I covered this in my review for Split, but let me recap some of my personal history with M. Night Shyamalan. I was 10 years old when I first watched Signs. I had always loved film, but this was the first film I immediately understood on a subtextual and metaphorical level, and it blew my mind that films could be about more than what was explicitly happening on screen. Shyamalan was the first filmmaker I loved. I will love his filmography from The Sixth Sense–The Village forever. Then he made some terrible films that broke my faith. But when I saw the trailer for Split I was back in, it looked like his most exciting footage in a decade. Split came out during Sundance so I didn’t see it until like 10 days after it was out, and somehow by some miracle nothing was spoiled for me beforehand regarding the film’s true intentions. The credits began to roll, I was ecstatic because I loved the film, but there was more. When Bruce Willis showed up at the end of Split? Brother, let me tell you……my brain ripped right in half and my soul jumped out of my body. It was legitimately one of the greatest moments of my whole life. I will never feel the rush of joy, surprise and ecstasy that I felt then ever again for as long as I live.
Which brings us to Glass, a film that I never thought I would see as recently as just over 2 years ago. I had always wanted Shyamalan to be able to make his proposed Unbreakable trilogy, but had given up on it actually happening years ago. I never thought I would see this trilogy finished for as long as I lived. So yes, I was immensely excited to see Glass, seeing the first available IMAX screening I could. But I also told myself I wasn’t going to overhype myself, and just be grateful that I was even getting to see this film.
Sure, I had nitpicks along the way while watching it – I’m pretty sure Bruce Willis only has like 5 lines and he never really seems like he’s into this character which is sad because he’s amazing in Unbreakable, the pacing is clunky, you can tell Shyamalan never really figured out what to do with the character of Audrey from Unbreakable once he found out Robin Wright wasn’t coming back for this, Spencer Treat Clark still isn’t a good actor, Anya Taylor-Joy sadly doesn’t have much to do in this film compared to Split which is sad because she’s a great actress – but overall I was really enjoying it because there were sequences of it that were just amazing. It may be titled Glass after Samuel L. Jackson’s character, and it may have Bruce Willis back too, but this is once again James McAvoy’s show. Shyamalan will film extended sequences of McAvoy cycling through different identities all in these wondrous, whirling takes. I thought McAvoy should have gotten an Oscar nod for Split, and I think once again he should get one for Glass. He’s just that fucking good. Watching him pull off 5+ different performances in one take is some of the most exciting, invigorating cinema I’ll watch this year. It’s like watching Aaron Judge in the home run derby – it only gets better with each passing moment. You’ll need a cigarette after watching some of his scenes. The scenes where Kevin Wendell Crumb and Casey Cooke reunite are some of the most beautiful and emotional sequences in the film. I love what Shyamalan did with Kevin’s arc, where he’s too ashamed to try to fight back against the horde because of how horrified he is by what they’ve done with his body, and McAvoy just nails it every step of the way. Cinematographer Mike Gioulakis reteams with Shyamalan after Split, and this film owes much more visually to Split than Unbreakable which really makes certain sequences pop. The colors used in each scene to tell us about the characters are wonderfully implemented, and how they film action scenes is just so gripping because of how unique they feel from other superhero fight scenes, filmed in odd perspective shots and remarkably still, static movements. Composer West Dylan Thordson does some great stuff in reworking the Unbreakable and Split scores, and adds some more terrific original compositions for this film. There is just some really ambitious, gorgeous stuff going on in this film.
….And then the last 10 minutes happen. It’s not quite like watching the Falcons blow a 28-3 lead, maybe more like a 28-14 lead, but still pretty disappointing. Shyamalan whips out one last twist of his, and as soon as he hinted at it, I just went “oh no, please don’t do this.” and he did it. I won’t spoil it because I don’t spoil things, but his decision to pivot where he does in the final minutes is one of the worst ideas he’s ever had. You almost don’t want to go back and rewatch Unbreakable and Split now just because you know it’s all building towards the most disappointing, unfulfilling ending possible. THIS is what it was all heading towards? I really loved the idea behind the decision, the idea that we as humanity don’t want heroes to exist or to embrace the heroes within ourselves. It’s a great, loaded idea that is executed and interpreted so poorly. It almost breaks all three films, almost.
But all of this to say: I’m still just so glad this film exists. I had given up on ever seeing this trilogy finished and had made peace with it, so to even be able to watch it was a blessing I will always be grateful for. I’m also glad for Shyamalan for being able to do it, you can tell he’s always wanted to come back to these characters and loves playing in this world. The end result is underwhelming, but Shyamalan has still crafted perhaps the most unique and original superhero trilogy in existence. I, nor anybody, can take that from him, nor should we. We live in a media landscape where we want to put filmmakers into a dichotomy of “wholly great/terrible hack” when it’s never that simple. Great filmmakers make bad films, bad filmmakers make good films. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to peace that my favorite filmmakers are going to let me down, and that that’s okay. That doesn’t lessen all they’ve done for me. So while I am significantly disappointed in how Glass ends, that doesn’t overpower just how grateful I am that I even got to see it. I might even go see it again. Thank you, M. Night Shyamalan.