Insert broken pun here.
One of the biggest mysteries in Hollywood is how M. Night Shyamalan still has an active directing and writing career. My friend and I pondered this question on our way to a screening of Shyamalan’s latest film, Glass. After The Village disappointed countless fans, Shyamalan rapid-fired four of the worst movies anyone has ever seen – Lady in the Water, The Happening, The Last Airbender, and After Earth. I would like to simply point at box office as the reason he still has a job, but The Happening is the only one that can be considered a box office success, and that one only because the budget was less than $50 million. Considering that film was a summer release with a ton of marketing, that profit was probably low. To be fair, nobody gives him large budgets after the debacles of After Earth and The Last Airbender, but, seriously, has anyone ever coasted so long on one great film (The Sixth Sense)?
(Side note: The budget for Glass is an advertised $20 million. Given the success of Split, it is a near certainty Glass will turn a healthy profit.)
Of course, we would not be having this conversation if James McAvoy had not rescued Shyamalan’s career with McAvoy’s fantastic performance as Kevin Crumb and Kevin’s multiple personalities in 2017’s Split. But, we are. And, speaking of which, Glass is a sequel to Split. Also, Glass is a sequel to Shyamalan’s second film, Unbreakable. You remember that one, don’t you? I don’t. No, really, can you please recap it for me? I remember Bruce Willis was super strong and Samuel Jackson had brittle bones. I remember kind of liking it, but it faded from memory rather quickly. I suppose that was inevitable. After watching five craptastic films in a row (yes, The Visit was also a terrible, terrible film), it is not surprising that my brain tried to wipe away every trace of Shyamalan films, even the ones that were not painful to watch.
(SPOILER ALERT – Shyamalan’s streak of solid movies is over at one, with Split. I will have a hard time holding back here.)
For nineteen years, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) has been fighting crime. A joke is made between David and his now grown son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), about the various names David is being referred to (the latest being The Overseer). At one point, he was called The Tip-Toe Man, which does not even begin to approach making sense (at any level of this fictitious world or screenwriting) and the two have a laugh about it. Meanwhile, Kevin “The Horde” Crumb (McAvoy) has kidnapped four girls and getting ready to release The Beast on them (if you missed Split, that means eat them). David and Joseph have been trying to track down Kevin, which leads to a pretty good fight scene to close out the opening act of the film. After battling for a couple minutes, the two are surprised by a group of paramilitary soldiers, led by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) and some flashy lights, and captured. Aside from Dr. Staple being an objectively awful character name, the film is solid up to this point. Then, Shyamalan happens.
David and Kevin are taken to a psychiatric hospital where all good film pacing goes to die. For the next hour-plus, there is talking. And more talking. And flashbacks. And even more talking. Most of the time, Dr. Staple is trying to convince David, Kevin, and Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price (Jackson) that they are not comic book heroes, but that they have a disorder in the frontal lobe of their brain and they have only convinced themselves of their powers. If you are wondering how Mr. Glass got there, do not hold your breath for an answer. He just is. Again, I do not remember how Unbreakable ended, but I seem to recall David simply walking away from Mr. Glass and the film ending (the Internet seems to agree with that). Just accept it, like you do with every other unexplained Shyamalan plot point.
After approximately nine hours, we finally get to something resembling a plot when it is revealed (and spoiled in the trailers) that Mr. Glass has been faking being sedated and enacts a plot to escape from the ward and reveal the two super humans (David and Kevin) to the world. I had been tolerating the film up to this point, mostly because I had hope for a good climax and ending. After all, Glass is supposedly a movie nineteen years in the making; part three of a planned trilogy. Apparently, my brain did such a great job of erasing bad Shyamalan films that I forgot how terrible he is at concluding films not named The Sixth Sense.
The big showdown we had been promised was like taking a drink of the Coke you ordered and discovering the syrup ran out before they poured it. The fight between David and The Beast features terrible choreography and even worse camera angles and edits. Mostly, they just push each other against a van and try to choke each other. I realize that we are used to seeing comic book characters throwing each other around in CGI-heavy slugfests, but this was pathetic. To make matters worse, a secret organization marked by shamrock tattoos is sprung on the audience, visiting a fate on our three main characters that is best described as fuck you, Shyamalan. Unsatisfying does not even begin to describe the feeling this scene engenders. I mean, I was not one of the eight people waiting nineteen years for this sequel, but I can only imagine how suicidal those eight people will be after watching this dreck.
Want to know the bad news? I have not even mentioned the shoddy acting from most of the cast (McAvoy, Willis, and Jackson are just fine, at least), another worthless and self-indulgent cameo scene by Shyamalan himself, some truly atrocious dialogue (Kevin to Mr. Glass – “what do I call you?” Mr. Glass – “First name Mister. Last name Glass”), and the massive plot holes typical of Shyamalan films that are required for the big reveal at the end to work (albeit not much of a reveal in the case of this film).
Just to give you one example of a plot hole you have to swallow, the Beast is kept at bay by the flashy lights, which force a personality change in Kevin every time they flash him. As my friend pointed out after the movie, why didn’t he just close his eyes? Or put a pillow over his eyes and murder everyone in the facility. This one thing alone, makes the film at least three levels worse and is on par with the absurdity of an alien race deathly allergic to water invading a planet covered in water while wearing no clothes.
The worst part of this whole film was seeing the bones of a potentially great movie in Glass and watching those bones get chewed into tiny bits by Shyamalan’s lack of writing and directing skills. Actually, the worst part of this film was Shyamalan trying to replicate the not-a-comic-book-but-really-is-a-comic-book movie aspect of Unbreakable, but beat the audience over the head with constant acknowledgements of it being a comic book movie. Like how Scream was aware of itself being a horror film, but bad like the Scream sequels. One of these days, we are going to figure out how Shyamalan’s career has survived so many terrible films. But, for now, I am hoping to remember this film so that when the inevitable next sequel comes out, I am fully prepared for crap again.
Rating: Ask for all but a dollar back. McAvoy keeps this film from being a complete waste of time.