“Crisis on Infinite Earths” – Arrowverse – When Nostalgia Meets Execution

Crisis on Infinite Earths' Poster: CW Reveal Oliver Queen as Spectre in  Part 4

Writing my experience of the Arrowverse (DC’s CW Shows) is an experience of itself. I haven’t returned to his world until “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” and I appreciate what this universe did with that. What does it mean to return to a creative inspired world you left but still appreciate? I don’t know but his was my experience of it. This worked for me and I only finished the 1st season of “Arrow,” and never watched “Batwoman” with some seasons watched for the rest but eventually tapped out because the CW did get too predictable in their writing. This story ws the 6th Crossover Event and it is the story that changes everything. So coming back, this worked and I appreciated the story being told here. This was a story told in 5 parts and presentation was one of the cons which is a shame as I appreciate the overall story being told. Honestly, the comic “Crisis on Infinite Earths” it draws inspiration from isn’t nearly as strong as the story we are given here as this story is much more coherent and less of a mess.

The story involves the heroes from the many Earth of the multiverse uniting under the Monitor as they seek to stave off the Anti-Monitor from destroying all realities.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Multiverse – One thing I appreciate about the CW DC Arrowverse was it embracing the multiverse. Out of this we get introduced to so many amazing versions of characters and in the reality of the multiverse it leaves room for multiple canons. The Justice League films I’ve reviewed prior can exist in this universe and we get verification at least one of them does. This is such a cool concept and it is the basis of the story here as it’s destruction is what brings the heroes to action. This is confirmed when CW DC Barry Allen runs into the Snyderverse version of the character.

References and Superman v Superman – We get a lot of references in this. We have the Adam West Batman’s Robin played by the actor Burt Ward on Earth-66. We get Alexander Knox from Earth-89 and the Burtonverse Batman we have the Ray from one of the CW’s animated shows show up in live action and multiple Supermen. We get Smallville’s Clark Kent who gave up his powers to start a family, “Superman Returns” Superman who is a continuation of Christopher Reeve’s Superman and joins the heroes and he fights the CW Superman! These were some of the strongest references and we also get Kevin Conroy (the voice of “Batman” in Bruce Timm’s shows) as a dark Batman who has killed all his villains and even Superman. Each of these characters exist as a reference and world but are more than that too in how they advance the plot. We also get Lucifer from the show “Lucifer” who makes a deal with Constantine as our heroes are attempting to bring back their dead friend.

The Paragons – We learn as the story progresses and Earths we know are destroyed that only 7 Paragons can stop the Anti-Monitor. These Paragons are Hope, Destiny, Truth, Courage, Love, Honor and Humanity. These roles are of course taken up by our heroes and also in a twist, a villain.

Kate Kane / Batwoman – I haven’t watched “Batwoman” but at least in this story Ruby Rose did a good job portraying a broken character driven by vengeance and distrustful of everyone. What I liked most about her character in this story is when we see her friendship with Supergirl as Supergirl’s mother dies in the Crisis and Batwoman is the one who is there for her as so much of what has defined her is the trauma of loss. For this reason it made sense that she ended up being the Paragon of Courage.

Sara Lance / White Canary – Sara Lance is the Paragon of Destiny as she is the Captain of Time Travel due to her being the captain of the Waverider. Her arc is attempting to bring back Arrow after he is killed in the first episode. She is the one pushing to find a working Lazarus Pit (What Arrow had used to bring her back when she died) and with Constantine’s help they find it and use it. This eventually leads to them entering the afterlife and recovering Arrow’s soul so he can become the Specter. She also is there for Supergirl too as the world of Arrow like Gotham has a lot more loss and trauma in it.

Lex Luthor – Jon Cryer’s Lex Luthor is the best live action Lex Luthor. The only one who beats him is the Bruce Timm animated Lex Luthor voiced by Clancy Brown. Why do I say this? This Lex is smart and after the Monitor brought him back to life he went after Superman in all realities and rewrote “The Book of Destiny” to become the Paragon of Truth. This Lex is smart, charismatic, clever and wins in the end as on Earth Prime he is now President and in charge of the heroes. It is a great arc and Cryer clearly had so much fun doing it.

Ryan Choi – Osric Chau is such a great actor. I liked him as Kevin from “Supernatural” and here seeing him as the reluctant hero works really well. He is the Paragon of Humanity and he is that. He is the reason our heroes fight and shows that humanity can fight back too. His core desire to protect his family and he does that the point where it looks like our heroes have lost he is still working to fix things. I hope we see him again.

