The following is a review of the third movie in a trilogy of films, all of which have twist endings; all by a director who only knows how to write twist endings. Be forewarned: spoilers ahead.
This series started strong with what is arguably Shyamalan’s best film. Unbreakable showed the origins of two types of superman--the Christian and the Campbellian--and explored the moral implications of both.
Moviegoers had to wait sixteen years for the first sequel. By all metrics, they were not disappointed. Split treated audiences to a tour de force portrait of a third superman archetype--painted on nine different canvases. In contrast to the glorified man upholding the natural law and the posthuman who is above human law, Split chronicles the birth of an übermensch who makes his own law.
Split was a critical and commercial success hailed as a return to form for the once-celebrated director. As one commenter has pointed out, it probably helped that Split was based on unfilmed scenes cut from the Unbreakable script. It feels like early aughts Shyamalan because early aughts Shyamalan wrote it.
Fresh off Split‘s success, Shyamalan decided to conclude what is now known as the Eastrail 177 Trilogy with 2019’s Glass.
Unlike its immediate predecessor, the third Eastrail 177 film was conceived after the director stopped taking criticism. It presents a viewing experience that markedly diverges from Unbreakable and Split, and the title hints at how.
Astute readers will recall that my reviews of the first two films in this trilogy focused on the characters. That won’t be the case here because unlike them, Glass is mainly plot-driven.
Three weeks after Kevin Crumb attains his final form as the Beast, vigilante David Dunn, AKA the Overseer, tracks the murderer down. Their stalemate is broken by a SWAT team and a mysterious civilian woman. The officers subdue the Beast with strobing lights--a weakness never mentioned in Split--and the woman exploits Overseer’s reluctance to harm the police in order to secure his surrender.
The mystery woman is soon introduced as Dr. Ellie Staple, a self-described specialist in treating delusions of grandeur. Staple confines Kevin and David to the same asylum where Mr. Glass has been kept confined and drugged since his arrest at the end of Unbreakable.
Dr. Staple endeavors to convince Kevin and David that their superpowers are mere delusions. She nearly succeeds, mainly because the plot calls for Kevin and David to momentarily doubt themselves.
Staple’s efforts are spoiled by Mr. Glass, who has been faking his drug-addled state. In a series of meticulously calculated moves, Glass manipulates everyone and everything around him into freeing Beast and Overseer and broadcasting their undeniably superhuman brawl to the world.
All three supermen are unceremoniously killed off during the battle, but Dr. Staple--who is revealed at the eleventh hour as an agent of a secret cabal bent on suppressing superbeings’ existence--has her plans utterly frustrated.
And that’s about it.
As before, James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson are a joy to watch as they reprise their roles. The Beast and Mr. Glass are even more fun when Kevin’s 24 personalities and Glass’ schemes interact.
Speaking of which, Mr. Glass’ scheme is worthy of the greatest chess master villains. The movie sets out to prove that the mastermind is the most dangerous type of villain, and it succeeds convincingly.
It’s also cool to see David Dunn go two rounds with someone on his power level, but it should have been ten rounds.
There’s also some satisfaction to getting closure on this three-film story, though Glass‘ ending is the least satisfying of the three.
Unbreakable and Split managed to avoid fully succumbing to the realism trend that’s ruined superhero movies. Glass falls right into the plausibility pit--and does it on purpose. Shyamalan even boasted that Glass is the first truly grounded superhero film.
Why anyone would want a truly grounded superhero film is never explained.
Whereas Mr. Glass and the Beast respectively inject intrigue and energy into the story, the other two main characters don’t measure up. Overseer is a comparative nonentity who spends most of the film either getting pummeled or sulking. His lowly death manages to be gratuitous and prosaic at the same time.
Dr. Staple is even worse. She looks like a post-wall dead egger trying to navigate the singles scene, but she sounds like a midwit’s misconception of how smart people talk. Think Sex and the City meets Big Bang Theory.
Sadly, her character rings true, because condescending schoolmarms backed by the state’s guns are who’s running our lives now.
Score another one for realism.
Then deduct one for the borderline fantastical opening scene of two ginger kids subjecting an Asian man to the Knock Down Game, only to be chased off by a black pedestrian.
- Christian morality is the default, so the movie’s point is evil.
- It never succeeds in making that point, since the only proof it presents that Dr. Staple is evil depends on an appeal to David’s morality. But if Glass is right and Christian morals aren’t universal, binding even angels and devils, then we must disregard Overseer’s sin sense, and the film’s moral conflict is a wash.