M. Night Shyamalan is an accomplished writer and director, with a decent handful of hit movies under his belt. I mean, the man made The Sixth Sense, Signs and Unbreakable, so you know he can definitely direct a movie without turning it into an incoherent mess. However, the back half of his catalogue is decidedly… smelly, to say the least, cos, I mean… he also made The Happening, Lady In The Water, and After Earth. After. Bloody. Earth. This man single-handedly made me hate The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and I still haven’t forgiven him for that. He also made The Last Airbender, a movie which to this day I can’t speak about without aggressively frothing at the mouth. So, um… yeah, his resume is definitely a bit of a mixed bag.
However, in the last few years, something strange has begun to “happen” (get it? ...cos he made The Happening...? No? Okay. Well, I thought it was funny). M. Night has started to not suck again. In 2015, he made The Visit, a well-received horror comedy, which somehow managed to balance both genres without sacrificing the effect of either. He then followed this up with Split, an effective, if slightly clunky horror thriller, which also served as an origin story for “The Beast”, a malevolent amalgamation of the very worst traits of Kevin, a young man suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder. Critics raved. “M. Night’s back on top”, they said. Ehh. The movie was okay. The most interesting aspect of Split was the fact that it served as a sequel of sorts to Unbreakable, his 2000 superhero thriller movie, which is still one of his best to date. Audiences were shocked. Critics were amazed. “What’s going on here?” they said. And then he announced that he was making a sequel to both Unbreakable and Split. He said it was going to be called Glass. Glass was the name of the villain from Unbreakable. We all proceeded to lose our goddamn minds.
I went to see Glass, and um… you know when you go to Subway, and you wanna try something new, so you decide to combine two of your favourite orders to make a Super- Sub? No? Well I did this earlier this week. I usually get the meatball marinara footlong sub, but I’m partial to the teriyaki chicken one when I wanna mix things up. This week, I tried combining both. I was sure the experience would be nothing short of orgasmic. They’d write songs about this sub. Make Broadway plays. This sub would go down in history. At least, that’s what I thought, until I bit into it. It tasted like ass. And not the good kind. That’s the taste Glass left in my mouth. The taste of sweaty, musty ass.
Glass should be a good movie. It combines the characters and comic book sensibilities of Unbreakable (a movie which serves as a near-perfect deconstruction of the superhero genre), with the menace and grit of Split. And it almost is, for the first twenty minutes or so. Despite M. Night’s penchant for horribly written dialogue, the movie kicks into high gear very hard and very fast. We see our protagonist and antagonist clash almost from the off. The tension is breath-taking. This feels like a proper superhero fight. And then the movie slows to a crawl, two out of three of the main characters are separated and don’t meet again until near the end of the movie. Oh.
What follows next is possibly one of the most boring movies I’ve seen in a while. The movie is dialogue heavy and action light, which wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that the dialogue in this movie is painful. No one in Glass talks like a real person, especially Sarah Paulson, who plays the Psychiatrist in charge of the hospital in which all three main characters are kept. Sarah Paulson is a fantastic actress, so why M. Night made her say such horrible, horrible things is baffling to me. At one point she says, and I kid you not, “It would be an honour to get to know your perspicacious mind”. You know, like regular people say all the time. We get it, M. Night. You know big words. I personally don’t think I should have to take a dictionary into the cinema in order to understand what a character’s saying, but that’s just me. The dialogue isn’t the only issue in this movie, however.
The story is weirdly structured, the plot is plodding, characters appear and disappear from the movie with little to no warning, Samuel L. Jackson’s “mum” in the movie is five years younger than him in real life (not really a flaw in the movie, per say, just something that really pissed me off), and yeah. The movie’s just not great. Which sucks, because it could have been. Samuel L. Jackson does his best with the material he’s given, which is not much, because he’s relegated to the sidelines for almost all of a film which is technically named after him. James McAvoy acts his bloody ass off, improving massively on an already stellar performance from Split. Even Bruce Willis puts in a decent shift, though he’s given little else to do than grunt and look moody. All of the players are on the ball. It’s just a shame that they’re stuck in such a shitty game.
To be fair to the movie, and M. Night, it is not without its merits. M. Night has a clear eye for visuals, and the camera work, lighting and general cinematography of the film is great. Some of the action scenes are also legitimately affecting, and the clashes between The Beast and The Overseer are fraught with danger and real weight. Glass, when finally allowed to do anything, is a delight to watch, and his barmy, incoherent planning and posturing is entertaining, if more than a little confusing. And um… yeah, can’t think of any other positives, so I’m just going to move on. Look, Glass isn’t a complete dumpster fire. However, the weight of expectations placed on its shoulders meant that M. Night had to hit it straight out of the park, and based on his track record, I don’t know how likely that could have ever been.
For all of his directorial strengths, Shyamalan is a man seemingly determined to get in his own way, always choosing the path of most resistance, always striving to make something simple as painfully complex as possible. His obvious desire to be the most impressive director living, to finally prove his critics wrong, means he’s almost chronically incapable of telling a consistent, logical story. Sadly, for all of his technical wizardry, it’s telling that nearly three decades after his career began, we still don’t know what the guy’s trying to say.
Written by John Allan for The Nerd Council