By Audrey Ruppert
Despite coming from a director (M. Night Shyamalan) known for either producing fantastic thrills (“The Sixth Sense”) or spectacular flops (“Avatar: The Last Airbender”), “Glass” seems to fall right in the middle; it’s an intriguing film that plays with our conception of superheroes and is well worth the watch, but it fails to completely convince, amaze or surprise us.
“Glass” is a crossover sequel between two previous films (“Unbreakable” and “Split”). It centers around three main figures: vigilante superhero David Dunn (Bruce Willis), who believes he has superhuman strength; Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who is intelligent but suffers from brittle bone disease; and the villainous but troubled “Horde,” (James McAvoy) a man with 23 distinct personalities, one of which is the murderous “Beast.” All three men have been incarcerated in a psychiatric institution, and are told by the resident doctor (Sarah Paulson) that they have psychological disorders and believe they are superhuman, when they are really not. If you have not seen the previous films, don’t despair; I had not either, and “Glass” can stand on its own, although the critic community seems to feel the sequel was a disappointing conclusion to the prolonged and well-executed predecessors.
One of the most redeeming aspects of “Glass” is its pragmatic interpretation of how superheroes would be received in real life. In most superhero films, it is just accepted that over-the-top super humans would prance around the city in spandex and fight equally over-the-top villains, that the community would accept this and look up to the heroes, that damage to private and public property would magically fix itself, and that police would accept vigilantism as a legitimate way to fight crime. The only notable films that have previously addressed the absurdity of this notion are “The Incredibles,” a children’s film, and “Hancock,” which was pretty terrible.
Characters in “Glass” have their sanity questioned and are told that there are perfectly rational, scientific explanations for their supposed “superpowers.” In reality, if someone claimed to be a superhero, they would likely be sent to a psychiatric ward. Dunn’s vigilante heroism is not well received and he is wanted by the FBI. Ultimately, it is clear that the powers that be have no interest in superheroes or villains, and will do whatever it takes to suppress them (and more importantly, suppress their potential to damage property).
Instead of wondering if there would be a twist, I found myself wondering what the twist would be. Almost all Shyamalan films feature twists, and it was somewhat unsettling sitting in anticipation for a trick - however, the payoff is not as earth-shattering as I had hoped.
There are definite funny moments, especially from the “Horde” (more specifically, from his “Patricia” personality). Even if the film isn’t Oscar-worthy, McAvoy’s performance certainly is - he manages to switch seamlessly between all 23 of his characters, who all vary in age, gender and accent without flinching.
While it may be a somewhat disappointing end to a long-winded trilogy, “Glass” will still entertain, keep you guessing, and provoke some thought, making it well worth the watch.