New Willis Film Puts Hollywood Superhero Movies to Shame
'Glass,' M. Night Shyamalan's sequel to 'Unbreakable' and 'Split,' is proof challenging filmmaking still exists today
A sequel to the Bruce Willis cult classic “Unbreakable” was once simply the subject of many “what if” conversations among movie fans and those obsessed with filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s realistic approach to the superhero genre.
Though released back in 2000, “Unbreakable” had a lot to say about the realities of the word “hero.”
Director Quentin Tarantino once remarked that the film’s marketing campaign blew it by not using the logline: “What if Superman was here on earth and didn’t know he was Superman?”
As security guard and struggling family man David Dunn, Willis (shown above right in “Glass”) turned in one of his most thoughtful performances with “Unbreakable.” He created a character whom people could connect with, despite the slow reveal that Dunn had superhuman strength.
The slow burn that is “Unbreakable” also introduced the world to Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book-obsessed man with brittle bones who becomes friends with David and guides him, in a way, on the journey toward discovering his destiny.
In a world filled with wall-to-wall Marvel and DC movies, “Unbreakable” seemed like the perfect story to continue, but it never happened. Despite its growing popularity on home video and then streaming platforms, M. Night Shyamalan shrugged at the possibility of a sequel to “Unbreakable” for years. Instead, he made flops like “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth.”
What made fans salivate is that Shyamalan promised his origin film was once a much bigger story that he planned to expand into a trilogy. After many years, though, it was easy to accept it was never going to be anything more than a fantasy for those who appreciated the original film’s unique take.
Then came 2017’s “Split,” the blockbuster thriller about a man with multiple personalities named Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy). He kidnaps several women with the hope of sacrificing them to a mysterious new personality called The Beast, a creature with superhuman strength.
The film arrived amid a Shyamalan comeback that also included the 2015 hit film “The Visit” and the TV series “Wayward Pines.”
Audiences and critics praised “Split,” but no one expected a final scene that reintroduced David Dunn to the world. Not only did Shyamalan create a hit original thriller with “Split,” he also created a backdoor sequel to “Unbreakable” in an age in which secrets and surprises are slowly dying, thanks to social media.
Now Dunn, Crumb and Price are all brought together in “Glass,” the trilogy topper no one predicted. No matter what one thinks of Shyamalan and his “Unbreakable” universe, it’s hard to deny that this filmmaker has pulled off a franchise in a unique way.
“Glass,” in theaters now, is 19 years in the making — so it’s no surprise it’s quite divisive. Expectations are all over the map; that plays a lot into reactions to the movie.
Critics are entirely split on it. “Glass” has earned only earned 36 percent positive critic reviews through Rotten Tomatoes. By comparison, “Unbreakable” earned 69 percent and “Split” earned 76 percent.
“Glass” has thus far done much better with paying audience members. The user score on Rotten Tomatoes sits at 80 percent as of this writing; and the film is expected to have earned over $50 million by the end of the long weekend.
While other superhero movies — mainly from Marvel and DC — can feel like fast food commercials for whatever toy the company is pushing and whatever next film is on the way, “Glass” is a true finale to a trilogy. The way its characters meet and collide — no spoilers here, as this movie is packed with surprises — seems defiant of the genre.
“The Avengers” (cast members Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo are all above left), “Aquaman” and “Ant-Man” — these are simple-minded cartoons. They rely on special effects, not character. Their stories have no consequence. They represent a serious originality problem in mainstream Hollywood.
The $20 million “Glass,” on the other hand (which Shyamalan himself financed), is all about character and consequences. The film contains quiet subtlety and complex emotions that few filmmakers bring to the table these days.
Challenging films are demoted to video on demand these days; most zoom by without wide notice. However, “Glass” is a major release with major stars. One can only hope that those who expect the typical superhero nonsense will find themselves challenged enough to demand more like this from Hollywood.
“Glass” may not satisfy everyone, but it has a true artistic voice behind it.
Those seeking proof that there are still artists who care more about the intricacies of story than politics and green screens should see “Glass.” It’s one of the first truly great movies of the year.
Check out a trailer below: