Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Glass Review (SPOILERS)

Here's something strange. I didn't write a movie review in January. I wrote my January movie preview, then my 2019 yearly preview, then my best and worst of 2018 lists, and that was it. Truth be told, I did watch movies in January. Just not a lot of the new releases. Mostly I caught up on a lot of Oscar movies that expanded that I gave some quick thoughts on Facebook to. And then there was "Glass," one of my more highly anticipated movies of the year. M. Night Shyamalan has had a bit of a wild career as he was on top of the world for a bit, but then fell hard and became the butt of every joke. However, he had a resurgence with "The Visit" in September 2015, a solid found-footage thriller that he followed up in a big way with "Split" in January 2017, which might be my favorite Shyamalan movie if I'm being honest. I've watched "Split" so many times in the last two years that I've lost track. And I've loved it every time. So obviously I was excited for what comes next, especially after we learned that "Split" was a sidequel to "Unbreakable." Two very different movies that ended up being in the same universe. "Unbreakable" was a superhero origin story while "Split" was a supervillain origin story. "Glass" is the sequel to both that brings them together.

On that note, it is of utmost importance that you watch BOTH "Unbreakable" AND "Split" before you see "Glass." If you skip one or the other, you're going to be confused and you'll walk out not liking the movie. I know this specifically because the three guys I saw this with hadn't seen "Unbreakable." They either thought it was a sequel to "Split" or they thought "Unbreakable" wasn't necessary viewing. I didn't learn this until after the fact when all three were talking about how stupid the movie was. I asked them if they've seen "Unbreakable" and the answer was a unanimous "no." Had I known that going in, I wouldn't have let them see it with me until they fixed that. So don't make the same mistake as my three friends. See both movies first. If you end up loving "Split," but not liking "Unbreakable," you're in for a rough trip because if I were to pick which movie "Glass" is more like, I'm going with "Unbreakable." In fact, they easily could've titled this "Unbreakble 2" and it may have made even more sense than "Glass." Yes, the title of "Glass" makes sense, even though Mr. Glass doesn't get a speaking part until over an hour into the film, but we'll get to that. But why would you jump into a sequel without seeing the first movie? Don't do it. See "Unbreakable."

My opinion on "Glass" is a bit complex. I did see the movie exactly two weeks ago, shortly after it was released. Normally I'd try to get my review out as soon as possible afterwards, but this movie stumped me. I didn't know what to think of the movie going in because "Unbreakable" and "Split" are two separate genres. I wasn't sure exactly how they were going to combine them, what tone the movie was going to take, or what the specific story was going to be. But whatever it was that I was expecting in the back of my mind, the final outcome completely blindsided me. It went the exact opposite direction and I frankly didn't know if I loved it or hated it. I was actually leaning towards anger and disappointment initially, but I couldn't get myself to sit down and type that review. I felt like I was missing something. Perhaps the shock value of it being a movie I wasn't expecting was causing me to be too harsh on it. But yet, there were still things that I knew that I didn't like, so how was I supposed to reconcile this? The answer is that I gave it two weeks, then saw it again. I still don't feel like I'm all the way there with this movie. But with two viewings in, I have enough of a grasp to sit down and write a review. But doing so requires me to spoil the daylights out of this, so beware.

When I analyze my own thoughts, I honestly think that I was wanting this to be more like a "Split 2." I love James McAvoy's character in "Split." My all-time favorite thriller is Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho," mostly because the dive into Norman Bates' Dissociative Identity Disorder makes for an absolutely fascinating character. The idea of an extremely mentally troubled individual who breaks down and becomes a serial killer when his other identity takes over is the most genius idea ever for a villain. The execution of that idea in "Psycho" is crafted to perfection by Hitchcock. The reason why I liked "Split" so much is because that's what it is. It's a modern-day "Psycho," but on steroids because McAvoy's Kevin Wendell Crumb has 23 different personalities protecting him, that all take turns with the light as they prepare for the inhuman 24th identity they call "the Beast" to take over. That's a basic overview, anyways. It's more complex because there's three personalities in favor of the Beast while the others aren't. But the three in favor, Patricia, Dennis, and Hedwig, are in total control. I wanted to see more of this. I wanted another dark thriller that ends with our hero David Dunn coming in and figuring out a way to stop the Beast. How Mr. Glass figured into this was beyond me.

