*** WARNING – SPOILERS FOR UNBREAKABLE, SPLIT, & GLASS***
M. Night Shyamalan’s conclusion to his surprising and innovative trilogy is satisfying, and yet, not at the same time.
Don’t get my wrong, I LOVED the film. I’m a huge fan of the unofficially titled Eastrail 177 Universe and was excited about Glass before its release. This unique trilogy is exactly my kind of movie marathon, but there are a few things I missed and felt weren’t explained super well. Which, honestly, could be an opportunity for Shyamalan to further his universe with more movies!
In case you’ve been living under a rock or you’ve just been introduced to this trilogy, the Eastrail 177 trilogy spans over 19 years. The first installment is Unbreakable, which came out in 2000 and stars Bruce Willis as David Dunn and Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price. The second is 2016’s Split starring James McAvoy as Kevin Crumb who suffers from DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder), and the finale is 2019’s Glass which brings all the characters together for one last battle.
One of my favourite aspects of Shyamalan’s storytelling with this trilogy is the continuity between all three films.I am just a huge fan.
When Unbreakable released, Shyamalan hoped to make a sequel but it fell through the cracks until Split came along. No one, not even the actors in Split knew the film was the second installment of a trilogy until they saw a screener, and were surprised with an end scene featuring Willis reprising his role as David Dunn from Unbreakable.
As soon as I saw it, I kicked myself for not seeing all the similarities between the two films. And Glass continued the trend.
Each film plays with long shots, making them feel more like a graphic novel. Each film uses the same colour scheme (green and red for heroes, yellow and purple for the baddies).
While Unbreakable and Split built a broader universe, Glass brought all the pieces together. Satisfying fan theories and linking characters through past events. And for the most part, it felt pretty seamless. David, Kevin, and Elijah were all affected by the train derailment from Unbreakable.
Bringing back the original actors from both Unbreakable and Split really brought a unique integrity to Glass. Because of the 19 year gap in release dates, it makes those of us who have followed since the beginning feel more a part of the story. And for those just discovering it there’s still an X-factor of seeing characters grow and age naturally.
My favourite example of this is actor Spencer Treat Clark’s work as David Dunn’s son, Joseph. When we’re first introduced to him in Unbreakable, he’s a precocious young boy out to prove Elijah right – that his Dad is a real life superhero. With his return in Glass, he’s a young man working with his father in their business, Dunn Home Security, and their more secret business as his father’s superhero tech support.
This is the kind of thing we love about series like Harry Potter, Star Wars, and others where we, the audience, get to watch the actors as their characters grow up through the years, or are brought together in cool cohesion like X-Men: Days Of Future Past did by bringing the actors from both new and old trilogies together.
Glass takes it to the next level by using never before seen deleted scenes from Unbreakable to show that journey through Treat’s portrayal of Joseph.
I loved Glass, but there are a few things I wish Shyamalan had brought together a bit more. Perhaps I’m being super picky because M. Night is not normally the kind of guy to have random details that never get explained. But there are a few of these happening in Glass.
The most glaring is the introduction of Sarah Paulson’s character, Dr. Ellie Staple. Paulson does an incredible job, but then she normally does, however many aspects of her character are missing. In the surprise twist, a small clover tattoo is revealed on her wrist, showing she works with an underground movement to stop people like Dunn, Price, and Crumb from believing themselves to be superheroes and supervillains. But who is this group really? Other than the small detail of showing this same tattoo on several different people’s wrists, and random meetings at public restaurants, their purpose and reasons for meeting in such a public space feels more like a ploy to make us go “wow” than an explanation. Which undoes any “wow” factor and just pulled me out of the world.
Another confusing detail is Split returning character Casey Cooke, played by Anya Taylor-Joy. While it was speculated before Glass’ release that Casey may be a superhero too (her name being an alliteration like David Dunn and the fact she too wears the superhero colours – green and red in both Split and Glass), there wasn’t really any follow through with these details other than her touch bringing Kevin back to himself, could that be the beginning of her super power? And really, what was up with her wearing a jacket from the zoo? Does she work there now? Is it some weird fascination with being kidnapped and held under the zoo? Or was it some weird way to tell us she’s now friends with her captor? Whatever the reason, it was lost on the audience.
And my final complaint about Glass is the motivation for Elijah Price’s Mother to want to spread the word of her son’s villainy. Maybe she’d gotten past the horrors he’d committed in Unbreakable (the bombs he placed on an airplane, in a hotel, and most notably the Eastrail 177). Sure, it was old news, but would you really want to tell the world there really had been such a Super Villian? Yet, she happily works with Casey and Joseph to tell the world about Mr. Glass, The Overseer, and The Horde/The Beast. Yes, I know there was a lot to catch the audience up on, but again this moment with the three of them coming together at the end to share the truth with the world seemed to lack that goosebumps moment and just made me wonder what her motivation was.
“This was an origin story the whole time.” – Mr. Glass, aka Elijah Price, speaking to his mother at the end of Glass
I have to tip my hat to Disney’s Buena Vista International (owners of Unbreakable) and Universal Studios (owners of Split) for working together to let Shyamalan finish this incredible story. This is the first time two studios have come together like this and I for one am really glad they did.
All in all, I still loved the film. Like many Shyamalan fans, I tweeted my thanks to M. Night Shyamalan for telling great stories. But it left me wanting and I hope these unanswered questions were done for a reason and soon we’ll be hearing about another film in this same universe. Especially with the line quoted above. We’ve had the origin story, so what’s next in this unique universe?For now, I highly recommend if you’re planning on seeing Glass, that you refresh your mind beforehand and watch Unbreakable and Split, as these popular movies will set the tone and pacing for Glass.