The Movie Guru: James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson not enough to save “Glass”
The truth is, I’m starting to think Director Shyamalan’s not nearly as bad of a writer as I thought. If you look at the first 80 to 85 percent of his movies, you have some decent stuff there. This is especially true of “Unbreakable” and “Split,” two of Shyamalan’s films that have been collectively labeled by audiences as: “hey, at least they don’t suck.” Shyamalan sometimes manages to get his hands on some decent characters, particularly if he has the good sense to give them to the right actors or actresses, and he can even manage some dramatic tension at times.
But we have to talk about the movies’ endings. We’ll avoid specific endings, both for the sake of spoilers and to spare me from having to revisit the vast stupidity they contain, but it’s clear Shyamalan has a habit. As the script comes to a close, it seems Shyamalan suddenly forgets anything he might have ever known about plot arcs, character development, or even basic logic. All of this vanishes, crushed under the weight of a “trick” ending that makes the entire film feel like some way-too-long pun that we’ve all been collectively forced to sit through.
This is particularly tragic when it comes to “Glass,” which serves as a follow-up to both “Unbreakable” and “Split” and therefore allows Shyamalan to destroy three movies with his latest “trick” ending. Most of the movie is actually surprisingly good, thanks in large part to the stellar cast, and the director’s absurd level of character introspection pays off in their hands. “Glass” could have finally been the movie that rebranded you as a superhero writer for the thinking crowd; a sequel we didn’t know was long awaited until we finally had it.
But no. Clearly, that was too much to ask of Shyamalan.
It’s possible he’s simply terrible at coming up with endings for movies, grabbing the first random thought that comes to him in some 3 a.m. writing fit the day before the script is due to some sort of producer. The far more likely possibility, unfortunately, is that he thinks of himself more as a magician than a writer. He clearly doesn’t care at all about the plot or character development, and simply uses them to distract the audience while killing time until you can pull the metaphorical rabbit out of a hat.
The problem is, Shyamalan’s not that great a magician. Even “The Sixth Sense” is really a one-trick pony that loses all of its shock value after you’ve watched it the first time. The only reason it works after that is that audiences care about the two lead characters and what happens to them.
Audiences could have cared about the characters in “Glass.” The cast did the job for you (particularly a surprisingly impressive James McAvoy), and if Shyamalan had just stayed out of their way, he might have had an unexpected hit on your hands.
Which, for the director, would have been the real surprise ending.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chris Anthony’s documentary film project chronicles post-war activities of the 10th Mountain Division.