Where M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘Glass’ Goes Wrong

Warning: the following contains minor spoilers for M Night. Shyamalan’s Glass.

After Split surprised audiences in its final minutes, injecting the supernatural into the world M. Night Shyamalan established with 2000’s Unbreakable, a grounded and realistic milieu that asked its audience to consider what our world would look like if superheroes walked among us, the polarizing writer/director is back with another stab at a dramatic and cerebral take on the comic book genre in a Hollywood landscape that has seen superhero films evolve into the mainstream since Unbreakable’s inception.

Glass, the final installment of what Shyamalan has dubbed the Eastrail 177 trilogy, feels much more like a sequel to Unbreakable than it does Split. The film attempts to explore comic book tropes and concepts in the same way that Unbreakable did, only this time, rather than the audience going on a journey with Bruce Willis’ David Dunn and giving us time to question whether the impossible was indeed possible during a climate when the words “superhero film” or “comic book adaptation” brought embarrassment onto a producer’s face, Shyamalan attempts to play into what comic book fans and general audiences are eating up at the box office.

Part of what makes Unbreakable such a masterpiece is the way it humanizes both its hero and villain, as well as its deliberately slow and methodical pacing. It gives you time as the viewer to ponder on the themes and questions Shyamalan presents as you experience the story through David. The brief bit of action as David accepts his role as the hero is raw, subdued, devoid of the fantastical, yet undeniably powerful and heroic. Its climax is rooted in the emotion between David and his son, and the devastation of Elijah’s betrayal revealed in the big twist. Split, on the other hand, is an engaging horror-thriller with characters and performances that turn a good film into a great film. Even without the twist of David at the diner, and the revelation that the film exists in the same universe as Unbreakable, Split would have had a satisfying conclusion seeing its protagonist survive such a horrific experience because of the strength and understanding she had gained through surviving prior unspeakable trauma. Glass finds itself at the intersection of Unbreakable and Split, and has neither the substance of Unbreakable, nor the compelling characters or the thrilling performances of either of its predecessors.

In fact, Glass doesn’t have a main character at all. The film is blocky, with long chunks of time spent isolated with James McAvoy’s villain, who is a ton of fun to watch, but once in the mental hospital, it’s easy to forget David Dunn is just across the hall. Based on the title, the central character would seem to be Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass but not only does he not make his grand entrance until almost halfway through the film (save for a glimpse of his arm at the end of the first act), Jackson doesn’t utter a line of dialogue until the midpoint, a scene in which the film seems to finally find its footing only to then stumble its way to the finish line.

In many ways, Glass is the antithesis to Unbreakable, as it seems like it should be. But with Unbreakable, less was more as you considered the questions the film asked its main character in a grounded world that looked no different than our own. Do superheroes exist? Are the stories we see in comic books based on real people? With Glass, Shyamalan seemed overly concerned with making sure you knew the people you were watching were (or maybe weren’t) superheroes, and that the narrative itself was hitting the same beats seen in comic books, stuffing terms like “The Showdown” and “The Collection of Main Characters” down your throat every chance it could get rather than making it feel like a realistic clash between a hero and a villain in our world.

Glass still tries to be cerebral and heady like Unbreakable, and yet hits you on the nose to make sure you’re still following along, proving it’s not as clever as it thinks it is. Rather than the brilliant subtlety and restraint seen in Unbreakable, Glass attempts to up the ante, trying to play to today’s jam-packed climate of record-breaking superhero blockbusters and be the film neither Unbreakable nor Split could be. After a taste of The Beast up against David Dunn early on, Shyamalan teases a spectacle-filled finale between the two throughout, only to fall flat when the time finally comes. And as with all Shyamalan films, what has audiences talking the most is the film’s big twist. Unfortunately, rather than having one twist with a big impact, Shyamalan stuffs in three twists, one of which is a shock to only a single character and not the audience, while the other two may be the director’s most predictable and least memorable twists yet, leaving much to be desired.

Ultimately, Glass still manages to entertain, especially thanks to James McAvoy whose performance is worth the price of admission alone. But the end of this trilogy feels like a missed opportunity to explore comic book tropes and concepts in a grounded way we’ve never seen before and perhaps a victim of the success and popularity of superhero films themselves. Rather than the pragmatic and humanized approach to the superhero and supernatural genres seen in Unbreakable and SplitGlass instead pushes the thought-provoking questions raised by the previous films to the side at the promise of spectacle, a grand finale that never quite arrives for its main cast, though the resolution for its supporting characters is oddly satisfying.

The Superhero Movies Of 2018, Ranked From Worst To Best

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Superhero Cinema 2018 Black Panther Avengers Thanos The Incredibles Aquaman2018 has gone by too fast. It seems like yesterday when the beginning of the new year was upon us, and the advent of having so many superhero movies hitting theaters seemed like a dream come true for every fanboy and fangirl. It's also funny to look back and remember that although we ended up with a whopping nine major theatrical superhero movies, we almost had eleven. Sadly, Fox delayed both Dark Phoenix and The New Mutants to 2019 instead.

Even with those two films delayed, 2018 was still a massive year not just at the box office, but for the continued advancement of the genre on a number of levels. Whether it was through the cultural significance of a film like Black Panther or the exciting animated adventures of Incredibles 2 and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, there was no shortage of exciting superhero stories told on the big screen this year.

Here are the theatrical superhero films of 2018, ranked from worst to best. You can start the gallery by clicking "Next."

9. Venom Venom Tom Hardy Eddie Brock Marvel Sony

Yeah, Venom is an interesting film to say the least. Many have doubted Sony and their plans to create their own universe centered on Spider-Man villains that is said to be "adjacent" to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially after what happened with their proposed plans for a shared universe set within the canon of Marc Webb's The Amazing Spider-Man films.

