Review by C.J. Bunce
M. Night Shyamalan is an auteur in a small league of directors that includes Quentin Tarantino, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Wes Anderson, the Coen Brothers, and Stanley Kubrick. First, you either love or hate each creator’s oeuvre, their signature, their style. But their works are unmistakably their own. Shyamalan’s impact to modern film can’t be overstated. You can look at films before and after his surprise hit The Sixth Sense and see a shift toward films that require that surprise at the end. That trademark is now an integral part of cinema, even though it has been used as a story tool throughout the history of film and storytelling. But his use of this, his success from it, made everyone else jump on the bandwagon. Each of his films has something new to say, but his approach is unique compared to his peers. His take on superheroes is entirely different from anything else, and yet his love for comics and his genius in digging into what makes a great superhero tale proves his knowledge of the genre. If you’re a fan of the modern Detective Comics, where Batman is so dark it’s almost as much horror as superhero crimefighter, then you should check out his trilogy, beginning with Unbreakable, followed by Split, and now streaming on Vudu, GooglePlay, YouTube, Amazon, and other home video media, his third chapter in the trilogy, Glass. It is truly an epic film, the kind of story written by a comics reader and for a comics reader.
Most superhero movies follow a certain formula. The tropes are all there for the plucking, so it’s how the story is told that makes the exceptional superhero movie. Shyamalan’s slowly simmering follow-up returns to Bruce Willis′s David Dunn and Samuel L. Jackson′s Elijah Price from the 2000 first chapter Unbreakable. We find Dunn has continued his pursuit of justice, brilliantly partnered with his own “man in the chair,” his son from Unbreakable, played again by Spencer Treat Clark (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Chilling Adventures of Sabrina) now all grown up, in an intriguing update to the character. Price, however, has been relegated to a medical facility, visited frequently by his doting mother, played by returning actress Charlayne Woodard (Pose, Medium).
Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s Eight) proves exactly why she’s been cast as a young Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in the coming series Ratched, co-starring in Glass as Dr. Ellie Staple, a psychiatrist studying people who think they are superheroes, out to prove them wrong and get them the mental help she believes they need. Enter Kevin Wendell Crumb, who has multiple personality disorders–24 personalities in all–brilliantly portrayed by James McAvoy (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Dark Phoenix) who introduced the character in the suspense-horror film Split. Split was a surprise for everyone, carefully marketed as just another creepy Shyamalan movie, with the surprise ending that Crumb’s supervillain persona was The Beast, and an even bigger surprise: that Split was a sequel to Unbreakable.
Was Split a great superhero movie? Heck no. But it’s a helpful step to get audiences to catch up with all these characters to follow the story in Glass. And the trip is worth it. This includes coming full circle, and reintroducing Crumb’s only surviving victim from Split, Casey Cooke, played by Anya Taylor-Joy (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, The New Mutants). But this time Casey may have some level of Stockholm Syndrome, unable to detach herself from the kinder personalities within Crumb’s bank of characters, and a need to help him find his true self.
Dr. Staple has been given 48 hours to “save” these three people who believe they are superheroes. But this is a superhero movie. So Shyamalan’s characters, harkening back to Elijah Price in Unbreakable–the physically fragile villain that is the Glass of the title–and his expository speeches about his role in the story, all must take their place inside the larger puzzle.
But what kind of superhero story is this really?
Can you possibly predict what’s coming next?
Shyamalan’s work here is nothing short of brilliant. His writing and direction stitch together the first two movies into a film several times better than the original, pulling together a great supporting cast and characters from the past, and forging the ultimate genre-bending film. McAvoy’s talent with slipping in and out of such a variety of characters makes his performance the kind of work that should earn him an Oscar nod come awards season. And the film’s dynamic duo–the chemistry–between David Dunn and his son, begs for a mini-series or prequel filling in what happened during the period between Unbreakable and Glass.
See Unbreakable and Split first, but be sure not to miss Glass. It’s a truly epic superhero tale, one of the best scripts for a superhero movie ever brought to the big screen. Glass is now streaming on Vudu, GooglePlay, YouTube, and here in digital format at Amazon. It’s also available at Amazon on DVD, Blu-ray, and 4K bundle.