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Glass, from M. Night Shyamalan
By Lisa Anderson
Posted on 1/21/2019 9:01 PM

Almost eighteen years after realizing he was unbreakable, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) takes up the rain poncho again in Glass  In this latest fim from M. Night Shyamalan, Dunn finds himself pitted against two old foes:  Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who we met in Unbreakable, and Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), who was introduced, along with his multiple personalities, in 2016's Split. They find themselves together in the clutches of the mysterious Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who asks them to question things they fundamentally believe about themselves.

As the story opens, we see Dunn fighting crime by night, as a vigilante who has several names in the press but is best known as The Overseer. By day, he runs a home security supply store with his son Joseph, who is all grown up now but still played by the wonderful Spencer Treat Clark. When a group of young women disappear, Dunn uses his intuition to connect the crime to a young man. This turns out to be Kevin Wendell Crumb -- or rather, the young women are being held by his alternate personalities. Dunn manages to free the girls and tangle with Crumb’s most dangerous alter, The Beast, but their fight is interrupted and they are captured. They end up in a mental hospital along with Dunn’s old friend, Elijah Price.(This hardly seems like a spoiler as the trailer shows them together.)

Dr. Staple, who is treating them there, specializes in, in her words,“people who think they are superheroes.” She tries to give her new patients rational explanations for the unusual things they’re able to do. In the meantime, she exploits their weaknesses: Dunn, who is vulnerable to water, is surrounded by high-pressure hoses, and Crumb is surrounded by lights that can force a new alternate personality to the forefront if one gets out of hand. Price’s superpower was never pinned down in Unbreakable, but Staple cites his considerable intelligence. Even though he is still in a wheelchair as a result of his brittle bone disease, the institution keeps him drugged into submission...only he secretly kind of runs the place.

Price, who now calls himself Mr. Glass, is determined to prove the reality of superheroes to the public. He exploits the divisions that grow between Crumb’s alters as Staple’s treatment causes them to lose faith in The Beast. By the time he lets Dunn in on his plan, you realize that he doesn’t actually care who wins -- what he wants is a highly visible showdown.The focal point of his plan is Osaka Tower, which has to be play on Nakatomi Plaza.

All three of the leads do an impressive job. McAvoy, in particular, is amazing, using a different voice for each of Crumb’s alternate personalities and doing challenging physical stunts both as The Beast and the childlike Hedwig. Bruce Willis is as likable a screen presence as ever, projecting both toughness and sensitivity. And Jackson plays Mr. Glass with a style and menace that should make him one of his signature characters.

The secondary characters are important, too. Each of our “supers” has someone who cares about him: Dunn’s son, Price's mother, and Crumb’s friend Casey. Recent comic book movies and TV shows have picked up on the fact that the non-super characters are often equally important, based on their own competence or their connection to the super characters or both; and Glass follows suit. These characters helps give the movie emotional weight.

Glass does have its weaknesses, however. Elijah Price is an example of the trope of the Evil Disabled Person -- such a good example that he is listed in the TV Tropes entry about it.. Information about Crumb’s origin story is revealed that I found kind of trite. The way that Dunn's wife is written out of the script is also kind of tired. Casey’s friendship with Crumb veers into “saved by the love of a good woman” territory, with Staple suggesting that Casey can help Crumb control his alters. And a new player is introduced in the third act that should have at least been hinted at in the earlier movies.

As you might imagine, Dunn gets his confrontation with Glass and The Beast. Up to the very end, there are unexpected turns -- although the signature Twist was not what surprised me the most. The story arc is concluded in a way that I found very satisfying, but the door is left open for more stories in the same universe.

It’s no secret that Shyamalan has taken negativity from critics for many years now. When The Sixth Sense came out, he was lauded as a bold new auteur, but the bloom quickly fell off the rose. I actually like a lot of his early work, although I admittedly haven’t seen some of his more recent films. I wouldn’t be surprised if his David Dunn trilogy isn’t viewed much more favorably after some time passes If you’re a fan of him at his best, you’ll probably like Glass, but not if you aren’t.  (It also happens that Glass is the only time that Shyamalan, who makes cameos in all his films, has played the same character twice.)

Glass is particularly interesting as an entry into a field now crowded with superhero movies and TV shows.This was not the case when Unbreakable came out, and Shyamalan was asked to tone down the comic book aspects. of it.He leans into the the story's comic book inspiration in Glass, just as Mr. Glass leans fully into his supervillain identity. In a way, the Dunn series is a comic book tribute from outside geek culture, which makes it different from other homages. And I, personally, consider it worth the ride.