Glass is the third leg of Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy. While many haven’t been onboard the entire time, I have to admit that M. Night pulled it off. Sure, it took two studios and nearly twenty years…but it works. Does it pay off the expectations of those trained on DCEU and MCU films? Not at all. But, what it does is tell a semi-realistic narrative about how our world would handle superhumans.
The problem with the length of time between Unbreakable and Split is that average people forgot about Unbreakable. I spent 4 months after the film convincing my wife that Unbreakable existed and that there was a movie between The Sixth Sense and Signs. Did no one remember Unbreakable? I would bring it up constantly. Hell, I had college friends who played extras during the middle to end of the film. Why did the world forget about this realistic tale of super powers?
Warren Ellis tried tackling a similar idea with his newuniversal series at Marvel. Based on a similar idea that Shyamalan is working with here, the original New Universe and newuniversal was an attempt at showing the world outside your window in comic form. How a specialized event could trigger superhuman activity and how our government would have to respond to it and those in hiding. Naturally, these people would be seen as weaponized threats and handled swiftly.
The catch is that these superhumans only have to be handled if they are public knowledge. Bruce Willis’ The Overseer, Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr. Glass and James McAvoy’s The Beast/Horde are secretive characters. They operate on the fringe of society and more or less…they got away with their crimes. Well, save for Mister Glass and why we’re here today. At the end of Unbreakable, Bruce Willis turns Glass over to authorities and we get a Dragnet style block of text telling us what happened.
Then nothing for 16 years until Split and now with Glass. In the modern era, that’s quite the time commitment for content bombarded individuals to remember such an intricate story. Especially when Split (the best film of the trilogy) thematically and content-wise keeps the superhero story at arm’s length. Glass dives hard back into the superhero trappings, yet wants to convince you that Split gave enough information to anchor the merits of superheroes in this world.
Unfortunately, that’s the only sore spot I have with the film. As a team-up movie, Split and Unbreakable/Glass work on different wavelengths. While Split was concerned with victimhood and mental abuse, the super merits of that tragedy were limited. Unbreakable spent two hours sinking the audience deep into Glass and The Overseer’s origins. Now, everyone gets to have a Marvel Team-Up and expose the dirty truth of Shyamalan’s super hero world.
GLASS SPOILERS! What made me love Glass.
I’m going to give you a little bit to break away from spoilers. While I only enjoy about 25% of M. Night Shyamalan’s output, he can really nail ideas like nobody else. The average audience member doesn’t concern themselves with the weight of what it means to be superhuman in a modern world. If government agencies shut down your ability to get major weapons or nuclear supplies, why in the hell would they allow a Spider-Man or Green Lantern to exist freely in the world? They might incidentally save a few people, but their sheer existence threatens the nature of international safety.
Sarah Paulson’s Institute head is a common figure seen in most Post 1986 comic material. As the culture’s tastes went to Grimdark, these hidden motivation figures became super prominent. That’s why her character turn didn’t surprise me. There is no reason to allow Glass, The Beast or The Overseer to go public. If everyone knows about them, they would want the government to hunt down and kill Glass & The Beast before they attack again.
Families of previous victims would want both men to stand trial and be executed. Then, there are the organizations that will want to know how these people were allowed to happen. 99.9% of the population doesn’t just wake up with these powers. Environmental studies, segmentation populace studies and drastic human experimentation would be underway to profit or hinder these people. So, where does that leave the world of Glass?
M. Night Shyamalan did the only thing he could do by killing off his three leads. Too powerful to exist, too fragile to trust. Sometimes death is permanent with superheros and supervillains. However, the film knows that this sacrifice is meant to open up a much larger world of super people. Unfortunately, it’s a world where Sarah Paulson is going to brutally murder most of them. Just like what would happen if they existed in reality.
Gotta love a downer trilogy about survivor’s guilt, sex abuse and stunted growth. Doubt me? Go back and re-examine all three films. There is enough going on to actually write an in-depth book about Shyamalan’s views of what it means to co-exist with super powers. I’d write it…if I had the attention span anymore.