So far I’m 2 for 2 in the new release camp, let’s see how long I last as this is one of the biggest years for major superhero movie releases. Even so, I imagine that the combined total between big releases, indies, and non-superhero comic book movies that the total number will be roughly the same as the past few years. And while I never got around to reviewing Split last year, I did watch it. Glass is the third film in an oddly connected movie series that started with Unbreakable. It does a good job of tying the two films together though it feels slightly more in line with Unbreakable as the horror element is much more muted. Overall, it was quite enjoyable but didn’t quite reach the same quality as either of the two previous movies and the twist was lacking and came out of nowhere. And since the twist is a big part of the movie, it will be discussed in this review so be warned.
What really helped sell this film is the fact that it felt like a continuation of what started in Unbreakable with the one exception of the music. The long, slow, deliberate takes, the use of color even though it was difficult to fully decipher on a first watch, it really helped feel like a continuation of the story that started nearly 20 years ago. It also helped to have the return of the actors, specifically Spencer Treat Williams as Joseph and Charlayne Woodard though she was in some iffy old age make-up. Even though it’s been nearly 20 years, she is actually five years younger than Samuel L Jackson. But it still helped give continuity between the three movies.
One other great theme used in Unbreakable and to a lesser extent in Split was color theory. Green represented David Dunn, purple for Elijah, and orange for Joseph. Now with Split, there’s the dark yellow to associate with Kevin Crumb. Sarah Paulson’s character Dr. Ellie Staple and the hospital itself is generally in whites and greys. And when they are in the hospital, all three characters wear costumes with very muted versions of their associated colors until near the end of the film. The other strong color in the movie is pink which shows up a couple times towards the end. Notably when Dr. Staple is talking to all three of them in a very pink room, and later on in Ms. Price’s home though it’s difficult to determine the significance of it during just a single watch. It also helps with the overall comic book feel to the movie.
Glass is really a comic book film that takes place in the real world, but it has deeper themes that are peppered throughout the film. Besides the color theory, there’s also a trinity element. There are a lot of elements involving threes. There are the three main characters who have super powers. Each of them also has someone connected to them on the outside which creates a separate trinity. Even the secret organization that Dr. Staple works for has the symbol of a clover with three leaves that they have tattooed on themselves. There are also three characters who visit a comic book shop: Joseph, Casey, and Dr. Staple. Comics themselves also play a strong role in this film as the comics are treated as a deeper mythology within the context of this film. It was also nice to see references to both Marvel and DC as the tower that is shown all over the news and Elijah uses as a decoy mastermind plan is referred to as a “True Marvel” in a magazine. And later on in the movie, we get to see a clip of Adam West’s Batman playing in the background of a comic book shop which also happened to be a double tribute to Adam West, both within the context of the movie and the movie’s tribute itself.
What didn’t work as well in this film is the thing that Shyamalan has become known for: the twist. There are a couple little twists, the first one being the one that actually does work well. Joseph reveals to Kevin that his father was on the same train that David was on when he discovered his powers. That is to say that Elijah not only discovered David in that crash, but he also inadvertently created Kevin through the loss of his father. The lesser twist was the one that seemingly came out of nowhere when it was revealed that Dr. Staple was actually part of this large organization who finds these real life superpowered individuals and either convinces them that they aren’t actually super powered, or disposes of them to eliminate an escalation to avoid a Metropolis or Gotham City situation. It’s an explanation that does make sense within the comic book reality of this world, but it’s a difficult pill to swallow as there either hasn’t been any hints of them, or those hints were so subtle as to be completely overlooked.
Besides the plot and the look of the film, what really helps sell the movie are the performances. Especially James McAvoy’s performance as Kevin Crumb’s multiple personalities. Every one is so distinct from each other and it’s not just about his voice or accent, but it’s his body language, the way he presents his facial expressions, it’s an all around performance. And it’s something that he can turn on a dime within single takes. Samuel L Jackson falls right back into the character of Elijah, continuing something mentioned in Unbreakable where the villain often has one eye larger than the other to signify a skewed view of the world, and when pretending to be in a heavily sedated state, he keeps one eye slightly closed more than the other. Even Bruce Willis who tends to be hit or miss with his performances in recent years does a great job as he returns as David Dunn. There are a lot of great things that can be said of this film and I’m very curious to revisit it or at least watch someone else’s take on some of the deeper meanings and metaphors that I can tell have been put in this film, but I haven’t been able to unpack on a single viewing. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.