But yet it's called "Glass" because this is Mr. Glass's movie. He's the mastermind pulling all the strings here. In "Unbreakable," he's the one obsessed with this idea of comic book characters being based on reality. He's sees David Dunn as a superhero in the making while also seeing himself as the perfect arch-nemesis. And he's super obsessed with seeing this comic book world come to fruition that he's going to do everything in his power to make it come to pass. And again, spoiler alert if you didn't get that message enough already, but that master plan goes beyond what we saw in "Unbreakable" and is fully realized in "Glass." Not only did he crash the train that caused David Dunn to realize who he was, but he also turned Kevin Wendell Crumb into who he was as well by killing Kevin's father on the same exact train David Dunn was on. Kevin's father dying turned Kevin's mother into a crazy, abusive mother, which in turn caused Kevin to be so damaged that he developed this severe form of DID that eventually created the Beast, who was the perfect arch-rival for David Dunn. The Beast believed that the broken are the pure and no one is more unbroken than David Dunn, who doesn't even experience pain. Seeing this plan come to pass was brilliant. 

However, it's not without its major bumps along the way. And the thing that makes this a complicated movie is that I'm not sure how severe all of these bumps really are. Are they small nitpicks that will resolve themselves over time or are they major flaws that will forever tamper the film, causing there to be some severe missed opportunities here? I don't know. But we're going to plow through them anyways. First off, though, we get to start off with the positive. The first 20-25 minutes of this movie are complete genius. This is because the movie actually does what I subconsciously wanted it to do. It was "Split 2." The Hoard, as is the nickname of the personalities in favor of the Beast, have now kidnapped three different sets of girls, and it these kidnappings are getting some legit press in the local news. Their latest victims are four cheerleaders and we get to again see Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig work their plan as they prepare the cheerleaders to be sacrifices for the Beast. But before the final plan is put into place, David Dunn ends up bumping into Hedwig on the street, which causes him to see the vision of what they are doing and he comes to the rescue. The Hoard then unleash the Beast as we get to see David Dunn vs. the Beast in a rather glorious battle.

But then the battle is immediately interrupted by our secret anti-superhero clan. Both David Dunn and Kevin Wendell Crumb are captured and thrown into a mental institution where they are interrogated by Sarah Paulson's character, the leader of this clan, who is determined to convince them that their superhero powers aren't real, but are rather a mental thing that they have created. If I'm being honest, I was not really a fan of this plot twist. I knew it was coming because that's where all the trailers were focusing their advertising, but I thought it would be a quick 10-20 minute thing at the beginning. But no. After our first 20-25 minutes of intro, this is where we spend the next hour of the film. The momentum of the movie slams to a halt and my adrenaline got completely derailed. I really didn't care for Sarah Paulson's character and I was bothered with the idea of over half of the movie being spent on her scheme. Now there are some positives here. Namely its a James McAvoy showcase as they learn that flashing a blinding light will force a different personality out of him. McAvoy has so much fun playing all of these different characters and I had a blast watching them all shuffle through. We also got to see a lot of new characters, which was a lot of fun.

I think the biggest problem with this whole hour-long segment in the mental institution is that it was just so boring. I don't mind slow if the build-up is done properly and the script is written nicely, but this movie just dragged its feet for an hour. And in the process, it completely sidelined David Dunn. Bruce Willis is an actor who often gets accused of not caring in his roles. With this movie, I think he did care. They just didn't give him much to do. He got to sit in his prison cell while the movie focused primarily on James McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson. When those two first met and started scheming, things starting heating up. But it took a while. I looked I my clock the second time around and we were about an hour and 15 minutes before Samuel L. Jackson first spoke. And they were captured at around the 25 minute mark. And it was an hour and half before they finally escaped. I think a big part of the reason why I was so bored is that this premise is one that's been done a whole lot. It's the vigilante story arc. Shortly after the heroes learn of their powers, the government, the people, or in the case, a secret organization, start to oppose it and there has to be a period of reconciliation before we can move forward with the plot. It happens in every superhero story at one point.

Given that "Unbreakable" was released in 2000, perhaps this is a storyline that Shyamalan felt needed to be explored next with this characters. If this plot had been incorporated in an "Unbreakable" sequel that came out in 2002 or 2003, maybe it would've been a more compelling arc. But now that we've had 20 movies in the MCU to go along with competing movies from Sony, Fox, and Warner Bros., as well as a whole bunch of superhero TV shows, I'm done with this arc. If someone is going to do it again, they're going to need to find a way to make it seem fresh and new. And I'm fair across all platforms with this. In fact, I heavily dinged "Captain America: Civil War" for the same exact thing. So overall, I think I was ready to get out of the mental institution. Both times I watched the movie I dozed off at different parts. Perhaps next time I try this out, I need to figure out a way to stay awake for the whole time, but I still contend that there's an inherent issue with this section of the movie that's going to make it a difficult thing to pay attention to because it takes up so much time of the movie. But eventually we do see a plan get put into place by Mr. Glass as he uses Kevin Crumb and David Dunn to help them all escape, which is what leads into the final portion of this movie.

