TAS Reviews: Glass
With Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan delivered one of the most original movies within the superhero genre: grounded, personal and intimate, M. Night crafted a film with supernatural themes set in the real world, that still felt mythological, and still managed to explore themes present within the superhero genre. With Split, M. Night made a return to form, an entertaining movie with horror elements and a powerhouse performance by James McAvoy. With Glass, the sequel to both Unbreakable and Split, M. Night has delivered an early contender for the most disappointing film of the year, and if not the most disappointing, it will surely go down as one of the most boring.
Whereas Unbreakable distinguished itself within the superhero genre while still feeling fresh and exciting, M. Night's attempt at recreating this strength results in a painfully dull movie - one that unfolds in the most plain and unexciting way possible. Most of the movie is set inside an Asylum, where Samuel L. Jackson spends most of his screentime confined to a wheelchair, twitching and staring into the screen, McAvoy repeatedly acts ridiculous in a way that has become less amusing, and more annoying, and Bruce Willis sleeps his way to the next paycheck as he seemingly does with every other movie.
There just isn't enough storytelling and dialogue meat to carry the movie, and I can imagine M. Night pitching the movie as "characters sit around in an Asylum acting slightly amusing." The movie attempts to excel as a psychological thriller, examining the psyche of our three main characters: Mr. Glass, David Dunn and Kevin Crumb, with individuals questioning the authenticity of the abilities of these three, but it isn't as compelling as M. Night thinks it is. It doesn't even try to be a horror movie, so it doesn't excel there either, and although the movie attempts to interrogate aspects of the superhero genre, the attempts to do so come across as forced, complete with characters stopping in between action sequences to spout vague comic book references and analogies.
On a logical storytelling scale, the script doesn't fare much better, relying on either coincidences or idiot ball to develop the story. For example, the story is literally set in motion when David Dunn bumps into Kevin, initiating the chain of events. The movie also relies on the idiocy of the institution of which our characters are kept: an institution which isn't shown to house anyone outside of these three characters, yet they can't stop these characters from roaming around this top-secret institution as if they're in a 5 star hotel.
As a sequel to Unbreakable, the interactions between Mr. Glass and David Dunn are disappointingly short in supply. There is also the relationship between David and his grown up son, which is too underdeveloped to care about, and results with a uselessness of. As a sequel to Split: Anya Taylor-Joy's Casey Cooke returns, but her role in the movie is equivalent to fitting a hole in a square peg, as she wanders around the movie with little to no purpose, and a forced (and I mean forced) connection to McAvoy's character.
The film is such a mess of characters that are forced into the film to fulfill a role, but without the purposefulness to make them work. There are numerous points in the film where I thought "oh yeah, this character is in the movie. I forgot." It's a shame because outside of Willis, we've got a cast of gifted actors who genuinely care, but aren't lent any of the storytelling material to make it work. Another victim of the script is Sarah Paulson, existing primarily to try and convince our main leads that they don't have powers, an aspect of the movie that obviously falls flat due to the audience's knowledge after watching two films that clearly, obviously show otherwise.
In regards to direction, one might mistake the abundance of colour as meaning good cinematography, but do not be fooled. Though the visual presentation of the film is not one of the most glaring flaws, the action sequences are presented in mind numbingly boring fashion, whether it's through flat angles, boring cinematography, lighting that makes it difficult to tell what is going on in a fight, but more often than not, a combination of all of the above. The action sequences are also complete with moments that place the camera from the perspective of the person fighting Bruce Willis, aiming the camera at his face and highlighting his lack of enthusiasm.
But above all, the most cardinal sin Glass commits is being boring. The narrative presentation of the movie is flat and uninventive, there's none of the mystery, intrigue and intimacy of Unbreakable and none of the horror of Split, and most of the movie is characters sitting around, staring, talking, doing slightly amusing things, but without the depth and dialogue to allow this to work, and without the thrilling, remarkable moments to balance it out. It's not an exaggeration to say there isn't a single memorable, exciting moment to be found in Glass, or anyone to root for. Not Willis's vacuum of a personality, not McAvoy's clowning around and not Mr. Glass's trite monologues.