Jefferson Pierce / Black Lightning – Jefferson Pierce isn’t a Paragon but he like the CW Superman is key to the victory over the Anti-Monitor. In this story he has to process the loss of his world as he is the only survivor and come to team up with strangers to save what worlds are rest. I loved “Black Lightning” season 1 and have to watch season 2 still but seeing Cress Williams in action again and part of the Justice League made me happy. The character is fantastic and seeing his friendship form with the team is well done.

Superman and Lois – Superman and Lois from the CW DC Arrowverse now have their own show! In this story they just had their first kid and their mission is to find the Superman who has experienced the most loss. In that they find the Christopher Reeve era Superman played by the Atom’s actor Brandon Routh, as he played him in “Superman Returns.” I really liked their dynamic and how after Lex mind controls the Routh Superman to fight the CW Superman it is Iris and Lois who help the Routh Superman get control of himself once more. They have a great dynamic and work together as partners…which is honestly how the duo should be.

Kara Danvers / Supergirl – Melissa Benoist continues to be one of the strongest parts of the Arrowverse. In this she loses her mother in the Crisis and her arc involves processing that loss as she works with the other heroes to save as many people and worlds as possible. Her arc is finding hope again as she is the Paragon of Hope. I really enjoyed her arc and honestly think her team with James Olsen, Brainiac, Alex Danvers, Dreamer and Martian Manhunter are my favorite team. Next would probably “Legends of Tomorrow” and after the team on “The Flash.” This team is first to face the crisis in the 5 episode arc and it is great seeing Kara and them in action.

Barry Allen / The Flash – Grant Gustin’s flash is iconic and his arc here is good, though it is one we have seen before. He wants to die so that Oliver Queen doesn’t have to die. This death wish he has is stopped by an older Flash who looks like his dad and he finds a reason to live again as he connects with Black Lightning over everything Jefferson lost. He is the heart of the team and is the one who makes the Justice League Table with an empty chair for Arrow.

Oliver Queen / Arrow – Arrow dies in the first episode and after that it is his daughter and friends trying to bring him back. In the end he is kind of brought back as a new being called the Specter who is the one to finally defeat the Anti-Monitor for good. It was a solid arc and as someone who never got into “Arrow” I liked how Oliver Queen’s arc ended and that he had time to say good-bye to his daughter and friends. Even if I never liked his show I appreciate that it started it all and made the rest possible. Him becoming a DC deity make sense because of it.

J’onn J’onzz / Martian Manhunter – Martian Manhunter is one of my favorite characters and the CW DC version played by David Harewood is amazing in the role. In this story he is the one tasked with saving as many people as possible and seeing him achieve this is powerful. He is the Paragon of Honor and in that is there to remind all our heroes at different times to fight and of the larger purpose they are all a part of. It is powerfully done and I love the stories from this character.

The Formation of the Justice League – The Flash basically creates the Justice League with the Paragons and heroes as the members as we see them meet in a warehouse as they are the only ones who know that Lex Luthor rewrote time to become President and a Paragon. It is cool seeing them all together and I love the team of the heroes I’ve listed above. The CW built something great and I hope we can see their version of the Justice League in action beyond crossover events.

Okay:

The Minor Characters – This 5 part story had to do a lot so many of the minor characters don’t get the development they really deserve. I felt Diggle, Alex Danvers, Iris and Brainy did but characters like Atom, Dreamer, Nash Wells and Killer Frost were mostly just around to help or help fight and we didn’t get to see how they were dealing with the crisis emotionally. This show had to do a lot so I’m not calling this a con as to get those scenes the story would have likely been much longer.

The Monitors – We get to see how the Monitor created the Anti-Monitor in a science experiment and after our heroes fight the Anti-Monitor at the beginning of time and on Earth-Prime. The Monitors could have been developed more as we don’t really get why the Anti-Monitor wants to destroy reality. Like the characters in the comics, these guys just kind of exist and react.

The Cons:

Navigating the Crossover – This was a trip to try and find all the episodes. Netflix has most of the Arrowverse shows but I had to find “Batwoman” on HBO Max. Basically it took two streaming services for me to watch all 5 episodes. My hope is that the CW will make these episodes readily available especially since it looks like they want to set up their own Justice League show potentially now that all their heroes are on the same Earth.

