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Overall Rating
1.67

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 11.11%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap77.78%

1 review, 3 user ratings


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Glass (2019)
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Superheroes: An Introduction"
1 stars

With the exception of his super-obscure debut effort, I have seen all of the films made by M.Night Shyamalan over the years (yes, even the one with Rosie O’Donnell playing a nun) but when I entered the screening for his latest effort, “Glass,” I felt a sensation that I have never before associated with his work—a genuine sense of anticipation. To be honest, Shyamalan has never quite been my cup of tea—although an undeniably gifted stylist, he too often shoots himself in the foot with his oftentimes ludicrous plotting (especially regarding his increasingly dubious twist endings) and his occasional penchant for self-aggrandizement (this is a guy who once wrote a character in a script who was a writer whose work would one day literally change the world and then made sure to play the part himself). Even his breakthrough film, “The Sixth Sense,” did not impress me that much—it was well made and contained a nice performance by Bruce Willis but the whole thing was essentially an elongated “Twilight Zone” episode that wasn’t nearly as clever as it clearly thought itself to be. The one exception to this mild sense of disdain has always been “Unbreakable,” his haunting 2000 meditation on the whole superhero mythos starring Bruce Willis as a seemingly ordinary man who seemingly could not be injured and Samuel L. Jackson as the brittle-boned madman trying to get him to see his potential. This was a film that contained smart writing, strong performances, beautiful direction and a narrative that did not rely entirely on some goofball twist. Although perhaps not technically a part of the genre since it was not based on known characters, I would still rate it as one of the very best superhero movies ever made. Unfortunately, it arrived in theaters a few years before the current boom in superhero movies and while it was a hit, it wasn’t as big as many assumed it would be and the planned trilogy that Shyamalan had already been talking up at the time fell to the wayside.

Since most fans of that film had long given up on the possibility of an “Unbreakable 2,” it came as a genuine shock during the last few minutes of his last film, “Split” (2016), when the coda to his tale of the battle of wills between a psychotic with 23 distinct personalities, ranging from a sweet little boy to a jacked-up monster known as the Beast, and one of the teenage girls that he/they were holding hostage featured an appearance by Willis as his “Unbreakable” character. That was certainly a surprise that few saw coming and it was soon followed by the announcement that Shyamalan’s next film would be a dual sequel/mashup that would bring the narratives of both “Unbreakable” and “Glass” together into one shared universe. Granted, the idea sounded a tad unwieldy and there was the inescapable fact that “Split” a.) wasn’t very good and b.) wasn’t exactly screaming for a followup but the notion of a return to the “Unbreakable” world—especially in regards to how Shyamalan would deal with how the superhero mythos has come to dominate popular culture throughout the world in the years since the original came out—was so enticing that I was really interested to see what he had to say this time around.

Alas—and you probably saw this coming a mile away—it took “Glass” roughly nine minutes or so to pretty much strip away all of the anticipation and good will that I brought with me into the theater and replaced it with the usual mixture of boredom and annoyance that usually accompanies most Shyamalan joints. This movie is a genuine disaster—a grotesque mishmash of two distinct narratives that clearly do not go together into some kind of grand cinematic peanut butter cup—and while it may not be the worst film that he has ever made (though it certainly deserves consideration for that title), it surely has to go down as the biggest disappointment in his career for the way in which he squanders such a brilliant story concept on something as plodding, pedantic and flat-out stupid as this. The whole thing feels like a wildly expensive and overproduced bit of fan fiction that is far more interested in jamming a bunch of different characters into the same narrative that in creating a compelling narrative that those same characters could plausibly and entreatingly fit into.

Set 19 years after the events of “Unbreakable” and a few weeks after what transpired in “Split,” “Glass” opens with physically indestructible security guard David Dunn (Willis) now dividing his time between running a security firm and stalking the streets of Philadelphia as a poncho-wearing vigilante known as the Overseer (well, he has a number of nicknames, as it turns out), both with the assistance of his now-grown son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). One day, while out on his patrol, he literally brushes up against Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), the man with multiple personalities, on the street, he follows Kevin back to the remote abandoned factory where he has imprisoned four cheerleaders who are in imminent danger of being sacrificed to his Beast personality. David frees the girls and then gets into a wall-smashing brawl with Kevin that is eventually stopped by the police, who capture the two of them and, under the orders of psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple, are whisked away to the remote Raven Hill Memorial Psychiatric Research Center, where they are held in rooms tricked out to take advantage of their weaknesses—David has a room that periodically floods with water from a 15,000 gallon tank located just outside and Kevin has one with a giant stone light designed to zap him from one personality to the next if he starts getting violent.

Such accoutrements might stoke most people as a tad absurd but that doesn’t even scratch the surface. It seems that Dr. Staple specializes in cases in which are under the delusion that they are characters in a comic book—an ever-expanding field, according to her. She announces that she has been given three days to use her expertise to poke holes in the backstories of both David and Kevin in order to persuade them that they are not that special after all—that the former is not impervious to injury and the latter is just a garden-variety lunatic. Eventually, she brings in a third patient to join them who seems to suffer the same delusion—the wheelchair-bound Elijah Price (Jackson), who David knows all to well and who is definitely interested in getting to better known Kevin and the various personalities. Without giving too much away—as per the insistence of Shyamalan’s admonishment that appeared before the screening—suffice it to say that two of the three find themselves attempting to escape the asylum and announce their presence to the world in a particularly flamboyant and public manner, the other finds himself trying to stop them while Dr. Staple, Joseph, Elijah’s still-doting mother (Charlayne Woodard) and Casey (Any Taylor-Joy), the only survivor of Kevin’s rampage in “Split,” stand around to watch the ensuing fireworks and jump in whenever the screenplay requires it.

