“Whoa.” It’s the first word I uttered as the credits for “Glass” started to roll at the Universal Studios Canada advanced screening. I had no other words to describe the events that transpired on the big screen in front of me, and since this film is the first “big movie” of 2019, my short (but also astonished) reaction could be perceived as either a good or bad thing. Perhaps it’s a bit of both.

Generally, releasing a movie in the month of January is fleeting. The slow period is often reserved for movies that major motion picture production companies aren’t willing to take a big chance on. In a lot of ways, the month of January acts as a cinematic sale bin. If we look at last year, B-movies like Insidious: The Last Key, Proud Mary, and Maze Runner: The Death Cure steadied the box office but it was December 2017’s Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and The Greatest Showman that continued to dominate ticket sales. This year, it’s acclaimed yet often criticized director M. Night Shyamalan at the helm of the month with the much anticipated psychological thriller, nineteen years in the making. There’s no doubt; “Glass” is about to rise to the top of the box office, but is the final chapter a glass half full or empty?

It’s a tough decision. Shyamalan’s universe is inventive, and the first two films in the trilogy have propelled the director back to the top of his game, particularly for comic book/movie fans. But Glass wades through a river of rough waters then cap-sizes expectations by abruptly closing the curtain for good. There are unanswered questions, open-ended scenarios, and a general feeling that what transpires could have been better.  Shyamalan has publicly stated that Glass would indeed be the final chapter and he clearly wasn’t kidding. This is it!

Rewind to the year 2000, when this modern, comic book-influenced trilogy began. Unbreakable starred actor Bruce Willis (Die Hard series) plays a security guard and ex-football player named David Dunn.  Together with his wife, Audrey Dunn (Robin Wright, Wonder Woman), the pair seem like an average couple living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They have a son named Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark, TV’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D), who (back then) was often compared to Haley Joel Osmond, another child actor who starred in an M. Night Shyamalan movie – the Academy Award-nominated The Sixth Sense – with Bruce Willis in 1999. Unbreakable also starred Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers: Infinity War) as Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass, and he and David Dunn were anything but ordinary. Turns out, David possesses superhuman strength, retrocognition, and an impenetrable immune system, and Mr. Glass born with fragile bones and a remarkably genius mind. These antiheroes came and went, but over the years, Unbreakable assembled a large cult following despite M. Night Shyamalan’s dwindling acclaim.

Enter Split. A surprise 2016 sequel to Unbreakable starring James McAvoy as the terrifyingly complicated Kevin Wendell Crumb who suffers from split personality disorder. With a total of 24 personalities living inside of him (from a 9-year-old boy to a poised older woman to a supernatural “Beast”), Crumb’s true identity lives deep inside himself, and it’s his malevolent, more controlling personalities that navigate his physical body through one of the best performances by an actor in this decade. It’s still a shame to look back at the 2017 Award Season and not see James McAvoy’s name in all (or at least some) of the Best Actor categories. 

Now, as Glass debuts in theatres everywhere, we see the final act of this convoluted, twisted, and surprising universe play out like an accident you just can’t look away from. David Dunn and his son Joseph now own a security store together by day then operate as vigilantes à la Batman and Alfred by night with David’s raincoat acting like his very own Batsuit. But David has real powers. And as Mr. Glass says, “This is not a comic book, this is real life. Superheroes and villains exist and it’s time to show the world!”

The beginning of Glass works really well, and a wave of nostalgia I didn’t expect to experience came over me as I watched David suit up and get his hands dirty. His son Joseph aids him through a radio earpiece and I was immediately engaged with these nineteen-year-old characters all over again. Mr. Glass’s mother, Mrs. Price (Charlayne Woodward, TV’s POSE), and Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy, The VVitch), the sole survivor from the kidnapping carried out by Kevin Wendell Crumb in Split, also return for the finale, and joining the cast in an extremely well-acted yet frustrating role is Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson, Bird Box). Saying anything else about Ellie Staple will indefinitely spoil the 2h 9m feature, but it’s empowering to see a leading LGBTQ+ actress in two of the most thrilling and popular movies out right now.

Overall, director M. Night Shyamalan (who also has a brief cameo at the beginning of the film) is known for his surprise endings, and the shattering conclusion of Glass is no exception. I was impressed, shocked, and a bit disappointed because there are so many directions this saga could have gone, but whether you end up loving or hating the third act of Glass, Shyamalan – at the very least – will give you something to talk about. Surprise!

“The World of Superheroes will be Shattered.”

3.5 Popcorn Kernels / 5

About the Author

Joey Viola is the Co-Founder of MoJo Toronto and an LGBTQ community leader who utilizes his passion and flair for the art of writing by bringing a fresh perspective in reviewing entertainment and advocating for equality, tolerance, and social/political justice.