Was Nostalgia the Surviving Factor? – The writing for this crossover is CW writing so not great so I’m wondering if what made the experience so amazing for me was nostalgia given I knew these characters and had watched most of their shows. I feel like someone going into this without the other shows as context would be confused just like when I read the original comic, so I’m putting it as a con to the story.

This was a great and flawed story that I enjoyed so much. Events and stories like this work because of all the work the writers and DC put into the characters. The foundation was there and was strong enough to pull an event like this and my hope is that we see this team or a version of it in the future. This is a great version of the Justice League and I want to see the stories they can tell together.

Final Score: 9.1 / 10 Solidly great and flawed.

Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010) – A Solid Premise That Just Needed a Bit More Exploration

James L. Venable - Justice League: Crisis On Two Earths - Soundtrack to the  Animated Original Movie - Amazon.com Music

As I return to different exploring the Justice League as team I’ve come to notice in their films that because of how large their ensemble casts are it is difficult to give all of them the exploration they deserve. This film is a shining example of this as some of the minor characters have more going on then the core teams from either Earth and because of it I wish this could have been a mini-series or a film akin to “Zack Snyder’s Justice League.” This film wasn’t long enough for all it wanted to accomplish in the character department, which is a shame as the versions of the characters we got were versions I wanted to see more of.

The film was directed by Sam Liu and Lauren Montgomery and written by Dwayne McDuffle.

The story follows Lex Luthor (Chris North) from an alternate universe crossing over to the universe with the Justice League to get help against the fascist rulers of his world known as the Crime Syndicate.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – Warner Bros. Animation continues the quality of “Justice League” and “Justice League: Unlimited.” The animation is smooth, detailed and brings the action scenes to life in how well it flows.

The Premise – The premise is fantastic. Having read the Grant Morrison run on the “Justice League” where they first showed up and it is amazing seeing the twisted version of our heroes as the villains who must be fought against, especially since each of the villains are so distinct in their personalities and not just a mirror universe of the member of the League they represent.

President Slade Wilson – In the alternate Universe that the Crime Syndicate comes from Slade Wilson / Deathstroke is president! This is such a neat idea and the fact that he is terrified of the Syndicate establishes just how powerful they are as Slade is often the big bad or in the team of big bads. He’s a fun character and they give him a decent arc in this.

Diana Prince / Wonder Woman – Wonder Woman is very much the idealistic warrior in this akin to Superman. She also sees the bigger picture too as when Martian Manhunter falls in love she is the only member of the Justice League who voices support, even though the love is with another from an alternate universe. This small detail isn’t much but in many ways she’s the wisest of the Big 3 as they are shown in this as Batman and Superman are largely reactive to events.

Rose Wilson – Rose Wilson is the only character we see outside of the Anti-Crime Syndicate (Lex Luthor and friends who besides Lex are dead by the time we arrive) trying to stop the Crime Syndicate. She is a great character as rather than letting fear rule her like it does her father she continues speaking out. You get how isolated she is too, which is probably why the love story with Martian Manhunter happens. It is her actions that count in the end as it is her own world that she saving and it is her actions that change her father. Rose is a great character.

Lex Luthor – This hero Lex Luthor is a flawed hero, which makes him compelling. He doesn’t fully trust the Justice League and is continually having to earn their trust, which at one point is nearly betrayed when the Crime Syndicate get a hold of an item they need for the bomb that he hid on the Watchtower (home of the Justice League). You get he is a character who feels strongly though and just how much he misses his team who the Crime Syndicate killed. I would have liked to see more with those past members of the team as we only see the Jester who gives a heroic sacrifice so Lex can recruit the Justice League.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Batman is on display in one of his crueler and disconnected versions of the character. First, when Lex comes for help he says no, instead focusing on finishing up the Watchtower and in the end to save one of his teammates he manipulates a member of the Crime Syndicate to kill himself. He does this with Owlman too to a degree (Owlman is a nihilist so it’d be getting him out of it that would be more empathetic Batman, this Batman doesn’t reason or even try on that). This Batman does still work though and in the end he comes to agree that Superman was right to go to the Crime Syndicate Universe to stop them as the bomb would have ended them all.

The Crime Syndicate – I really like the Crime Syndicate as a supervillain force. I first read them in Grant Morrison’s “Justice League” and that team is on display here. Here there aren’t many complicated characters except maybe Superwoman and Owlman but Johnny Quick does risk his life to save all worlds and Ultraman does stop fighting when they are all set on stopping Owlman. Those were those two characters only moments of complexity though as besides that they are defined by their cruelty and greed. Them getting stopped by President Slade, Lex, and the Justice League was rewarding.

