GLASS, the final installment in director M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy, is a rather aggravating watch that opts to trick the viewer, at all costs, instead of delivering a satisfying conclusion. Without giving too much away, the out-of-left-field twist ending — and you knew there was going to be, at least, one — is hopelessly flat because it is completely unearned.
Wrapping up a story that first began with 2000’s UNBREAKABLE, and was continued seventeen years later in SPLIT, GLASS brings back David Dunn (Bruce Willis), ‘The Beast’ (James McAvoy), and Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) for their long-awaited showdown. Yes, there are moments were Shyamalan’s gift for crafting a compelling tale is on display, but they are few and far between as the once-celebrated ‘auteur’ proves, again, to be incapable of getting out of his own way.
The failure of GLASS to hit its mark is particularly frustrating because of how genuinely welcomed and unexpected SPLIT’s connection to the original film turned out to be. While not a massive hit (especially compared to the game-changing success of THE SIXTH SENSE), UNBREAKABLE grew to become a modest fan favorite; leaving many to dream of a follow-up.
[Ed.’s Note: Insert that “Be careful” quote here.]
As with SPLIT, James McAvoy is the clear standout here as Kevin Wendell Crumb (and his many personalities). McAvoy, arguably, gave the best performance of 2017, and he easily lives up to that high standard here. When Elijah Price is finally given a chance to shine, Samuel L. Jackson does deliver — but his titular role suffers from being shamefully underwritten. Anna Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clark are mostly underused (with Taylor-Joy’s Casey Cooke turning into a half-baked plot device), and a relatively awake Bruce Willis doesn’t phone it in this time.
Judging from early reviews, the most divisive character is Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple; a woman whose life work is dedicated to curing people who think they are superheroes (and please take a moment to re-read that last part). The screenplay did her zero favors, but Paulson — backed by both a lack of emoting and a strange lisp — is a huge reason why the second act drags and seems to last forever.
By design, this superhero franchise isn’t like Marvel, and GLASS was never in any real danger of being cherished for its action scenes. However, it is still laughable how unexciting the third act showdown turns out to be. M. Night Shyamalan’s decision to overuse the P.O.V. shot during most of the highly anticipated fight sequence makes it look like cheap GoPro footage (and, possibly, an attempt to hide Bruce Willis’ 63-year-old limitations). Ultimately, every second of the ‘big battle’ either looks bland or computer-generated.
And, then, there is that (multiple) twist ending. The first one was largely hinted back in SPLIT, and the final turn could have ended the movie on a high note, but that second (and most important) ‘shock’ is, simply, dumb. Shyamalan may have had a promising idea on paper, but the execution is a clear misfire because there is nothing, at all, leading up to it. Movie twists tend to work well when there is information hidden in plain sight for you to discover. Here, though, Shyamalan went the old Vince Russo-WCW wrestling route of throwing in something unestablished and entirely random because — SWERVE!! — he wanted to prove his superiority by tricking you.
Instead, he gave GLASS a lame ending that is about as deep as a puddle. Literally.
One and a Half out of Five Beers.