There is hardly anything new with a trilogy. In its most basic form, it can manifest as a tree act play, more commonly as three, distinct but interconnected movies. In those cases, the films are released in rapid succession. Recently, the hopeful master of suspense, M. Night Shyamalan, his foray into the three-fold realm required almost twenty years to complete. When he broke into the collective consciousness of film buffs in 1999 with a sleeper hit, ‘The Sixth Sense.’ Not only did this movie elevate him to master craftsman status but it provided the foundation for his directorial trademarks. Mr. Shyamalan has become known for his twist endings and imaginative use of color as integral to forwarding the fundamental narrative of his films. The movie under consideration here, ‘Glass,’ is the capstone of the prolonged trilogy. It began in 2000 with ‘Unbreakable,’ staring a pair of certifiable A-List stars, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. It took until 2016 when James McAvoy joined the fray in ‘Split.’ The first movie the filmmaker manifested his long-time affection for comic books by infusing the story with some of the many popular archetypes used in comics, alliterative names, David Dunn, and signature colors associated with heroes and villains. Often, heroes receive primary colors leaving secondary colors to denote the adversary. These plot devices reinforced in ‘Split,’ with subtle Easter eggs employed to begin connecting the members of the trilogy. Finally, earlier this year, 2019, the culminating opus, ‘Glass’ was released. The already impressive star power increased with the rapidly rising young actor, Anya Taylor-Joy, reprised her role from ‘Split’ joined with one of the most talented actresses of her generation, Sarah Paulson. With a cast like this and the amount of time afforded to hone the script, this should have been an exceptional film. Unfortunately, the result was yet another instance of what is described as anti-synergy. The sum of the parts proved less than the whole.
The timeline for this movie retains consistency with both movies, shortly after Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a criminal with dissociative identity disorder, whom the press has nicknamed "The Horde. The most dangerous of the 23 distinct personalities is known as ‘The Beast,’ a physically transformed creature possessing immense strength. During the intervening two decades, David’s (Bruce Willis), son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), has joined his dad in both their security store and his vigilante work under the nom de guerre of ‘The Overseer.’ David can obtain visions of a person’s worse deeds by simply brushing against them. David has been systematically roaming the streets hoping to pass Kevin. In a little Easter Egg, ‘Untouchable included a scene where David brushed against a young boy receiving a jumble of confusing images. That boy was Kevin. This does lend credence to the fan theory that the trilogy was planned from the start. David and Joseph were in the process of rescue a quartet of cheerleaders captured by Crumb. The Beast is about to kill and devour the young women, David intercedes. Before the confrontation can proceed, they are both captured.
They are taken to a mental institution, place under the supervision of a therapist, Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson). The men are placed in cells fashioned to exploit their weaknesses, water for David and a strobe light that forces a personality change for Kevin. Also, in custody is David’s archnemesis, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). His superpower is an extremely high level of intelligence and uncanny predilection to plan and execute mass murder. At this point, the story slips into a psychological thriller with Dr. Staple playing mind games with her three captives. She presses David and Kevin into doubting themselves, convincing them that their abilities are not real. Considering this movie was written and directed by Mr. Shyamalan, the audience is understandably waiting for the tension building misdirection. This is the basis for the cumulation of factors that lead to the film missing its mark. The sensation created with the audience is akin to walking into a Halloween haunted house. No matter how frightening the features might be the heightened anticipation mitigates it. At this point in his career, Mr. Shyamalan is attempting to continue his comeback necessitated by movies like ‘The Village,’ ‘Lady in the Water’ and ‘The Happening.’ The critical and fan turnaround began with the precursor and second part of this trilogy, ‘Split.’ Dr. Staple is too aggressive and determined to convince the three they are delusional to be consistent with the clinical progression of diagnosis and treatment. The doctor started with an irrevocable conclusion proceeding to coerce her patients. This telegraphs the twist at the conclusion too early and overtly to be consistent with a genre classification of ‘suspense/thriller.’
Considering the facility is a secured institution for the criminally insane it is peculiar that the trio\of inmates were permitted, visitors, Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) and a survivor of the Beast’s original rampage, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy). This visitation is little more than a plot contrivance to bind the films together with cast members from the previous two movies. While this is a necessary aspect of concluding a trilogy but the pervading sense for the audience is forced and their initial attempt to help Elijah and Kevin respectively quickly failed. The central storyline exhibited some signs of stagnating until the filmmaker utilizes a tried and true direction, have the evil mastermind throw a wrench into the plan. When dealing with the villainous archetype is it is a certainty that they a plotting something and their machinations are well conceived and expertly executed. With his preternatural intellect and ability to correlate data, Elijah determined correctly that the doctor intended to lobotomize him using the surgical laser.
Upon determining the doctor’s plans, Elijah what determines the doctor’s plans. The doctor plans to lobotomize Elijah with a laser, overkill for a century-old procedure. Of course, Elijah is aware and managed to disable the device. Cinemasins would increment their counter for how easily the convicted criminal and known genius gained access to the device and whatever tools necessary to seamlessly disable it. Elijah immediately arranges to set the Beast and David against each other. Elijah intends to arrange circumstance so that a battle royal televised during a highly public event. Mr. Shyamalan demonstrated cinematic acumen by not dragging out the story with another change in venue and the associated cost of set design. The better choice was made to remain just outside the institution. Despite the narrative shortcomings of the movie admittedly the dénouement is a satisfying combat sequence between two powered foes. An ultimate solution is a form of Deus ex machina, far too pat. The ultimate reveal =, as mentioned, is anticlimactic and disappointing, particularly after such a rousing fight sequence. Mr. Shyamalan is regaining his status as a master of suspense but is not there yet and may never rise back to his initial ranking.