By: Felix Felicis (Four Beers) –
I’d like to take the time right now before beginning this review to apologize to James McAvoy because, after watching Split to prepare for Glass (and I can’t believe it took me this long to watch 2017’s Split – I blame M. Night Shyamalan for calling it a “spiritual sequel” to RELATED film, Unbreakable, because that phrase is as idiotic as the one Gwyneth Paltrow explained her amicable divorce from Coldplay frontman Chris Martin with, aka “consciously uncoupling”… and also my distaste for M. Night Shyamalan’s tendency to Hitchcock himself into his work) and in addition to the latest Saturday Night Live James McAvoy hosted, I am smitten like a stoned kitten for this dude. And we all know *cough* Channing Tatum Jeff Goldblum Ted Danson *cough* that my twitterpations tend to be lengthy and ardent. So, James, may I call you James? I’m sorry but I don’t love you (how can I, we’ve never met and I’m not insane enough to fall in love with the IDEA of someone) but I do love your acting, character work, absolutely YOKED bod and adorable Scottish accent. Again, I’m so sorry. This is gonna be a marathon, not a sprint so buckle up, McAvoy.
Glass begins a few weeks after the conclusion of Split (and almost twenty years after Unbreakable) with the capture of The Beast/Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) and the arrest of Bruce Willis’s vigilante character (a few monikers are seen in various news reports but Shyamalan settled on, arguably, the worst one for an older white dude) named The Overseer (aka David Dunn). Joining our mental patient Mod Squad for some superhero gaslighting group therapy is Mr. Glass (an INCREDIBLY twitchy Samuel L. Jackson aka Elijah Price), who’s been on an inpatient staycation for awhile now. Enter Dr. Ellie Staple (an oddly compelling, if mis-used, Sarah Paulson) who has three days (a number almost as arbitrarily chosen as the 5 billion our cheeto-in-chief wants for his racist wall) to therapize our Three Muskeweirds into un-believing in themselves so the world will unbelieve in them, too, because, like some derivative Jedi shit, with the light (heroes) comes the dark (villains) and the world doesn’t need either – it can fuck itself up just fine on its own, thank you very much. Supporting characters from previous films run around with a b-story finding out more about the origins of our Mod (Supe) Squad which leads up to, and sets off, an explosive(?) sequence of finale events that will leave no one (outside of sociopaths and nihilists) satisfied.
It may come as a real shock *pause for sarcasm to sink in* considering how my intro was a shameless love letter to James McAvoy, but McAvoy’s character work was, far and away, the best part about Glass. Seamless, intuitive, and a sheer masterclass in acting, McAvoy conveys (frequently without words) each of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s personalities flawlessly. A quiet gesture here, tilt of the head there, and, before he’s even opened his mouth, you know who’s driving the corpus car. It was riveting to watch in Split, and equally so in Glass because McAvoy doesn’t just switch characters like drivers switch gears, he gives each one depth, complexity, and relatable flaws so that you empathize with some (Barry), sympathize with others (dealer’s choice), and loathe a rare few (fucking Hedwig is the actual and literal WORST). I’m retroactively adding Split to my ‘Best of 2017 Movies’ list and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.
I’d also like to give props to Bruce Willis for picking up David Dunn and putting on his (admittedly lackluster) poncho twenty years after the first film and stepping into Dunn’s shoes spectacularly well after a hiatus even a cicada would term “insanely long”. Anya Taylor-Joy also reprised her role as Casey Cooke (The Beast whisperer) from Split in Glass as well and Taylor-Joy was a – don’t say it don’t say it don’t say it – JOY TO BEHOLD once more. Shit. Well I tried. Guess it just had to be pun. Taylor-Joy has the Final Girl grit and gumption to hold her own against this pantheon of industry giants at just twenty-three years old (and it’s fantastic to watch).
McAvoy and Taylor-Joy’s characters also gave me (a non-ironic, honestly compelling) Beauty and The Beast-esque OTP ‘ship (not necessarily in a romantic sense, but also possibly?) with Casey’s concern for – and care of – both The Beast and Kevin Wendell Crumb. Much like a distorted mirror, Casey is what Kevin could have been if he’d been a little stronger, and Kevin is what Casey could have become if she’d been a little bit weaker. But for the grace of *Cthulhu go they (*or whatever deity and/or higher power you may or may not believe in). Each is drawn to the other like opposing magnetic poles, bonded and repelled in turns, by a similar past and the shared trauma of the events that occurred in Split. If I’m going to keep it one-hundo with you, dearest readers, I was in Glass to cherry-pick their storyline out of the white noise that was Glass’s trilogy team up. Casey’s ability to pull Kevin into the light, into control of his own body (and his desire to stay in the light/control to stay with Casey) through the tactile sense of – not just touch – but truly compassionate contact, is some fucking powerful shit to watch.
