Glass is a fascinating movie. Now, having said that, I should quickly point out that I did not enjoy this movie and I consider it, after a 19-year wait, one of the biggest personal disappointments I’ve ever experienced in a theater. Do you ever have those moments while watching a movie where you want to like it so bad that you start making mental deals with yourself? Like, “Okay, well, that scene wasn’t the best but I’m sure there’s a reason.” Or, “Okay, well, the movie is over halfway done and nothing significant has really happened, but I bet the ending will make this all worth it.” Or, “I really like what M. Night Shyamalan has done lately so I have no doubt this movie will turn it around.” Then, eventually, you just give up and accept what you’re seeing right in front of your face. That’s kind of what it’s like watching Glass.
Now, let’s get back to the “fascinating” aspect. There’s a big part of me that loves that Glass exists in the world. I do appreciate that Shyamalan was going for something here, even though that something doesn’t work. It’s almost like Shyamalan was trying to make his own version of The Last Jedi – a meta-deconstruction of what came before; in this case superhero movies – only he got too engrossed in the deconstruction part and forgot to make it entertaining.
In a way, Glass feels like a giant middle finger to the very people who would be excited to see Glass. That, on its own, is inherently fascinating. Oh, and when you’re over an hour into this movie and you’re watching yet another lecture at a mental hospital about “delusions of superhero grandeur” while at the same time wondering why you haven’t seen Bruce Willis in over 30 minutes, you’ll understand what I’m talking about here. And I want to word this as kindly as possible, but there are sequences in this movie that, how should I put it: let’s just say maybe bring a caffeinated beverage.
(Midway through Glass, a man in attendance at my screening was ejected because he was making George Costanza-esque “that’s gotta hurt” type commentary throughout the movie. Finally, after loudly exclaiming during a scene, “Elementary, my dear Watson!,” the people around him had had enough and he was removed by security. As he was being kicked out, he pleaded with the crowd that his one-liners were more interesting than what was happening in the movie at the time. I disagreed with him, but I could also imagine a jury coming back with a split decision on this one.)
It’s a weird thing, because I’ve literally seen M. Night Shyamalan wear comic book themed t-shirts before. So I don’t believe he hates comic books or comic book movies, but Glass certainly feels like it’s made by someone who both hates superhero movies and also has never seen one. And I’m pretty sure that’s not true, so that’s why this is so perplexing. Now, 19 years after Unbreakable, he finally brings all these characters – Bruce Willis’ David Dunn, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass, and James McAvoy’s The Beast (from Split) – back together to … pretty much do nothing most of the movie except listen to speeches about superheroes in a mental hospital.
And that’s something a viewer should probably be aware of: In Shyamalan’s last two films, The Visit and Split, he found success on smaller budgets that set the plot mostly inside one fixed structure. In The Visit it was a remote house. In Split it was a structure inside the Philadelphia Zoo. And in Glass he goes back to this formula and sets the movie at a mental hospital. If you’re looking forward to the world of Unbreakable finally being opened up, that’s not what Glass is at all. Probably 90 percent of this movie takes place at that hospital.
And, as alluded to earlier, if you think this movie is the triumphant return of Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson – well, they are certainly in the movie – but this is, once again, James McAvoy’s show. We spend a lot of time with him and his multiple personalities. We also spend a lot of time with Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple, who is trying to convince these three that they don’t have superpowers at all and everything is a delusion inside their minds. That last sentence is what most of this movie is about: Just a lot of meetings, one on one, between Dr. Staple and a patient. Then, every so often, we have a group session.
For a good portion of the movie an event is teased that for anyone who has paid attention to the budget of this movie (a reported $20 million), they will realize it’s never going to happen. But most moviegoers probably don’t pay attention to that kind of thing and will undoubtedly be frustrated to no end by Glass. (Honestly, I have no doubt the CinemaScore grade for Glass will be shockingly low, and it’s really difficult to get a low CinemaScore.) Glass left me both bewildered and fascinated.
Look, I’m going to choose to believe Glass is a statement movie about superhero movie culture today. Though, it’s possible that when you make a movie with three very famous people for this little amount of money, there’s not a lot left over to do anything but set most of the movie in one building and listen to lectures about superheroes instead of watching superheroes. But, the former is a lot more interesting to consider, so I’m going with that.
If you are, like me, a fan of Unbreakable and Split, you do have to go see Glass. There’s really no getting around that. And, once it’s over, it will be a fun movie to talk about. Oh, there’s quite a bit to talk about! And, honestly, I’m looking forward to what Shyamalan does next. I’ve enjoyed his career resurgence. But Glass is a big disappointment. Though, I do, strangely, want to keep talking about it.
‘Glass’ opens on January 18. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.