Superwoman – Gina Torres is amazing as Superwoman. Here we have a character who takes pleasure in her power but can come around to other points of view as Owlman convinces her all reality is pointless and she is down to help her boyfriend. It is a fascinating relationship they have as it seems to be open and Superwoman is the strongest of them in characterization and threat outside of Owlman.

Owlman – Owlman is a fascinating character. A nihilist driven to end all realities and universes because in the world of multi-verses it is the only real choice. This defines his character, yet he does seem to care about Superwoman to some degree. I got to read more stories with this character. He’s definitely one of the Justice League’s greatest baddies.

The Ending Fight and Premise – The ending fight involves the Justice League and Luthor trying to stop Owlman and Superwoman from ending all realities. They do this through Rose getting the coordinates to the Syndicate’s Moon Base and after Batman stops Owlman on Earth Prime President Slade coming into arrest the last surviving members of the League. It is a good fight and action sequence.

J’onn Jonzz / Martian Manhunter – Martian Manhunter is pretty key in this story as by saving Rose’s life he guaranteed that the Syndicate would be stopped. He also fell in love, which he like Rose didn’t expect. It is touching how we see how their tragedies defined them to make a difference and to be heroes and I was a little sad when Martian Manhunter chose not to stay on Rose’s Earth.

Okay:

Clark Kent / Superman – Clark Kent is pretty simple in this. He wants to help and does but in the end realizes they need to keep an eye on their reality too. That is his arc. It is simple and works and Mark Harmon does do a good job voicing him. I would have liked the idea of his regret to be a little more explored though as the reasons to help fight the Crime Syndicate were obvious.

The Love Story – The love story isn’t strong but it works. Rose and Martian Manhunter are defined by loss and it inspires them to make a difference and fight against the bad. Martian Manhunter’s mind meld when Rose tries to kiss him to get to know him worked but I wanted more details of how they worked as a couple. In the end it was okay, the idea works but could have been more.

The Cons:

The Supporting Members of the Justice League and Crime Syndicate – I feel like the only thing holding this story back is length. With length we could have got to know the motivations behind more of the members of the Justice League and Crime Syndicate. Because this is an animated film we don’t get though, which is really the only thing holding the story back.

This is one of the better DC Animated films and DC Animated films have been something I’ve enjoyed, even if I was never that much of a fan of “The New 52,” which is the series the DC Animated Film universe took inspiration from. This one is it’s own thing and it works and would have worked better with just a bit more time. It is a shame we never got the mini-series of this or seen how it might have been done if it had been the in-between Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited.” Those characters were fleshed out in ways this film isn’t able to do as it has to be introductions to this Justice League. Either way, I recommend checking it out.

Final Score: 9.3 / 10 Flawed and great.

Justice League Pilot – Season 1, Episodes 1-3 – “Secret Origins” – A Solid Introduction to Bruce Timm’s Justice League

Bruce Timm’s “Justice League” is a major source of nostalgia for me and something I thought worth going back too after the “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” film. Each bring a unique vision to this amazing DC team of heroes and this team that Bruce Timm created was the Justice League from my childhood. “Batman: The Animated Series” was one of my earliest works on the blog, so returning to Bruce Timm’s work was a treat. So, how does it hold up? It isn’t perfect but it is good though I’d say “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” does do a better job of setting up the characters and motivations than this 3 part Pilot to one of my favorite shows.

These episodes were directed by Dan Riba and Butch Lukic and written by Rich Fogel.

The story involves Batman (Kevin Conroy) and Superman (George Newbern) as they investigate a mysterious attack on a satellite hinting at a greater threat.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Soundtrack – Lolita Ritmanis’s theme music just such an amazing job of capturing how epic these heroes are. It puts them in the context of being larger than life and frames the narrative the show is trying to tell. She is fantastic.

The Animation – Bruce Timm’s animation is beautiful and continues to hold up to this day. How eyes are drawn are often simple but the faces show so much emotion that give us the weight the characters feel, especially when their fight looks hopeless. His animation projects are some of my favorites and this show and “Batman: The Animated Series” are major examples of why.

The Setup – The setup of a mysterious attack that leads into an alien invasion from an unknown force is fantastic. The threat is great enough that Superman and Batman cannot do it on their own, which sets the context for why the Justice League is needed in the first place. I loved this setup.

