesn’t make any sense for them to do so.
Split ’s entire plot was predicated on the Crumb personalities’ unwavering belief in the Beast, but Staple has them befuddled after two minutes of chatting. David Dunn has been finding monsters and kicking ass for two decades, but suddenly both he and his son are questioning his abilities. And Dunn never tries, and is conveniently never asked, to display his immense strength and prove the good doctor wrong. We of course know that these men are both what they say they are, and given Shyamalan’s predilection for surprise twists, it’s easy for the audience to guess at least one of the big reveals here.
The second act drags on with our characters sitting in various rooms discussing nonsense with each other. As Glass slowly moves toward an end, there’s a brief glimmer of hope that things are going to turn around and we’ll actually get some spectacular action—but Shyamalan yanks away a natural conclusion in favor of a downright baffling, bland finale. In his effort to subvert superhero genre expectations, the director actively destroys his own film.
Glass does a tremendous disservice to the character established in Unbreakable, the promise put forth at the end of Split, and the possibilities still lingering within this universe. It is an unfortunate ending to what could have been an
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson
Theater: Now showing, area theaters