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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 12:04 am

Glass: A frustrating, intriguing failure


Comic book enthusiasts are very defensive of their favorite medium. They contend there’s much more to the superhero stories they love so much, and they’ll go to great lengths to explain this to you in detail if you have the patience to listen to them. The massive success of the superhero movie has only justified this way of thinking, the reasoning being that if so many non-believers have embraced the genre, then it surely justifies their contention.  And there have been converts, Bill Maher, not among them.

M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass is a feature-length defense of the comic book and all it entails, as well as a pointed jab at those who would ostracize anyone deemed different. Like many of the director’s post-The Sixth Sense works, the filmmaker has an intriguing premise that’s initially engaging but ultimately flirts with tedium due to his penchant for trying to be more clever than he should be.

Picking up three weeks after the conclusion of Split, the man with multiple personalities, Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), is still on the loose.  Having fled the zoo where he killed two teenage girls yet left one of his victims, Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), to go free, he’s the prime suspect in the kidnapping of four cheerleaders.  Common-man superhero David Dunn (Bruce Willis reprising his role from Unbreakable) succeeds in finding him and setting the girls free but winds up getting himself and his prey captured by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). She hauls them off to a psychiatric ward on the outskirts of Philadelphia where she intends on convincing her two new captives, as well as Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), the supervillain from Unbreakable, that they are, in fact, delusional and that their powers are figments of their imaginations, all of which can be logically explained away.

What follows is an elaborate conversation like the one I described above - a non-believer of superheroes (read: comic book hater) sets out to debunk them while those who embrace the notion they do exist and are relevant (read: comic book lovers) refute this notion. The back and forth between Staple, the Fredric Wertham of the piece, and the three “metahumans” plays out like a Socratic seminar in which critical questions are answered through action, all entwined in a needlessly complicated plot, as Glass’ machinations come to the fore.

This is where the film gets into trouble. Shyamalan has been a victim of his success since Sense, his public expecting a twist ending for each of his films, the director feeling obligated to provide one, logic be damned.  As such, the filmmaker often finds himself trapped in a narrative corner of his own making and is compelled to pony out a red herring or two as well as a couple scenes that make little sense and are only present to get him out of this jam.  Such moments in Glass prove distracting and so egregious, they’re hard to reconcile with the rest of the story.  

That being said, the conclusion of Glass is one of Shyamalan’s better and may be the best thing about the movie.  It follows the film’s internal logic and allows him to deliver a definitive answer – with a great big exclamation mark – to the whole superhero relevancy debate. More importantly, it powerfully drives home the film’s theme of the importance of inclusion, as those Staple sets out to disprove are more prevalent and important than she realizes.  This is where Glass finds its true power, as nothing could be more timely in this divisive era we find ourselves in.   

Contact Chuck Koplinski at ckoplinski@usd116.org.


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