Glass, being a double sequel to two movies, Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2015). Unbreakable introduced two people who convinced themselves that they were comic book characters in real life, that is Mr Dunn who is apparently the man of steel, and Mr Glass, a criminal mastermind. Then about 15 years passed and the same director, M. Night Shyamalan, made a movie (Split) about a kidnapper who was inhabited by 24 different personalities, including a half man/half beast. The end revealed that this movie existed in the same world as Unbreakable.
After which everyone was sufficiently hyped for a movie that would bring all these characters together and that is what we got. It had a lot of expectations to live up to. Unbreakable inserted the promise in our minds that Dunn is now a full vigilante superhero, but we never see his career. Glass starts 19 years later and Dunn has been prowling the streets all that time in his raincoat and this movie shows how it all ends. For those hoping for the adventures of David Dunn, we skipped them all. And if you had any hopes for the adventures of Mr Glass and 24 personality man (the Horde), we also skipped those as well.
But let’s step back for a moment. Dunn, Glass and the Horde are taken to a psychiatric hospital, where a therapist tries to convince them that their superhero powers are an illusion, and they are actually mentally ill. This is very much in line with the tone of Unbreakable. The main conflict in Unbreakable was about belief. Belief that superpowers exist. Glass repeats that conflict, and the eventual catharsis at the climax of the story is of course a reinforcing of that belief.
Many online reviews express disappointment that we never really saw these superheroes and supervillains in action, as if the story never really began, and all we really see is them sitting in a psychiatric hospital. But this too is still in theme with the earlier movies. All three of these movies looked at comic book stories in a metatextual way, and the questioning of their belief in superpowers is the main struggle, and it is apparently the only story that there is to tell when you look at comics from a meta perspective.
What other story would you tell instead? An actual superhero story? Like a Marvel movie? But that is not what this series is about… and Glass also shows that this meta-approach at comic books is now played out. Shyamalan did all he could do with it, and it is ok if his story ends here, because the only way to go is to become a full, actual Marvel style superhero movie and do away with the struggle about belief.
And overall, I liked this movie a lot. I liked seeing Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson crawl back into these roles again, but especially James McAvoy as the Horde is glorious. He gave an amazing performance in Split and here he just steals the show. In fact, he overshadows the other two characters a bit, but his interactions with Glass and Dunn are great. McAvoy as Kevin is also the only character who had a bit of character redemption, and his time at a psychiatric ward might even have done him good. He was on a path towards healing. David Dunn and Glass, however, don’t have much development or just repeat the same steps as in Unbreakable, and therefore at the end, their eventual fates don’t give much satisfaction.
There are also some twists at the end – which I won’t spoil – which diminished the story. There is in fact a sequence of twists, an overload of twists, and each one made the film messier. It would have been fine if this film had been a much simpler psychological thriller with the three characters, and give the psychiatrist a smaller role. It is as if the film wants you to feel excited for one thing, and then a few minutes near the end, it wants you to feel excited for a few other new things as well, even though we were hardly finished with the first thing. I’d rather just forget the last few minutes. The climactic fight was enough.