My trusty sidekick IMDB tells me that the last time I bothered to write a review in this website was way back in 2013.
Never in my wildest dreams did I see myself coming back, let alone to enthuse over an M. Night Shyamalan movie. Sure, I liked The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but the good bits in Signs didn't hide an obvious decline. For the next years I only heard about Shyamalan whenever a friend griped about another dud; his output seemed to be getting progressively worse.
I was so uninterested in Shyamalan's movies I only crossed paths with them whenever Honest Trailers released another mockery. And so it was that Split flew under my radar - I now regret I didn't pay money to watch it on the big screen - until I clicked on its Honest Trailer back in 2018, expecting another belly of laughs... and for once they actually praised it. A lot. That was unexpected. More importantly, I learned it was an Unbreakable sequel. What?
Of course I knew the rumors from yore that Unbreakable was intended as a trilogy; but as the years went on and nothing happened, I figured the projected had been abandoned. And a good thing too because Unbreakable was still the best superhero movie ever made after The Incredibles, and it didn't need to be ruined by Shyamalan's decline. But Split seemed interesting and meanwhile the trailers for Glass were coming out, and they were so exciting I had to watch them for closure.
So I watched Split and it was as if Shyamalan had made a smooth transition from Unbreakable to it; it's as if he hadn't made anything else in between. Here was the inventive, sensitive, spiritual filmmaker I remember admiring all the way back in 2000. Here was another one of his beautiful, slow dramas about ordinary people discovering extraordinary gifts and learning to cope with them. And it was packaged as a tense thriller about a kidnapped girl trying to escape from a serial killer with multiple personalities who discovers he's more than human, like David Dunn. It was also an emotional story about finding the courage to face up to our inner demons. Thinking about it now, if I didn't cry at Split's beautiful ending, it's probably because I was subconsciously saving them for Glass.
Ah, Glass. A movie so reviled by critics you'll think it was directed by Tommy Wiseau. I don't understand what happened, I don't know what they expected, and what they saw. For my part, I saw the fitful ending to what is now one of the rare perfect movie trilogies.
Glass builds on the previous movies and maintains its tone and pace. By tone I mean it's a low-key superhero movie grounded on realism. Like in hard sci-fi novels, frequently the characters will discuss plausible theories for feats and powers that seem extraordinary. By pace I mean it's mostly a character drama spiced with tense situations and spliced with trappings from horror, sci-fi, mystery, and thriller.
Were people really expecting a 2-hour showdown between David and The Beast? On Titan, perhaps? When were Split and Unbreakable action movies? Strange thing to expect from the sequel to a movie whose most iconic scene consists of a man standing in a train station being touched by strangers.
Glass is a slow burner like its predecessors. By now we've had the characters' origin stories; they've accepted their roles as heroes and villains. We know who they are; we've grown to love them. The focus, then, is no longer on David and Kevin but on Elijah. His goal has always been to show the world that superhumans exist, in order to find a role in the world for himself, so he won't feel like a mistake anymore. As such the movie revolves around his plan to escape from a mental facility where all three are being held. Of course they'd end up there, because that's where people go who claim to be superhuman. They may believe in their powers, but the rest of the world doesn't. This is consistent with the rules Shyamalan has been playing with from the start. And even the reasons for this realistic disbelief get a twist in the end.
Basically, this movie focuses on Elijah's transformation into Mister Glass, a genius supervillain; and since he's the cerebral villain you shouldn't expect action but displays of genius. And that genius is shown in the way he plots the escape and also in the third twist ending. (By my count the movie has 3 twists in a row.) Those who want to see David fighting The Beast - that's what I wanted - won't be disappointed. There are two well-directed, fluid fight scenes that seem like fossil records in this age of shaky cam and fast-cut editing. But this is Mister Glass' movie and it's all about his uber-plan; in the end, David and Kevin are just pawns in his plan to justify his existence to himself.
