If you wanted to know the difference between a comic book film and a film about comic books but you didn't know how, watching Glass might help.
Writer-Director-Cameo-er M. Night Shyamalan takes his love for comic books to a new level with this quasi-sequel-mashup film, which gets its DNA from its better half Unbreakable (as opposed to its lesser half Split) and somehow turns out to be less than the sum of its 2 predecessors.
Bruce Willis is back as David. Also back are Samuel L. Jackson, glacial pacing, moody cinematography and unlimited philosophical musings. Sadly, they're much less potent as a package this time around when mixed with 24 James McAvoys and a 5.1 Dolby Surround background score of screeching violins by West Dylan Thordson.
None of the above things are bad at all. The first half is occasionally solid entertainment, the Shyamalan touch makes for some fun compositions and camerawork by Mike Gioulakis, and very early on in the film itself, Shyamalan gives to the audience everything they had wanted from this film: McAvoy vs Bruce Willis. McAvoy, in fact, expectedly steals the show with his character-hopping antics and while some are better than the others, McAvoy is all in playing each of them. He lifts each single shot he's in, much like he did last time around, and you barely have time to look at Willis and Jackson, who are both serviceably glum and larger than life.
Where the film disappoints is in its resolution and the path to it. Shyamalan thinks of himself and his film as much smarter than they actually are, which is worrisome considering 30% of the film is characters either waxing poetic about the heroes and villains inside each of us, making meta commentary about comic books and their tropes or Shyamalan doing increasingly larger cameos with way too many speaking lines. It's not really that continually interesting when you have to hear 3 "superheroes" talk about whether or not they're superheroes, out of which some of what is said is either repeated from 15 minutes ago or recycled from Unbreakable.
Another aspect that plays spoilsport is the constraints that seem to have come with the film's limited $20 million budget. I'm all in favor of making ambitious action films at small budgets and some of them have been massively impressive (such as Mandy and Upgrade), but the presence of big stars might have put Shyamalan in a money bind, who works around it by setting most of the film in one hospital building and keeping actual action to a minimum and simple enough to not require much VFX work. (His choice of carefully obstructed shots to cover up actual destruction of property in various scenes is actually a fun touch.)
Everyone invested in his career, who thought he might finally grab the big chance to get back into the spotlight again, can heave a sigh of disappointment. Shyamalan is once again let down by his writing side, who has massively overthought the underlying themes to the exclusion of all else, including plot. Also, when you think about it, the story seems to have been similarly covered by another philosophy-heavy franchise, the TV show Heroes. In fact, the infamous Shyamalan twist at the end takes the film to the exact point where the show had ended its original run too.
Glass ends up more of a disappointment than a satisfying conclusion to cult characters. It might've been a good idea to have a rewrite after your epynomous villain does barely anything of impact through most of the film's timeline. Watch it for a few Shyamalan sparks and McAvoy's captivating performance. Do not watch it just because Shyamalan is from India coz that's racist, guys.
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