Monday, January 21, 2019

Review: "Glass" proves that M. Night Shyamalan is Hollywood's most frustrating filmmaker

Glass Review
If there is one filmmaker in the business right now that perplexes me the most, its M. Night Shymalan.

One thing is for certain, he's an impeccably talented guy. He's got a brain overflowing with characters and situations, begging to be told. It's pretty evident. "The Sixth Sense" felt like a bomb going off. Even though I was in fourth grade when I first saw that movie, it felt like very few movies I had ever seen, and watching the world around me react to it, it was clear that was the case for many. Shyamalan made a bold statement, and I felt it even though I was young. "Unbreakable" proved that he wasn't a fluke, a one hit wonder, a one-and-done. By the time "Signs" came out and blew my mind completely, I was totally onboard the Shyamalan train, and I couldn't wait for his next movie.

Sadly, for the next decade or so, I'd be righteously disappointed by his output. It was suddenly, he decided to vanish up his own ass. While I will admit that I've warmed up slightly to "The Village" although I haven't given my whole heart to it, I absolutely hate "The Lady In The Water" and "The Happening" and "The Last Airbender" and "After Earth" and "The Visit." I have absolutely no desire to revisit those films for any reason. Shyamalan was lauded as the next Spielberg, but his cons were overwhelmingly beginning to overpower his pros. While the Spielbergs and Nolans and Coens and Andersons and Tarantinos (okay, bad example there) mess up from time to time, they can at least remain consistent. The only thing Shyamalan was consistent at was making stupid movies.

I didn't find out until much later just how big of an ego he gained after his first few successes, and how that allowed him to build a protective wall around himself, free from studio interference when he went to make his movies. Not only did Shyamalan claim to talk to ghosts, but he actually had the audacity to say in interviews that there was a secret to filmmaking that only he and Steven Spielberg knew, which I recall with a bitter laugh, since he's been mostly unsuccessful recently. That secret wasn't coming through in his work. While the studio not giving notes or suggestions sounds like what every director wants and needs, it can actually be a trap. Its the opposite of what Warner Brothers did to Zak Snyder and took too much control on "Batman vs. Superman." As with everything in life, there needs to be balance between studio and filmmaker, and those usually create the best output of cinema.

With all this said, "Split" was a welcome return to form for Shyamalan in 2017, and it looked like he was going to start his own universe of movies. Plus, "Devil" in 2010, which Shyamalan co-wrote, produced under his Night Chronicles studio, but did not direct, proved that he could work with a group of people. I thought perhaps the once promising director was back.

Which brings us to "Glass." The crossover event nobody expected. Bruce Willis reprises his role as David Dunne and Samuel L. Jackson reprises his role as Mr. Glass, both from "Unbreakable." James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy return from "Split." Several other characters from both movies return as well. But sorry guys, no Cole Sear or Father Hess show up I'm afraid. There is also no visit to 1890's village in the remote woods. "Glass" is a movie filled with great performances and some great ideas. But like so many Shyamalan movies, "Glass" is a cool concept that goes nowhere.

After the events of "Unbreakable," David Dunne has been performing vigilante work with his son (Spencer Treat Clarke returns) and has gone by the name The Overseer. Dunne and his son track down Kevin Wendell Crumb, who they suspect has kidnapped four cheerleaders. Turns out Dunne's intuition was correct, and Dunne and Crumb duke it out before being hauled away by shadowy figures from a mental institution. Dunne and Crumb are treated by Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) a doctor trying to convince them  they don't have superhuman powers, its all in their heads.

Oh, I also didn't mention that Mr. Glass is also staying at this institution, did I?

As much as that sounds like an awesome crossover, it ends up not adding up to much. Its extra disappointing because as always, Shyamalan has come up with some good ideas. Of course, Mr. Glass and Crumb are going to join forces. Of course the institution isn't what it seems. There are some exciting ideas hatched here, just the problem is Shyamalan doesn't execute them in an exciting way. There is one thing that comes up near the end of the film that would have been really cool had he chosen to do something with it, sadly the way its introduced, it comes off more of a cop-out and than anything else. Oh yes, Shyamalan plays the twist game, but if "The Village" is any example, three twists is a twist too many.

Its also frustrating because the actors really came to play. Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson seemed ready to do anything. While I'd argue that Mr. Glass' character is set up totally different from last time, its still a rich performance. Sarah Paulson brings some harrowing insight to her role as Staple. Anya Taylor-Joy and Spencer Treat Clarke both provide outstanding support. Oddly enough, its the work by McAvoy who does the most inconsistent work. In "Split," The Hoard was legitimately a scary figure, there were a couple times McAvoy actually made me laugh in "Glass" though, and I'm sure that wasn't the intent.

I wasn't expecting the typical superhero movie. This doesn't end like the typical superhero movie, and I think that would have hit me like a sucker punch to the heart had Shyamalan not fumbled his execution so bad. By the time the ending roles out, I didn't really care about the characters, which isn't supposed to happen. It kind of stinks, because its always been clear that Shyamalan is an exponentially talented guy. I don't know if he needs a producer to help him along the way, I don't know if he's still got that wall around him intact, I don't know if he isn't the director he's made out to be. One thing is for certain, no great director should drop the ball this many times as he has. I can't even think of a good comparison for him. M. Night Shyamalan. Talented guy, he just can't prove it.

It might be time to head back to the Night Chronicles there, buddy.


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