Glass review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
There tends to be a scoffing and mockery of M. Night for his left-field twists but, let’s face it, they make his lesser films memorable. But I’ve grown rather fond of their lunacy that the lack of the surprise in Glass has me longing for the ridiculous. Consider how this film is meant to be a trilogy closure after the two previous films of Unbreakable and Split revealed that they were truly comic book movies the whole time, surprising you at the end. Unbreakable ended with the origins of hero and villain. Split ended with the shocker that it exists in the same universe. And now we come to the end without any shocker of genre-shaking conclusions. It starts as a comic book movie and ends with a comic book, weaving twists better suited for the genre than bringing something new to the table.
It’s a bit of downer considering the strong players assembled. James McAvoy returns from Split as Kevin Crumb, along with all his 24 different personalities, from the kid-like Hedwig to the viciously super-powered Beast. McAvoy perfectly embodies all these characters with an ease that he’s still just as creepy and fascinating to watch. Chasing after this maniac is David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the strong man from Unbreakable with the weakness of water. Just when the final showdown is about to be waged, the two are arrested and whisked away to a mental institution where the two meet Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), the man who believes himself to be a supervillain with his fragile bones and incredibly smart mind.
Sarah Paulson plays a therapist specializing in these types of personalities and doesn’t by Glass’s logic of how the comic book world has merged with reality. She tries to explain away their actions with convincing arguments that make us question how real these people believe themselves to be. Glass knows no better; he’s not only sure of these powers but is counting on fulfilling the comic book narrative of having Dunn and Crumb finish their match of strong man versus crazy man. To stop him, the friends and survivors of these patients will have to, and try not to laugh at this, uncover the mysteries behind comic book lore to find out his plans.
Glass has plenty of potential to be a real commentary on the current climate of superhero cinema. Paulson’s character rejects the notion of superheroes as childish distractions while Glass tries to evoke it through the evils of the world that doubt what they do not understand. It’s rather unique when accented with McAvoy’s fantastic performance and Jackson’s calculative moves hidden behind a dead expression, along with Willis, well, just being Willis.
But even with the subversion of Glass’s plans, where the promise of a big battle atop a giant tower goes unfulfilled, the climax comes to a baffling conclusion that seems more tired than transformative. Consider how Kevin is more appealing when concealing his inner beast within the dark shadows of a warehouse, only to unleash it in the daylight of a parking lot with far less intimidation. McAvoy is a great actor but there’s only so much he can do as a shirtless man trying to imitate the hulk with his car-flipping abilities and mighty roar. Watching him have a fist fight with Bruce Willis in the daylight is more strange than compelling. But on in that over-the-top M. Night kind of strange.
Of course, there is a twist but since Glass is now so deeply committed to the comic book genre, it’s a twist that fits too well into its world. And rather than offer any sort of unique commentary on superheroes, supervillains and the nature of comic book culture, Glass merely spins its wheels to provide closure and more or less rides that pop culture train than offer up anything insightful. When even the expected twist is a downer of missed opportunities for both intelligence and insanity, the trilogy closure acts as little more than a period to a trilogy claimed by M. Night to be 19 years in the making.