Glass: Please be warned that I may talk about the end of this movie, so don’t read on if you’re saving up to watch it and be surprised. I saw “Glass” the day it opened and it’s still keeping a slim hold on the #1 box office spot for the third week. Estimates are that it has earned an additional $9.5 million in ticket sales, which would bring its total earnings to $88.7 million.
I’ve been trying to decide what to say about “Glass,” M. Night Shymalan’s return to the big screen after “Split” 3 years ago (2016). I loved “Split.”
I was very happy that the director who gave us “The Sixth Sense” (1999), “Unbreakable” (2000); “Signs” (2002); “The Village” (2004), and “Lady in the Water” (2006) was back with a winner in 2016 and, hopefully, “Glass” would be the winner in 2019. I may not be quite as fanatical about Shymalan’s success as the two screenwriters who wrote “A Quiet Place,” Scott Beck and Bryan Woods. They showed pictures on Twitter of every ticket stub for all of M. Night Shymalan’s pictures since the very beginning. [“The Sixth Sense,” “Unbreakable,” and “Signs” have sold over $1.3 billion in ticket sales, and Shymalan also was the creative mind behind television’s “Wayward Pines.”]
I’m a Shymalan fan, but I have to confess that my loyalty waivered a bit after “Lady in the Water” with Paul Giametti and Bryce Dallas Howard. I was only too happy to get back on the bandwagon after “Split” hit theaters 3 years ago. I was truly rooting for “Glass” to be just as good as “Split.”
The performance by James McAvoy in “Split” was nothing short of fantastic. “Glass” would revive the character with 24 multiple personalities that McAvoy brought to life so vividly in “Split.”
Fortunately for me here in Austin (Texas), a history” of the inter-relatedness of the characters was shown at the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane just before the main feature. “Glass” was a merger of Shymalan’s biggest hits: “Unbreakable” with Samuel L. Jackson and his case of osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disorder) and Bruce Willis as a hooded superhero survivor of a train wreck with McAvoy in “Split.” We also got a now-grown-up Spencer Treat Clark as Willis’ son. [Clark expressed gratitude that Shymalan was so loyal to his actors and had re-cast him as an adult after his first appearance as a child in “Unbreakable.” (He laughingly said he expected to hear that one of the Australian Hemsworth brothers got the role in 2019).]
So, it is with a great deal of reluctance that I have to say that I was disappointed in “Glass.” There is one scene where Anya Taylor-Joy goes to the sanitarium where James McAvoy is confined and asks to talk with him. It is strange that she would WANT to talk to him, since he held her prisoner in “Split” and terrorized her, but she survived.
The head psychiatrist, played by Sarah Paulsen, is heard telling the young girl from the film “Split” that she cannot possibly talk to her former captor—and then, in a complete reversal, there Anya is, talking to him. Why? How? What?
Then there is the scene in “Glass” when all three of the bad guys are brought into the room to talk with Paulson (see a slight amount on the trailer above).
Only one of the three is chained, and that is Bruce Willis. Why wouldn’t James Mcavoy be chained, as he is clearly the most dangerous of the three? (Jackson is in a wheelchair and appears to be catatonic) Also weird: the drum music used in the background; the pacing of the entire scene gave us a very draggy scene.
For the keen of eye, the usual cameo—a la Alfred Hitchcock—is Shymalan at a stand that sells cameras. He says he “used to hang out with some shady types at the football stadium in his youth.” Thanks to the Alamo’s history lesson, I remembered that, in the movie “Unbreakable,” his cameo appearance cast him as a drug dealer at the stadium where Bruce Willis’ character David Dunne is a guard.
So, the scenes in Raven Hill Memorial Psychiatric Hospital were generally difficult to explain or understand and some key scenes really dragged. David (Bruce Willis) is being treated for delusions of grandeur. He remains locked up until a scene where he inexplicably takes 3 runs at the metal door and manages to break free. (Say what?)
Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Glass has everyone convinced he is practically a vegetable when, in reality, he seems to be able to get out of his cell at will (something that is also never really explained.) And the operation Glass is to undergo on his brain, we are led to believe, is ineffectual because he switches out some glass lenses in the equipment the night before. Highly unlikely. He’s brilliant, yes, but he’s not a physician (although all 9 of Shymalan’s family, including his wife are either MDs or PhDs.)
