The ‘superhero’ film that fails to break the Glass ceiling

Dave Kelly reviews the subverted superhero film, Glass.

image credit: Hollywood Reporter

Glass had the potential to be a cinematic triumph: a film that examined the superhero genre with a critical lens while simultaneously contributing to its immense canon. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

 

The premise of Glass was introduced at the end of Split, when M. Night Shyamalan revealed that it takes place in the same universe as Unbreakable, a film he released 16 years prior. It was an interesting concept that took inspiration from the classic superhero ‘post-credits scene’.

The hook that this twist provided was that both the characters from Unbreakable and Split had supernatural powers that are grounded in a grim realism. The now inevitable interaction between these characters seemed extremely promising.

The film centres on Bruce Willis and Samuel L  Jackson’s characters from Unbreakable being institutionalised with James McAvoy’s character from Split, for displaying a disorder whereas they believe themselves to be superheroes.

Sarah Paulson plays a psychiatrist tasked with convincing these characters that they are not superheroes, but rather mentally ill. This is a captivating premise, allowing for intense scrutiny of these extraordinary characters.

The film excels when it pursues this aspect of the plot. The character stuff with McAvoy’s ‘Kevin’ or ‘The Beast’, Willis’ ‘ David Dunn’ and Jackson’s ‘Mr Glass’ is great. Shyamalan is excellent at unravelling some of the intriguing mysteries of their character.

In terms of performances, McAvoy as Kevin, a man with 23 personalities, is good, although at times it feels a bit contrived. Highlights include his performance as Patricia, a zealot personality who believes that ‘The Beast’, a super personality with an amalgamation of animalistic abilities, is going to purify the world.

Jackson gives a great performance as Mr Glass, although he isn’t given much to do until the midpoint of the second act, which is rather unfortunate as his character is a more interesting agent.

Willis’ performance feels somewhat phoned in. He has more to do than Jackson, but the stoicism that characterises David Dunn doesn’t exactly make for a compelling performance.

Paulson is another flatliner. While her character kickstarts some of the more interesting character development and interaction, her own character suffers from being plain and boring. Although, part of that may be blamed on the script.

Speaking of the script, it takes a massive dive in the third act. A staple of Shyamalan’s films is a twist ending, where the context of the film is subverted, and the events of the plot take on different meaning.

Sometimes this works, other times it fails. Sadly, Glass is in the latter category. The problem with its twist ending is that it doesn’t enhance the context of the trilogy, it completely undermines them.

The journeys of David Dunn, Kevin and Mr Glass are made irrelevant by an antagonist that is introduced in the last part of the film. It is completely ridiculous and cripples any tension or immersion the film had created up to that point.

Shyamalan attempts to further intellectualise his subversion of the superhero genre, however he merely ends up detracting from the progress made in the first two acts, and the first two films.

Essentially, the twist ruins the film. It happens too soon and prolongs a painful, cringeworthy conclusion to an otherwise competent film.

The film ends with three supporting characters committing an act that is supposed to be inspiring, but falls flat on its face if given even an inch of scrutiny.

If you have seen Unbreakable and Split, you might as well watch Glass to finish off the experience. However, beyond that, Glass does not merit a recommendation based on the fact it elicits more frustration than engagement.

 

Dave Kelly 

 

Image Credit: Hollywood Reporter