Given my affinity towards "Split," this is where I have to talk about some well-done character progression with our "Split" characters that left some good finality. Namely I'm talking about Casey, Anya Taylor-Joy's character. At the end of "Split" she was left at a bit of a predicament. She escaped the Beast because the Beast realized she was equally as broken. When she was rescued, it was an "out of the frying pan, into the fire" sort of situation as she went back to her abusive uncle. Well, as it turns out, she is a completely changed individual. She got her uncle arrested. She's working at the zoo that she was held hostage at. She's dressing and acting more confidently. And she has a new foster family that she really loves. This might be a bit abrupt, especially since it hasn't been that long since the events of "Split," but I liked the change. I also liked her interactions with Kevin Wendell Crumb in this movie, especially at the end. The movie almost hinted at a bit of a romance, which had me uncomfortable since there's a 17-year difference between the two actors, but that aside, she saw him as a broken individual and knew that he needed someone there for him. That affection is what helped him change as he learned that there's someone there who cares about him. He started to realize that having the light wasn't such a bad thing.

Intermixed with that was a final duel that was spectacular. We have Mr. Glass watching on the sidelines as his master plan is coming to fruition. We have the anti-superhero clan coming after them to recapture them, some of whom are acting as police. We have the Beast in all-out fury mode trying to bring down this army of police that's attacking him. And we have David Dunn in hero mode trying to save the day. It was quite the beautiful spectacle. But then as Casey is able to convince the Beast to let Kevin take the light, BOOM. He gets sniped and shot. As he is dying in Casey's arms, he sifts through all his personalities once again as we get to say goodbye to all of them, ending with Kevin taking the light for the remainder of the time, with his final words being what I just mentioned, that having the light wasn't such a bad thing. As this is going on, David Dunn as detained by a police grunt and is being drowned in a street puddle. And Mr. Glass, after being attacked by the Beast, who turned on him after a speech from one of the heroes (either David Dunn or his son), is also dying after being fatally wounded. And I was sitting her in shock and disbelief. M. Night Shyamalan's way to wrap up these three character's arcs was to kill all three of them? I felt cheated.

This is the thing that I don't know if I'm going to be able to get over. Even if I eventually accept the boring second act or find the themes of the movie to be even deeper than I initially thought, I have to live with the idea that M. Night Shyamalan created three amazing characters, then decided to kill them all off in his final movie. Sure, I guess it might make sense to kill the two villains. But David Dunn drowning to death in a street puddle by a random police grunt might go down in history as one of the most useless, unnecessary, and upsetting deaths in cinema history. This after Shyamalan mostly sidelined him the whole movie to showcase Kevin Wendell Crumb and Mr. Glass. But, sure. The final finale is decent enough. The clan thinks they've won. They admit that the three of them did have superpowers and they're about to move onto the next city, but PSYCH! Mr. Glass secretly recorded all of this and sent videos to Casey, Joseph Dunn and Mr. Glass's mother, who upload the videos and release all of this footage to the world. Now Mr. Glass's plan is finally complete as everyone else with superpowers will be able to see this and have the courage to come out of hiding and the world will be full of superheroes, just like in all the comics that Mr. Glass has been obsessed with.

In other words, Shyamalan just recreated "X-Men." Except he killed his Professor X, so who are all these new people supposed to go to? Since the first "X-Men" movie was released a couple months before "Unbreakable" in 2000, perhaps that gave Shyamalan an idea as to what to do with an "Unbreakble" sequel. It just took 19 years for his vision to be completed. And in those 19 years, we've had so many superhero movies and TV shows, that Shyamalan feels late to the party with his ideas, which his unfortunate. No, this movie is not as bad as some critics have made it to be. But this had the potential to be the movie event of the year. The "Unbreakable" sequel that fans have been waiting years for, combined with the "Split" characters, giving us a legitimate villain for David Dunn. But instead of a grand spectacle, he locks them all in a cage for an hour of the movie, repeats some story arcs that have been done a thousand times in superhero movies, then kills them all in the end. Yes, there's a lot of good themes and story arcs interwoven. And it does get better a second time. Who knows what will happen a third time. But after typing up all of these thoughts, I'm still not ready to go super high with my score. I'll go positive, but for now I'm only going 7/10 for "Glass."

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