Glass doesn’t stop there and gives you a rich, thematic color palette saturated in a specific hue for each character (yellow for The Beast/Kevin Wendell Crumb, purple for Mr. Glass/Elijah Price and green for The Overseer – still not a great name/David Dunn). Coupled with stellar sound editing and a musical score smooth like buttah (not to mention inventive visual framework and creative cinematography) you can almost forgive how far off the rails this train actually flies in the third act. Almost. But not really. What Glass gets right it gets REALLY right but what Glass gets wrong, it gets REALLY FUCKING WRONG. It was a blast to live-tweet, though.
We all have a shortlist of actors and/or directors that have unlimited credit at the bank of our goodwill… And then there’s the shortlist of those who are blackballed from our box office billfolds. M. Night Shyamalan is on my list of “only if I have to” directors because, while he doesn’t lack vision, it’s usually wearing simulation beer goggles. I also don’t love the Hitchcock of it all where, in every flick, Shyamalan has to insert himself into the narrative one way or another, usually in a fairly distracting manner. Glass was no different as Shyamalan plays a nosey patron who awkwardly injects himself into a personal conversation between David Dunn and his son (Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn – all grown up from Unbreakable). WE GET IT. You didn’t soak up enough attention as a child but for fuck’s sake can we just not? Like, for ONCE can we not?
Credit where credit’s due, Michael Bay has sold his soul to the commercial product-placement devil and gods of big-budget, box office consumerism, but at least I don’t have to watch him flail around onscreen for a few minutes every time I watch a Transformers movie. Shyamalan adds, in addition to his egocentric cameos, a whole fuckton of willfully ignorant pretensions regarding intelligent superhero cinema and takes the Dwayne-Johnson-solid foundation of Unbreakable, adds in the masterclass of character-work that was Split, and then slowly strangles it in an airless vacuum of sloppy trilogy tie-ins and inconsistent, self-indulgent gratification before throwing the body under a lackluster, third-act bus.
There are plenty of movies that can work a slow burn into a taught, tension-filled finale after using an enclosed space for most of the movie, you know, like, say, Split managed to pull off? Don’t get me wrong, Split had its own (though far fewer) issues, but maybe Glass’s might not have been as noticeable if it didn’t directly follow a movie that did it better. Glass had glacial pacing, wait, scratch that; ice caps melt faster and the Titanic probably took less time to sink than this movie did getting to the goddamn point/clusterfuck of a finale. But let’s spend the longest three days recorded since the concept of time was invented by shroomed-out gerbils to follow around an a-meh-zing B-Squad (Casey Cooke, Joseph Dunn, and Mother Price as played by Charlayne Woodard) as they get jammed into Glass’s plot to sleuth-out some answers that haphazardly tie this rejected meat-bag of a Frankenstein’s Monster of a trilogy together(ish) at the end.
I’m also very much NOT HERE for the perception and projection of “victims” and how “victimhood” is portrayed in Split and, subsequently, in Glass. The whole raison d’être of The Beast is as a protector of victims and those who have been “purified” by pain/trauma/abuse. Sure, okay, super dark but no worse than Dexter using his abilities and impulses to clean up the world a bit- oh so The Beast doesn’t just go after abusers and he’s not only willing, but eager, to go full Moose Munch on ANYONE who hasn’t been “purified”?! I have never regretted my relatively mundane childhood before but I would if I lived in The Eastrail 177 Shyamalan-verse.
Final Girl two times running, Casey Cooke, only survives Split by having VISIBLE scarring and evidence of her trauma/”purification” which halts The Beast in his tracks and sends her on her way to hang out until the sequel. The message coming across here about the only scars that matter being visible ones is fucked up, incorrect, and diminishes a whole PLANET full of people who may, can, and absolutely DO carry their pain and/or scars from abuse and/or trauma in a whole host of invisible ways. This was another missed opportunity (one of many) to have The Beast and David Dunn team up in some way to seek out and destroy the heart of darkness lying hidden in plain sight by using David’s abilities to “feel” where help/vengeance might be needed and The Beast to hulk-smash some Grade-A assholes (starting with Casey Cooke’s Uncle Fuckface – who deserved more of a takedown than a throwaway line).