As anyone who regularly reads my reviews can attest, the superhero genre is not exactly one of my favorites—I can appreciate a great example of such when one comes along (such as the current “Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse”) but for the most part, it is one that I have never quite responded to even as a child. And yet, “Unbelievable” was such a smart and nuanced look into comic book culture and what it meant to people that it was one of the few times that I truly found myself understanding what it was about it that attracted so many people to its traditions and tropes. Obviously, superheroes have become the dominant force in popular culture in the years since the release of that film to the point where everything else seems to have been pushed to the wayside. Therefore, it stands to reason that any film picking up the “Unbreakable” storyline after all that time would have to address the change in public attitude towards that kind of storytelling and how the move to the mainstream has changed the things that the creators of these modern myths are trying to say to their audiences. Well, you would think that but based on the evidence displayed here, it seems as if Shyamalan’s knowledge and interest in comic book culture came to a dead stop with the relative failure of “Unbreakable” and the radical shifts never entered his field of thought. Throughout the film, he has his characters lecture at pedantic length on the most basic elements of superhero myth as if the past two decades never happened. In this world, there are evidently no superhero movies to speak of, comic book stores are weird little enclave populated by pasty oafs who look bewildered if an attractive girl enters and where the revelation that Superman originally leaped through the air instead of flying is considered to be a deep cut stunner. On its own, this stuff is annoying as can be—it is like being forced to read the rules of a board game that you have played countless times over the years—but he goes on with it at such great and ponderous length that it feels as if Shyamalan’s superpower is the ability to paralyze people by harnessing the power of sheer boredom. If someone like myself, who doesn’t pretend to have a wide knowledge of the subject of superheroes and comic books, found Shyamalan’s approach borderline condescending, I can’t begin to imagine what it will feel like to someone who is more into it than I.

At the same time that “Glass” is failing as an examination of the meaning of superheroes in contemporary culture, it is also failing at pretty much everything else. It doesn’t take too long to realize that while the revelation that “Split” was part of the “Unbreakable” universe made for a nifty momentary jolt, the two narratives do not blend together very well, especially since Shyamalan has made no effort to develop them in any meaningful ways. This is maybe understandable in the case of “Split”—this story picks up only a little while after those events and that film was more a showcase for McAvoy’s party-trick performance than a truly satisfying tale—but the lack of development on the “Unbreakable” side of things is truly shocking. You get the feeling that Shyamalan spent more time and energy into working out a brief and wildly distracting reprise of the character that he himself played in the first film that brings him up to date than in speculating as to what David himself has been doing during that time. Actually, David often feels too much like a bystander in his own theoretical story throughout—once in the asylum, he disappears for long stretches of time and even during the big climax, he only rarely seems engaged in the proceedings. Instead, the focus goes to Kevin, whose quicksilver shifts in personality have grown tedious over time, and Elijah, who spends the first half of the film in a near-comatose state and the second threatening to put the audience into the same with his relentless monologuing. As for the big surprise ending, I wouldn’t dream of revealing the particulars of how Shyamalan tries to tie things up but suffice it t say, the denouement is so completely nonsensical in both its concept and execution that it almost feels as if he is trying to turn the film into a secret sequel to “The Village.”

Not even the talented actors on hand here are able to come close to salvaging the material they are working with here. The three leads are all working of different emotional wavelengths but even when they are in the same scene together, they rarely seem to be part of the same story. McAvoy’s performance the first time around was essentially a stunt that got more praise than it probably deserved—it was like watching someone doing their imitation of an old Robin Williams routine, hitting all the shifts in character but never connecting with any of them—and without the element of surprise that it had in “Split,” it gets old really quick this time around, especially once it becomes obvious that nothing new is entering the mix.Willis, on the other hand, underplays David to such an extent that he hardly seems to be doing anything at all—he isn’t necessarily bad but you always get the sense that he is just going through the motions. Jackson finds himself somewhere in between those two extremes but this time around, what was once a fascinating character—a bad guy who did evil things for a purpose that was at least understandable, if not forgivable—has now become a bore. As the newbie at the middle of the reunion, Sarah Paulson turns in a performance that is just plain awful throughout, though her part is so poorly conceived and executed that it is impossible to imagine any actress making something out of it. In the smaller supporting roles, Clark, Woodard and Taylor-Joy are all actually quite good but the script never finds much for them to do—you keep expecting them to take center stage at some point but they never do.

“Glass” is the first all-out disaster of 2019—a film so awful that it almost makes me want to go back and apologize to the likes of “Escape Room” and “Replicas” for what I said about them. It is a long, dreary slow through a story that shows barely concealed contempt for its audience and which is so bad that it may make fans of “Unbreakable” want to go back and watch it again to see if it actually was as good as they remembered or if their minds have been playing tricks on them over the years. It will no doubt make a ton of money but I cannot imagine that very many of those who fork over to see it will come away from it feeling even remotely satisfied. Between the clumsy plotting, condescending tone and that bewildering ending, this is the work of a filmmaker who came perilously close to losing his entire audience by believing his own hype about his genius and who seems to have learned absolutely nothing from the experience. The film may be titled “Glass” but as it turns out, the whole endeavor is pretty much 100% pure Ass.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=30529&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/17/19 09:22:54
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User Comments

1/23/19 Bob Dog My favorite of the trilogy - Shyamalan directs yet another (smart) crowd pleaser! 5 stars
1/20/19 Louise (the real one) More laughable garbage from the king of over-rated horse-shit. 1 stars
1/19/19 morris campbell not bad but not on par with the other 2 films 3 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  18-Jan-2019 (PG-13)
  DVD: 16-Apr-2019

UK
  N/A

Australia
  18-Jan-2019
  DVD: 16-Apr-2019




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