‘Glass’ takes itself far too seriously to take seriously

Jan 18, 2019, 1:05 PM

As the long build-up to the climax of “Glass” begins, one of the characters says, “I’ve been waiting 19 years for this!” It’s something of an inside joke. With “Glass,” writer/director M. Night Shyamalan is wrapping up his surprise trilogy that began with “Unbreakable” in 2000 and continued with 2017’s “Split.” Yep, that’s 19 years worth of filmmaking. To which I have only one question: you waited 19 years for this?

Briefly, “Unbreakable” is about a man named David Dunn (played by Bruce Willis) who’s the only survivor of a horrific train crash. He’s contacted by a brilliant thinker and comic book enthusiast named Elijah Price (played by Samuel L. Jackson) who convinces Dunn that he very well may be a superhero.

Seemingly unrelated, “Split” is about a man named Kevin Wendell Crumb (played by James McAvoy) who suffers from multiple personalities, 24 to be exact, one of which is a kidnapper and killer who preys on teenage girls. Only in the final frames of “Split” does David Dunn show up, closely following news reports about a murderous rampage by Kevin Crumb.

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After a 17-year hiatus, a Shyamalan trilogy suddenly seemed in the works and now, two years later, “Glass” is the culmination. Expectations were high that Shyamalan might finally be able to restore his reputation, which soared after “The Sixth Sense” but dipped considerably since then. Perhaps trying too hard to prove himself, he delivers a studious but rather ponderous, lumbering even, examination of an idea that’s not worth all that much. Offering few thrills, chills, or even any sense of fun, “Glass” takes itself far too seriously to take seriously. It talks itself to death.

(Sort of like this review.)

The film does at least offer us a meeting of the minds, so to speak, between the trilogy’s three main characters. Elijah Price (aka Mr. Glass) has been held for years in a psychiatric hospital and he is soon joined by both David Dunn and Kevin Crumb. Dunn had been working as an undercover vigilante dubbed the Overseer when he confronts Kevin Crumb who, as the Beast, was in the midst of another serial killing spree. Both are arrested by police, determined to be mentally unstable, and left in the hands of a psychiatrist (played by Sarah Paulson) who’s determined to break all of them out of their delusions.

“The three of you are convinced that you have extraordinary gifts like something out of a comic book,” she says.

Crumb is convinced that when he manifests as The Beast, he is a god-like animal who is impervious to pain and bullets. Dunn is a little less certain about his powers but believes that he not only has superhuman strength but also has a sixth sense that can anticipate evil doers’ actions. And Price, perhaps in compensation for his impossibly brittle bones, is, in his mind, the smartest man in the world.

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In a very talky session, the psychiatrist, who bills herself as an expert in comic-book-based delusions of grandeur, tries to explain away their supposed superhero talents as being little more than flukes, accidents of fate, or simple misinterpretations.

But Price is having none of it.

“Everything extraordinary can be explained away, and yet it is true… Some of us don’t die from bullets, some of us can still bend steel. That is not a fantasy.”

Price is convinced the three of them are living out their comic book destinies. Crumb is the ultimate villain, Dunn the reluctant hero, and Price, of course, the mastermind, the evil genius behind it all.

It’s hard not to see Shyamalan as Price. Unfortunately, Shyamalan doesn’t seem nearly brilliant enough, at least based on this movie, to make the parallel convincing.

I credit him for not just making another Marvel-like superhero movie. If anything, “Glass” seems like an anti-superhero superhero movie. Shyamalan seems to want us to take superheroes seriously and not cartoonishly. But maybe they’re better as cartoons…

Tom Tangney on KIRO Radio

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‘Glass’ takes itself far too seriously to take seriously