I don’t know if you know this, but Hawk Ripjaw and I are pretty much (absolutely) besties. We share streaming accounts, talk about everything (if you’re the annoying coworker wondering if anyone has bitched about you, rest assured we one thousand percent have) and frequently egg each other on to worse and worse life choices (I convinced him to eventually watch the entire series run of Pretty Little Liars – and write about it – and I’m pretty sure he was the one to convince me to co-review the entire Transformers and Fifty Shades franchises with him). I tell you that to tell you this, we ALSO help each other hash out and define how we feel about movies when rocking an assignment solo. It’s the doctoral “defend your thesis” of cinema and it makes for a better critic if you have someone in your life who can help you do this.
That said, Hawk and I differed on a few points. He wasn’t fully into the good Dr. Staple attempting to gaslight the Supe Squad (and to some extent the audience) when we already knew better – whereas I actually enjoyed the slow exploration of the growing fissures in their identity-based fault lines and the groundwork it set up for Glass’s finale. It’s not fun if Dumbo knows, without a doubt, he doesn’t need his feather to fly without having an identity crisis about it first. But what we *both* didn’t love was the clusterfuck of sloppy, machiavellian-twist-just-to-have-a-twist-bukkake that the third act served up with wild, lunch-lady-on-tater-tot-day abandon.
Hawk also wanted significantly more Mr. Glass in, you know, the movie called GLASS, but after hearing my alternate theories, we ultimately agreed that, and here’s a hill we’re probably gonna get some hate on, that Glass could have wham-bam-cameo’d-ma’am the Mr. Glass character (considering Samuel L. Jackson largely got paid to blink a bit and twitch in this one), killed him off in the first third/half of the film and given his plot points/character arc to his mother to carry out in his name (and in the name of vengeance). First name? Mother. Last name? Glass. I AM HERE FOR MOTHER GLASS, Y’ALL. Same with David Dunn’s son doing a Robin/Batman glow-up and Casey becoming her own version of The Beast post-finale. I actually thought Shyamalan was going in this direction until he… just didn’t. Clever, bro. Tease a few epic twists and then just deliver a super lame (kind of predictable) one. WHOO BOY YOU GOT ME GOOD.
Glass took everything it had accomplished (up until the finale) out back and shot it in the head, Old Yeller-style. Much like a showdown at the Not-So-Okay Corral, Shyamalan treated these carefully crafted characters (over twenty years in the making for some) like disposable, off-brand, single-use razors to be thrown away after one swipe. What Glass did to Casey and Kevin Wendell Crumb ALONE was unforgivable (their arc ends in one of the most, if not THE most, clichéd cinematic tropes of all time). I have never been more annoyed after watching something that looked like it was ultimately going to pay off end up just fucking DIVE-BOMBING into the side of a mountain to explode in a shower of nihilistic disservice to an audience. If you’ve ever wondered what a giant middle-finger to the viewing public looks like, I encourage you to watch the third act of Glass one day; it’s a pitch-perfect example. The why (and purpose) of it all is never fully answered beyond the obvious and the (absolute) last scene (in the train station) is insanely vague and confusing. Is this the worst conclusion to a trilogy (?) ever or maybe the worst “origin story” for a spin-off franchise of all time? It’s even odds and anyone’s guess at this point.
Just give me more Casey Cooke and Kevin Wendell Crumb, please. OH WAIT YOU CAN’T. I’d pitch a matinee or wait until you can rent Glass on VOD, honestly. This one’s too hard to call, kidlets; it could go either way. You’ve been warned. You’ve been given an explanation. It’s on you if you nevertheless persist in seeing Glass.
Photosensitivity Warning: It may not bother most, but if you have light-sensitivity and/or strobe seizure risk, Glass does have a few bright, repetitive, light flashes in a couple scenes that may cause some difficulty.
Glass (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every mundane example Dr. Staple uses to try and convince the Three Muskeweirds that they’re normal.
Take a Sip: whenever a new “split” personality appears, but only when they FIRST show up (I don’t need y’all dropping like boozy flies).
Take a (small) Drink: every time someone says an alter ego’s superhero/villain name.
Do a Shot: whenever a new character attempts to shuffle the “split” CD playing in-store and pull out a new personality. Again, only for each new CHARACTER. Otherwise you *will* get cirrhosis of the liver and die. Example: the weird orderly/Dr. Staple/Casey Cooke, etc.
Shotgun Your Beer: when one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, FLOOR. Takes on another, way more depressing, meaning in the finale (trilogy) clean sweep.