I remember when it was 2000 and “Unbreakable” first came out. We were already Shyamalan fans due to “The Sixth Sense” and Bruce Willis fans long before that. For the next 19 years, we would watch “Unbreakable” on repeat because it was such a human take on the superhero genre, long before Nolan’s Batman trilogy, complete with a well-written narrative, memorable dialogue and perfect soundtrack. It was a film that was blurred between a grounded reality and comic book universe, coupled with the fact that many elements of the film were psychological to supernaturally transcendental in nature.
“Split” came along 16 years later, and we were unpredictably welcomed to an expanded universe of the Unbreakable-verse. It was a beautiful thematic link and it made me remember that Shyamalan had originally planned to introduce Kevin in “Unbreakable”, but was stopped because the film would have become too convoluted. Since “Unbreakable”, Shyamalan wanted his trilogy, and with two amazing films focusing on the origins between three comic book protagonists. They were the perfect introductions to our superhero (David "Overseer" Dunn), his archenemy (Elijah “Glass” Price), and super-villain (Kevin "Horde" Wendell Crumb).
What was superb in both films were the themes. In particular, the fact that your trauma is your superpower. In “Unbreakable”, we see this with both David and Elijah. David was the sole survivour of a train crash (where it was found out later, that Elijah had orchestrated these events and caused mass murder to find someone like him), had a survived a near fatal car crash as well as a drowning that led him to die and come back, leading to his fear of water. His trauma followed by these events, allowed him to become a protector of people (security guard/future Overseer), and became empowered by his self-realisation and potential to become more than he was.
The same thing happens to Elijah with his bone disease (where is transitions into Mr. Glass due to years of psychological bullying from kids), but only after, he meets David and realises his capacity as an archenemy. In “Split”, this happens to Kevin, after the loss of his father and abuse from his mother, as well as Casey, after the sexual abuse from her Uncle. Traumatic circumstances could unlock untapped potential, both in nature and super-powered in nature.
I’ve been an obsessed fan of both films since their release, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting the film that would collide both worlds together and give us an epic showdown between David, Elijah and Kevin. Having finally seen the film now, it saddens me to say that while “Glass” was long-awaited and enjoyable, the ending was the most disappointing of all and major f**k you to all us long-term fans who had waited years to see this. Like the previous films, “Glass” takes on an ultra-realistic, more grounded look at the idea of superheroes and comic books, and questions whether comic books have a place in the real world. While “Unbreakable” and “Split” have answered “yes”, “Glass” tries to subvert this and brings in a psychiatrist to prove that they are just delusions of grandeur. Shyamalan does this perfectly by meshing all the worlds and characters together, and tells the story in a logical and deceptive way.
“Glass” succeeds in the first and second act through small character development, entertaining action and thought-provoking dialogue, but it falters in the third act, and the excitement to see David Dunn more as the Overseer slows down, because his screen-time is severely diminished to give way to McAvoy’s Horde.
There is no doubt that McAvoy’s acting abilities playing 21 different personalities is tremendous, but I waited 19 years to see David Dunn in action, to be the superhero he was meant to be. Instead, he was resigned to believe that everything about him was false, and the only scene of becoming his full potential was knocking down a steel door. Where was his full potential in this movie? The third act weakens evens more as we are given a glimpse of a showdown between our characters. We were unsatisfactory provided with an early finish between all three. I understood all the reveals (since one has been well known since “Unbreakable” and another since “Split” was released, and I was happily proven right on both accounts), and the first act’s use of tension and suspense was tarred by the exposition-heavy narrative and feeble attempt at conflict of the final act.
“Glass” could have made the Unbreakable-verse a perfect trilogy, had it not been tarnished by its lack of thematic depth and reward. Our three favourite characters resigned to nothing but pawns, despite being indispensable to the plot, and you will find out why once you watch it. I left the cinemas disappointed and unsatisfied. It is a disappointment that I will watch again, but I just wish Shyamalan gave “Glass” a more satisfying complete platform to stand on.