What director Ruben Fleischer brought to audiences is this bizarre, clunky, yet surprisingly entertaining throwback to the early 2000s era of superhero cinema. It has major narrative and technical flaws that keep it from being legitimately a "good" film beyond some moments of ironic brilliance, but Tom Hardy's performance is one of the most entertaining comic book movie performances put on screen in a long time.

8. Ant-Man and the WaspAnt-Man and the Wasp Avengers 4 Marvel

It's pretty hard to follow in the footsteps of such a massive crossover event like Avengers: Infinity War, but the microscopic (yes, pun intended) scale of Ant-Man and the Wasp is a nice lighthearted cleanser after witnessing Thanos' decimation. It falls short of its 2015 predecessor, but director Peyton Reed still brings in some entertaining sequences that are a nice blend of action and comedy.

Both Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly have great chemistry, and the entire climactic chase sequence is pure delight.

7. Deadpool 2Deadpool 2 X-Force Fox

2016's Deadpool was the surprise hit of that year. While many hardcore comic book fans were excited to finally see a proper iteration of the Merc with a Mouth, the industry was particularly surprised by how mainstream audiences embraced Ryan Reynolds as the beloved antihero of the Marvel Universe.

Deadpool 2 continues that trend of self-aware comedy mixed in with the badass action directed by David Leitch. Unfortunately, the film falls into some of the trappings of a "more of the same" type of sequel, but put on a bigger scale. The film certainly could've benefited from a more clever script beyond just making everything bigger than the first. While the film never recaptures that lightning-in-a-bottle that the first film had, it still holds its own with some great character moments and perhaps the best mid-credits scene of all-time.

Plus, the additions of Cable (Josh Brolin) and Domino (Zazie Beetz) add more to the irresistible tone that Deadpool brings to the big screen. Overall, a decent sequel.

6. Teen Titans GO! To the Movies

Teen Titans GO! To The Movies

It's kind of funny that Teen Titans GO! To The Movies is as entertaining as it is. Sure, the film is still targeted towards younger children that tune into the series on Cartoon Network, but the film is a surprisingly clever send-up of both the superhero movie genre as well as a hilarious tribute to the lore of DC Comics seen through the eyes of the Teen Titans themselves.

Also, the fact that the film ends with a stinger that teases the possible return of the original Teen Titans series justifies its existence in more ways than one.

5. Aquaman Aquaman

Aquaman is a much-needed win for the DC Extended Universe. The franchise received its biggest win in 2017 with Wonder Woman but unfortunately hit a massive roadblock with the disappointing Justice League. As it turns out, all the DCEU needed to do to get back in the right direction was to add water and filmmaker James Wan into the mix.

Wan really goes all out with this film. This is a visually stunning adventure film on both land and sea that really leans into the inherently cheesy nature of the character while simultaneously turning Aquaman into perhaps the most badass superhero in the DCEU thus far.

Some may be turned off by how campy Aquaman can get at points, but it's hard not to get swept up into the fun when you have Jason Momoa having the time of his life.

4. Incredibles 2incredibles-2-pixar-disney

It has been 14 years since we were last acquainted with the Incredibles. Thankfully, they haven't missed a beat even after that long, long wait for the most-requested Pixar sequel of all-time.

It's great to see Brad Bird bounce back with this exciting sequel after the earnest, yet disappointing mess that was Tomorrowland. Here, Bird is back on his element as a brilliant storyteller and is adept at further developing these characters.

Seeing the entire family in these hilarious and death-defying circumstances is so enthralling, particularly in the film's climax. Also, everything involving Jack-Jack and Edna Mode are some of the funniest sequences of animation that Pixar has ever done.

3. Avengers: Infinity WarAvengers Infinity War Thanos Marvel Studios

What else is there that needs to be said about this 2018 film? It really is the most ambitious crossover event in cinematic history, and it has sparked an entire year-long conversation about what our surviving heroes will be doing next after all the chaos.

Anthony and Joe Russo accomplished the near-impossible task of balancing out dozens of larger-than-life characters in this kaleidoscope of comic book beauty that leads to some of the most epic battles ever brought to the big screen.

Also, with Avengers: Endgame on the horizon, it's going to be interesting if that film has a moment that tops the pure awesomeness that is the scene in which Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper) arrive on the battlefield in Wakanda.

2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-VerseSpider-Man Into the Spider-Verse

Who would've thought that an animated Spider-Man movie that features Spider-Noir and Spider-Ham on the big screen would be the best film centered on the webhead since Sam Raimi's Spider-Man 2?

Leave it to the minds of Phil Lord and Chris Miller along with the incredible creative team to bring us a true love letter to the character that would make Stan Lee and Steve Ditko proud. Yes, Peter Parker will always be our original Spidey, but this film proves that the best part about being Spider-Man is the fact that he/she can come from anywhere despite their personal background and circumstances.

1. Black PantherBlack Panther Marvel Disney Ryan Coogler

As big as Avengers: Infinity War was, it's harder to find a 2018 movie that has had as big of an impact on the popular culture than Black Panther. But beyond the cultural significance that comes with such a film, Ryan Coogler crafted a powerful, touching story about legacy, family, principles, power and purpose.

It's hard to log onto the internet sometimes because the world is in such a chaotic place. But Black Panther represents the power of storytelling and why seeing more diverse characters and stories on the big screen matters.

Films like Black Panther remind us about the power of cinema. It can unite audiences together despite their differences and can also inspire us to be better people. All those reasons and more are why Black Panther is the best superhero film of 2018.

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Michael Mistroff

Michael Mistroff

News Editor, Film/TV Reporter at Heroic Hollywood.