The fight outside the sanitarium between Willis and McAvoy seems extremely unrealistic and hokey, especially when Willis’ son shows up and is about as ineffectual at helping his father as humanly possible and with McAvoy loping along like he is in a “Planet of the Apes” sequel. Who really thinks that the much younger McAvoy (i.e., “the Beast”) is going to be truly challenged by Willis? The “precipitating event” that we see (i.e., a scare in the water when he was a young boy) is anti-climactic.
Shymalan likes comic books. This script says, “Superheroes are based on people like him” and, “Everything can be explained away, yet it exists. Some of us can bend steel and don’t die from bullets.” But, later, this line is inserted, “There just can’t be gods among us.” Paulsen’s specialty is treating patients who think they are super-heroes. (I wondered if there was a lot of work for a psychiatrist who only treated Superhero wannabes.)
The camera work at the end, when three characters are shown sitting in the Philadelphia train station, was off-putting and jerky. One wonders how anyone is going to know to come flocking to the train station in the first place. Way off the chart of believability.
Shymalan is well-known for surprise or “twist” endings and tries for a double twist here, which I won’t reveal, although he has said, “The negative thing about the twist (ending) is that it’s all people are occupied with; all the gentleness in the movie is being overshadowed by the flashy cousin in the sequined vest taking center stage.” In this film he tries for a double surprise ending as we come to learn that Mr. Glass was much smarter than his keepers. It may be for the best that both Samuel L. Jackson’s character and Bruce Willis’ character are dispatched by film’s end, but it seemed pretty arbitrary. Still, I’m glad that he bit the bullet and did not leave us thinking they’d show up again in a film this implausibly plotted.
IMPORTANCE OF MOVIE THEATERS
One thing that I do agree with Shymalan about is the importance of the movie-going experience. I recently answered a question on Quora (about whether I’d take a million dollars if it meant I could never watch a film at a theater again) in direct opposition to 5 other responders. I don’t ever want to see movies go away, and I said so. Shymalan agrees, saying:
“I’m going to stop making movies if they end the cinema experience. If there’s a last film that’s released only theatrically, it’ll have my name on it. This is life or death to me. If you tell audiences there’s no difference between a theatrical experience and a DVD, then that’s it, game’s over, and that whole art form is going to go away slowly. Movies will end up being this esoteric art form, where only singular people will put films out in a small group of theaters.”
Shymalan also went on to share this anecdote:
[on the power of cinema] “I once wrote an article about the Nuremburg trial and on the evil of the Nazis. These people were animals. And their faces throughout the trial were like ice, except for the moment when they showed a movie in the courtroom. When the lights went down and they showed the footage of the bodies being pushed into the pits, their expressions changed and they became emotional. They were watching the events on the screen through the eyes of everyone in the theater. They were having a joint experience. They were all connected, and they saw the horror, saw that their victims were human beings, and they changed.”
I recently spoke to a roomful of 3rd and 4th graders at a Young Authors’ Day on January 24th. The students were polite and generally attentive. When I switched to the trailer, projected on a large screen, for my book series (“Ghostly Tales of Route 66”) and showed a short film clip of the route, I was in the back of the room, scanning the crowd. They were mesmerized, enraptured, totally “with it,” whereas I had to contend with Susie sharing her lunch crackers with Janie and whispering to her when it was just me trying to share stories of my experiences driving from Chicago to Santa Monica gathering ghost stories. (www.GhostlyTalesofRoute66.com).
As for his reaction to the luke-warm critical reception of “Glass,” Shymalan said:
“It really doesn’t bother me because my aspiration, as I said, isn’t necessarily acceptance. But I always want to understand what’s going on. What are the principles behind the tension or the miscommunication? I want to totally get that. Then I can choose not to react to it, or react to it. My constant, in self-analysis, is to try to figure out: Am I complicit in this situation? How did I create this situation? What is my role in it? Do I want to continue that role? Do I want to change the course of that role? As long as I understand it, I’m much more comfortable with it. And I feel I’m in a strangely decent place of wanting that amount of passion [and debate] people have when they speak about the movies, and the expectations. My obligation is to figure out the bridge so that I don’t just let go of me and please them. That would be the disaster.”
He added, ruefully, referencing critics in general:
“It’s human nature. Twenty-six people love the movie, and the 27th person hates it, and the only thing you can think about is the 27th person.”