The output of Glass helmsman M. Night Shyamalan hasn’t always earned the most affectionate of responses, with his run from 2004’s The Village to 2013’s After Earth yielding one critical dud after another. Nonetheless, if the reception to 2015’s The Visit was mixed-to-positive, 2017’s Split officially put the filmmaker back in the good graces of critics. And when the James McAvoy-led horror hit teased a subsequent crossover with 2000’s Unbreakable, it looked like Shyamalan was all set to keep the momentum going.
Sadly, it appears as if the filmmaker’s triumphant comeback may have hit a snag, with early reviews of Glass suggesting a messy and dated work. Just take this new write-up from Inverse’s Eric Francisco, who suggests that the long-awaited follow-up to Unbreakable has come along many years too late:
“The point Shyamalan makes is that superheroes dominate our culture so much we now think of ourselves as heroes with our own origin stories. The only problem? In 2019 this isn’t a fresh concept for a movie, it’s very old news… In the years since Unbreakable, superheroes have become the dominant pop culture force, rising and evolving before our eyes. They became interconnected, the result of trust in a smart audience that is only earned through reliable consistency… So when Shyamalan revealed that he, too, was going for a cinematic universe, returning to a brilliant story that virtually preceded this whole thing, it felt like all bets were off. But Shyamalan didn’t trust us, and the work suffers.”
Owen Gleiberman from Variety had a similar response, arguing that the Shyamalan’s take on the superhero genre has come at a less than ideal time:
“It’s good to see Shyamalan back (to a degree) in form, to the extent that he’s recovered his basic mojo as a yarn spinner. But “Glass” occupies us without haunting us; it’s more busy than it is stirring or exciting. Maybe that’s because revisiting this material feels a touch opportunistic, and maybe it’s because the deluge of comic-book movies that now threatens to engulf us on a daily basis has leeched what’s left of the mystery out of comics.”
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That being said, the film certainly has its defenders, including Digital Spy’s Ian Sandwell, who considers the pic a successful conclusion to the trilogy, for all its flaws:
“Glass offers answers and brings the trilogy neatly to a largely successful close, without completely wrapping things up in a neat bow. If there’s one downside, it’s that the finale feels a bit exposition-heavy and could have benefitted from being paced out a bit; at times, you’ve barely recovered from one reveal when another one comes along.”
On the other hand, you’ve got Scott Mendelson from Forbes, who characterizes Glass as a misguided enough work to have you second-guessing the merits of Shyamalan’s previous output:
“Glass is so tragically misguided, so bereft of character that it may be a sign that perhaps The Visit was a fluke. Maybe the Shyamalan who struck gold 20 years ago never came back after he parted ways with Disney over story notes given for Lady in the Water. With Glass, which proves that he indeed shouldn’t have returned to the world of Unbreakable, he entirely loses sight of his characters, his skewed balance of compassion and malice, his quirky dialogue and the real reasons (not just the plot twists) that he became a household name in the first place. For years we all thought that Shyamalan had lost his storytelling mojo. But now it appears that he may have lost his empathy and compassion. And if that is the case, he may have lost me as well.”
Lastly, The Hollywood Reporter’s John DeFore fears that the film’s ending was a cynical attempt to pave the way for future installments:
“Those of us who have steered clear of gossip sites or promotional interviews may find ourselves, after the big showdown Mr. Glass has engineered, not certain what we have seen. Is Glass the least satisfying chapter of an often enjoyable, conceptually intriguing trilogy? Or is it an attempt to launch a broader Shyamalaniverse, in which ordinary men and women throughout Philadelphia and its suburbs will discover their own inspiring abilities? Marketplace realities make the latter more likely. Here’s hoping the former is the case.”
Though Shyamalan himself recently denied any interest in making a follow-up to Glass, it certainly looks like the film is on course to draw in some sequel-worthy crowds, so maybe we should watch this space. Regardless, you can decide for yourself if the critics have it right when the film hits theaters on January 18th.