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Friday, January 18, 2019

Glass

M. Night Shyamalan has made Glass for a very specific audience, and I'm afraid I'm not part of it.  This is a low budget, low energy "realistic" deconstruction of the superhero movie.  What this means is that the characters are aware of the cliches and plot devices in comics, and have lengthy, drawn out monologues about them.  The characters are flat, and the whole enterprise just feels joyless while you're watching it.  This is not the filmmaker's worst film by a longshot, but it might be his most disappointing.

It should be said that if you have not seen 2000's Unbreakable, or 2017's Split, do not even attempt to watch Shyamalan's latest.  He has created a sort of trilogy, with this film serving as the big finale that ties the three films together.  The movie is also supposed to represent the director's return to the big time.  After hitting it big with early hits like The Sixth Sense and Signs, he suddenly was struck with a string of expensive and widely derided flops.  2015's "found footage" thriller The Visit found Shyamalan on firmer ground, and hinted at better things to come.  When Split arrived a couple years ago, it found a number of fans, although I was not one of them.  Still, I admired the ending moments that tied the film to Unbreakable, and seemed to be hinting at a continuation that would merge the two films together.  Now that the continuation is here, I kind of wish it was still a hint, rather than a reality.

Glass is a very dragged out film that is long on ideas, but short on results.  The execution is stilted and sluggish, and the overall goal of the film seems to have been to see how much energy the filmmaker could drain out of his own concept.  It's not that Shyamalan does not care or is not invested with his project.  In fact, he might be a bit too invested, and just enjoys pouring over every element to the point of frustration to those in the audience who are not as enraptured by his story as he seems to be.  He lingers on shots far too long, he has his characters speak mostly in endless monologues, and there's just not much to get excited about here, unless you really have fallen hard for these characters.  I'm sure there is an audience out there who will love pouring over the details this movie lays out, but are there really enough out there to support a movie like this?  Watching it, I often felt like an outsider who understood what was going on, but just couldn't get the appeal.

The plot picks up some weeks after the events of Split, and finds multiple personality serial killer Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy, giving an exhausting performance), and the 23 other personalities that exist within him, loose on the streets of Philadelphia, and holding some high school cheerleaders hostage in an abandoned factory.  Meanwhile, from Unbreakable, we have David Dunn (Bruce Willis) patrolling the streets as a superhero known as The Overseer.  You might remember from that movie that David learned he had superhuman strength, and that he could see people's past actions just by touching them.  By day, David sells home security equipment with his adult son (Spencer Treat Clark), and at night, he puts on a rain slicker and basically beats the life out of anyone who happens to cause trouble.  His son also helps him out with his superhero vigilante work, scoping out crimes from a home base, and feeding him information through a microphone.

David eventually manages to track Kevin down and free the hostages, which results in a fight that proves to be more anticlimactic than thrilling.  The battle is interrupted by the arrival of Dr. Ellie Staple (a lifeless and droning Sarah Paulson), who has the two guys locked up in a psych ward that serves as a setting for the remainder of the film.  Also locked up there is Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), aka "Mr. Glass", who has been there for the past 19 years ever since he took the lives of hundreds of innocent people all just to prove his belief that superheroes walk among us.  Elijah is sedated for a good portion of the picture, which means that Jackson is literally given nothing to do but stare at the walls until there's only about 45 minutes left in the film.  Dr. Staple wants to prove that the "powers" these three men seem to believe they hold are nothing more than mere delusions of grandeur.  This makes up a majority of the film's dramatic crux, as David begins to actually question his own abilities.

Glass reunites us with these characters, but it gives them nowhere to go, and nothing new for us to discover about them.  We know they are gifted with extraordinary powers of strength and intellect.  The films that introduced these people already established this.  The idea of introducing doubt about their own abilities is an intriguing idea, but one that is not successfully explored.  There are so many dragged out scenes where Dr. Staple tries to convince these three men that they do not possess any remarkable abilities that the movie seems to be repeating itself, or hitting the same notes over and over with its dialogue.  Speaking of the dialogue, a lot of it is delivered in hushed, melodramatic tones.  This is nothing new for Shyamalan, who likes to draw out his words with random pauses and have his characters speak in a low whispers sometimes.  Often, he is able to create some tension or drama with his approach, but here, it just feels lifeless and needlessly drawn out.

I think the real problem is that he has given us a follow up with nowhere to go.  We know these characters, and although they seem like they should fit well together, they just never do.  All of the characters seem to be inhabiting their own movie, instead of working together to create a narrative.  McAvoy is having the time of his life playing the multiple personalities of his character, Willis is doing his best to look pained and reflective, but often seems to come across like he's barely invested, Jackson doesn't have a real part to play until the third act, and is barely in the movie until then, and Paulson (the sole new addition) plays her role with such a deflated air that she drags down any scene she's in.  These characters and performances simply don't connect - Not with each other, and not with the audience.  The screenplay never finds a way to create a bond between these characters, and so everyone's off doing their own thing.

For some viewers, it may be enough just to get to spend some more time with these characters, but I really felt like I was getting shortchanged here.  I was never involved with the plot, the people inhabiting it, and I felt no connection to them, or that they had much of a connection to each other.  It's a watchable, but ultimately underwhelming, experience that just never adds up to a lot when you think back on it.

1 comments

1 Comments:

  • I saw it last night. It was okay, but it felt like there was fifteen really important minutes left on a cutting room floor somewhere...

    By Blogger Chris, at 8:07 PM  

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