M. Night Shyamalan delivers his climax to a story 19 years in the making, but is it the finale audiences hoped for?
Following the breakout success of 1999’s the Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan released an underrated gem in the form of 2000’s Unbreakable, an antihero of a superhero film well before the world, and the box office, were flooded with stories about Marvel and DC’s finest. 16 years later, a pseudo-sequel of sorts was delivered to audiences in the form of Split, a psychological horror film that impressed (to an extent) fans and critics alike while simultaneously revealing itself to be a follow-up to the 2000 cult classic. With the shocking unveiling that these 2 films were connected, the only logical thing to do in this day and age is to cap this story off with a bomb-ass cinematic adventure tying all of the Unbreakableverse (Splitverse? Still working on the wording) into a genre-bending trilogy. But where the first movie impressed with it’s telling of the “realistic superhero” tale, and the 2nd succeeded based on impressive performances (by one man) and a shocking twist, the bookend to this storyline leaves much to be desired, with questions about the direction taken by the “master of the twist ending,” as well as why it felt like I had just watched 2 very different films combined into what became Glass.
The movie begins only 3 weeks after the events of Split, meaning that David Dunn, or the “the Overseer” as the media has dubbed him, has been a staple in the vigilante scene of Philadelphia for almost 20 years. He owns a home security store but now spends his days walking the streets identifying the wicked, aided by his adult son Joseph, so that justice can be served at night in his patented rain poncho. David is hellbent on finding the Horde and rescuing 4 new girls who have gone missing since the events at the Philadelphia Zoo in Split. It is not long before our hero and villain cross paths, setting the main plot into motion. Right from the start Bruce Willis channels Mr. Dunn so effortlessly that it doesn’t feel as if it’s been 19 years since he originated the role, with James McAvoy embodying every single character in the Horde with such ease (so it seems) that his portrayal of Hedwig, Dennis, Patricia, the Beast, “etsseterraa” should be taught and studied by every wannabe actor in every performing arts school in the world.
With the movie quickly moving from the streets of Philly to a mental institution called Ravenhill Memorial, we now have our 3 major players in one place, as Samuel L. Jackson’s Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price is already a patient there. Dr. Ellie Staple is the psychiatrist that has taken an interest in all 3 men, convinced that their “abilities” are nothing more than delusions of grandeur that can be explained away, in every case, scientifically. While Sarah Paulson is an incredible actress and does a stellar job of bringing her character to life, every line of dialogue that exits her mouth comes off as patronizing to her 3 patients, and in some ways, toward the audience. While the middle section of the movie is understandably necessary to advance the plot to its sure to be (hopefully? maybe?) thrilling climax, it is around this point that the movie begins to shift from the obvious culmination of the previous 2 movies in the trilogy, to a hokey, disjointed, altogether unnecessary breakdown of the superhero genre as a whole.
The film comes to an obvious climax between its 2 primary antagonists and the hero, but it all seems as if the movie has shifted entirely. Yes, there are enough moderately entertaining twists to hold the interest of the viewers throughout, with each new reveal connecting all three movies able to elicit an, “ohhh….cool.” from anyone who has seen the previous 2 films in the trilogy. But instead of sticking with “what worked” in both Unbreakable and Split, the film enters territory previously unexplored in its pacing and dialogue, making for one cringe-inducing scene after another. The performances of the cast tentatively hold the film together at this point but are not enough to overshadow the obvious shortcomings, most of all being the nonessential, overall gratuitous explanation of every comic book trope being witnessed on screen. While this could have seemed somewhat necessary had Split, and then Glass, been released directly after Unbreakable, the last 20 years have seen an influx in superhero and comic-inspired films unlike any other genre has seen in modern cinematic history. The X-Men & Sam Raimi Spider-Man films launched a new chapter in film, and with the box-office crushing success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, people who’ve never picked up a comic before in their life know who Iron Man, Captain America, and Black Panther are. The explanations of devices such as “the showdown,” and quotes like, “that sounds like the bad guys teaming up!” all but elicit a groan from a generation of moviegoers that can quote Christopher Nolan Batman dialogue in everyday conversation. From someone who is normally such a stylish filmmaker and crafty storyteller, the last 30 minutes of the film devolve into complete comic book chaos.
Is the film unwatchable? Of course not. As stated earlier, the performances hold the film together, with McAvoy’s depiction of the multiple members of the Horde standing out amongst his cohorts (#teamHedwig, forever). If you have followed Shyamalan on this journey 19 years in the making, it only makes sense that you will see this commitment through and go see Glass. With that said, do not expect Unbreakable, do not expect Split, but instead expect a film that seems as if it has the multiple personalities of one of its highlighted characters, unsure of which personality it really wants to “take the light.”
+ performances are impressive, especially McAvoy’s Horde
+ a mostly fun, engaging film for 2/3 of the movie
+ chemistry between the 3 main characters
– final 1/3 of the film is a mess
– the roles of the B characters leave much to be desired
– some of the decisions made by characters seem unbelievable even in a fictional setting
– dialogue is cheesy at times
– “explanations” throughout the film are unnecessary
– one of the final twists is more confusing than enlightening and should’ve been left out entirely
What’d you think? Good film or big pile of cray cray.
Lou Mattiuzzo is a contributor to The Geekiverese. He is a full-time teacher, full-time husband, full-time father & full-time superhero enthusiast. Follow him on Twitter @Sweetest_Lou for a random selection of very important, not at all asinine, tweets.