While the plot unfolds towards its gut-wrenching climax, Shyamalan elevates the most mundane scene with odd angles, the use of color, and games of light and shadow. He imbues the movie with an atmosphere of enigmatic dread. I missed James Newton Howard's score; although West Dylan Thordson composed some very good tracks, and Shyamalan uses them to add tension and sentiment to the scenes, I wish I had heard more of the original score. Although Bruce Willis doesn't have a meaty role, nobody can complain about the performances by Samuel Jackson and James McAvoy. And then there were the little things I only picked up on the way home: the leitmotif of the train station used in the three movies. The beautiful symmetry of the ending, with Mister Glass not just bringing David and Kevin together, but also three strangers who loved those three extraordinary beings to honor them. The more I think about the movie, the more I marvel at its intricacy.
I didn't feel bored for a moment. Before I knew it, the climax was on. And this is where many people say the movie was ruined. I think the fury viewers are showing is a sign that Shyamalan imparted these characters with life and so they're real to a lot of people. I wish their fates had been different. But I don't begrudge the decision nor do I think the execution was flawed. Some seem to think David deserved a more dignified ending. As someone who's been reading superhero comics since the age of 9, I sympathize with that; I personally love a heroic sacrifice, going out in a blaze of glory, one outnumbered guy holding off the line. That never fails to get me. But once again, reality-grounded rules apply. The truth is many good, heroic people don't receive a dignified ending; many, like Dunn, never even receive any recognition for their deeds.
I understand that the climax is upsetting in an industry where superheroes "die" turned into dust after a magic finger snap; and stay "dead" while trailers announce one of the "dead" heroes' is not too "dead" that he can't star in another money-grabbing movie, around the same time another movie will officially undo all the "dead" heroes' deaths because they also need to star in some more movies, whether they're alive or "dead" - we can't let Disney's shareholders be kept away from money they make exploiting true creators like Jack Kirby and Jim Starlin. I can understand why so many are upset in a world where people have been trained to treat superheroes as their indestructible, unkillable, cool-one-liners-spouting virtual best friends who'll never abandon them, so long as they keep buying tickets. I mean, what kind of sadistic imbecile would kill his cash cows? Like I said, it's a testament to Shyamalan's ability to impart real life to his creations. It's funny, I've been reading DC and Marvel's superheroes for longer than I've known David Dunn; I've spent thousands of hours with them, much more than I ever did with him; I only saw Split last week. And yet nothing in those superficial, pandering, glib adaptations of my favorite superheroes has ever elicited from me the bliss I felt watching Glass. The kind of bliss I only get from well-written, well-acted, well-made human drama. I never imagined that I'd leave a theater room in 2019 crying from a M. Night Shyamalan movie.
What's sadder, though, is that the critics will frighten viewers away from a movie that's better than 90% of what comes out every Summer. In a world where any crappy, soulless, mindless blockbuster makes 1 billion dollars easy, this movie probably won't even make it to 300 million. Split didn't and had better reviews. And so we'll continue to get bad thrillers, action and superhero movies full of CGI, pointless explosions, and boring, by-the-numbers, sequel-hinting storytelling everyone wants - and cynical shareholders will continue to get richer while creative filmmakers see their opportunities dwindle. Funny, even in that Glass was grounded on reality: in the end the faceless villains we never suspected existed, chilling out in elitist restaurants we can't get in, always win. Curiously, that's one of the messages in the movie: the gifted are always being held back, overshadowed by the uncreative, those who enforce normalcy. But as the ending shows, the creative ones always find a way to outsmart the bureaucrats of normalcy. I hope that with time more people will come to know the truth that the critics have been hiding.
Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller
Drama / Sci-Fi / Thriller
After pursuing Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities that reside within. David Dunn finds himself locked in a mental hospital alongside his archenemy, Elijah Price and must contend with a psychiatrist who is out to prove the trio do not actually possess superhuman abilities
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April 04, 2019 at 09:36 PM