Cracked. Broken. Shattered.
This is what happens to the storyline in M. Night Shyamalan’s crushingly disappointing “Glass” — the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle of a trilogy that kicked off with the brilliantly constructed classic “Unbreakable” in 2000 and took us by surprise with the jagged and twisted (in more ways than one) horrors of “Split” in 2016.
“Glass” was going to rope in the Philadelphia universe that included the reluctant hero David Dunn, the insane criminal mastermind Mr. Glass, and the “Beast,” one of the 23 personalities colliding within the mind and body of one Kevin Wendell Crumb. “Glass” was going to tie it all together. “Glass” was going to be — we hoped — the crowning chapter in what could have been one of the great trilogies in any genre in recent memory.
Alas, despite the game efforts of Bruce Willis as David Dunn aka the Overseer; Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass, and James McAvoy as Kevin/The Horde, the plot begins to crack early in the first act, seems to be broken almost beyond repair halfway through the story — and shatters to pieces in a stunningly arbitrary, irritatingly unsatisfying and borderline ridiculous final series of events.
We came all this way for THAT? Damn. This one hurts.
To play off another M. Night movie that thankfully was left to stand alone:
I see dread, people.
“Glass” picks up three weeks after the events of “Split” and some 19 years after “Unbreakable.”
After narrowly escaping capture, the Horde (McAvoy) is on the loose and once again up to its evil ways, holding four young cheerleaders hostage in an abandoned factory.
Meanwhile, David Dunn and his now grown son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clarke) are running a two-person security firm, with David using his powers of intuition and great strength to thwart lowlifes and street criminals.
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As for Mr. Glass, he’s been in an institution all these years, drugged to a near-catatonic state.
Through a quick and not entirely plausible (even for a “real-life comic book” story) series of events, David and the Horde are apprehended and join Mr. Glass in one of those Movie Institutions where we almost never see any other patients, and the walls are painted in colors ranging from Pepto-Bismol pink to deadly gray, and the relatively sparse staff includes a few real idiots who have little chance of getting out of the movie alive.
Oh, and check out the elaborate albeit somewhat flimsy security measures!
Mr. Glass is locked in a room where cameras trace his every move. There are also cameras in every imaginable corner of the institution, so even if he somehow gets free, they’ll know where he is.
David is held in a room with a dozen spigots aimed in his direction. He’s told if he tries anything, he’ll be hit with powerful streams of water, thanks to the giant tank located just outside his room. Because, as you might recall, David has this thing about water.
Oh, and as for the Horde — they’ve rigged up a set of lights in his room, and if HE starts to act up, the lights will strobe, forcing him to instantly change personalities. It’s as if he’s in an Improv group, and any time the light pulsates, BOOM! He has to become someone else.
If all that isn’t silly enough, you gotta meet Sarah Paulson’s Dr. Ellie Staple, who tells the guys she specializes in studying the disorder that has regular people believing they’re comic book characters. (Ooh, where do you get a grant for that?)
I found myself wondering if Dr. Staple might be the daughter of Dr. Frederick Chilton, the taunting nemesis of Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs.” Remember that idiot? Well, he’s got nothing on Dr. Staple, who thinks it’s a grand idea to put her three subjects in the same room and wants to conduct some sort of vaguely explained surgery on their frontal lobes to free them from their delusions.
Writer-director Shyamalan plays a shell game with the audience, adding characters such as Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the lone surviving captive from “Split”; the aforementioned Joseph, who is fiercely loyal to his pops but doesn’t have the greatest of plans to exonerate him, and even Elijah’s long-suffering mom (Charlayne Woodard), who apparently has become a big-time comic book aficionado since her son was hauled off for committing mass murder in multiple acts of terrorism.
In fact, many of the key players in “Glass” are students of comic books, which results in a number of momentum-stopping monologues in which someone talks about the history of comic books, the plot elements in the traditional “limited edition” adventure, the key components of an origins story, and blah blah blah, I’d rather be stuck in an elevator with an army of Darth Nihilus impersonators at Comic-Con.
Shyamalan being Shyamalan, “Glass” does have a distinctive look and some pretty cool moments, and a half-decent twist or two.
Mostly, though, it’s an underwhelming, half-baked, slightly sour and even off-putting finale. One wishes the story had ended with the conclusion to “Split,” leaving it to our imaginations to debate what might have happened next.
Universal Pictures presents a film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Rated PG-13 (for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language). Running time: 129 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.