The Invasion – The Invasion has elements of “War of the Worlds” as the Imperium and White Martians attack with giant tripods that take so much strength and strategy to take down. This is a war our heroes our losing until Martian Manhunter and Batman can win through intelligence as in a war of brawn the Imperium and White Martians would have won.

The Imperium – The Imperium are ruled by this supreme intelligence entity that is a tentacle brain. It fits the horror elements well as it captures most of the Justice League and is attempting to kill Martian Manhunter when Batman reverses their technology. They feel like a Lovecraftian horror, which works and it is personal given that Martian Manhunter is the last Green Martian because of the Imperium and White Martian threat.

The Justice League – This 3 parter wouldn’t work if not for the team and I’d say most of the team works. The only one who annoyed with Flash and his hitting on Wonder Woman. Everyone else works really well in their role and play their much needed role in the battles.

Clark Kent / Superman – Superman has a bit of an arc in this as the White Martians use his desire for peace to disarm all of the Earth’s nukes so that there will be no defense against their invasion. His arc is accepting responsibility for this and out of it forming the Justice League as an answer to threats.

Diana Prince / Wonder Woman – Susan Eisenberg’s Wonder Woman is one of the major POV characters in this 3 parter as she is coming to help Earth because of the invasion and is the first to break the isolation of her people. Part of her always wishes to go home but she finds the goals of the Justice League worth sticking around for after the Imperium is defeated.

Bruce Wayne / Batman – Kevin Conroy’s Batman is one of my favorite superheroes and here it is him and Martian Manhunter who save the day in the end through intelligence and skill. He is the one who ends up as always there for the Justice League but Superman as the leader. It works and his more outsider perspective like Martian Manhunter’s was one of the more compelling aspects of this two-parter.

J’onn J’onzz / Martian Manhunter – Carl Lumbly’s Martian Manhunter is one of my favorite DC characters besides Conroy’s Batman and Phil LaMarr’s Green Lantern. This is his origin story as we see that he was the last Green Martian who neutralized the White Martian threat but the war cost his entire people. This gives him a sad reflective perspective into his view of the world but that doesn’t stop him from the possibility of adopting Earth as his new Family even after being kidnapped by the Army.

Okay:

John Stewart and Hawkgirl – Hawkgirl and the Green Lantern John Stewart are largely space soldiers who give commands and lead and fight but we don’t get their motivations or what brought them to Earth. They are just kind of there and their introductions come out of nowhere, though unlike the the Flash they are not annoying.

The Cons:

Wally West / The Flash – This version of the Flash (Wally West) is a version I remember getting better…but here he spends his time joking and flirting. There is no arc or motivation to the character. This is a shame as the character does get better later.

I really enjoyed retuning to this 3 part Pilot and would recommend it to any fan of DC comics. Bruce Timm created an amazing vision of these characters and here is the introduction to them as a team. As a story I found the “Snyder Cut” doing a better job for exploring team motivation but this story still manages to gives the majority of the League some exploration. I can’t wait to rewatch more episodes and review more versions of one of my favorite superhero teams in comics.

Final Score: 8.4 / 10

Superman: Red Son (2020) – A Great Adaptation That Captures the Heart of the Comic

Image result for Superman red son poster

     Superman: Red Son is one of my favorite comics from back in college. I’ve always liked the Elseworld alternate world ideas where the characters we know are put in situations that shape them along different paths. “Red Son” is in both the comics and film, a great example of this for the heroes and villains within the DC Universe. This adaptation is great. It isn’t exactly like the comics, but I overall was a fan of the choices they made.

The film was directed by Sam Liu and written by J. M. DeMatteis based off the comic of the same name by Mark Millar.

The story follows Superman if he crashed within the Soviet Union. From here he must face his power versus the responsibility he feels to others, the State and himself while facing off against Luthor and the United States.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

The Animation – DC Animation has once again crafted a beautiful film. The colors and details in the scenes and faces bring the story to life. We also have Soviet Style Propaganda in the opening credits that are wonderfully crafted and brought me into the film really well.

Lex Luthor’s United States – Lex Luthor rises in power in the United States as he is the only one who has plans and inventions to deal with the threat of Superman. Like in the comics, most of the challenges he sends to Superman are ones he made…with the exception of Brainiac, who is his own power in this and not ever in an alliance with Luthor, unlike the comics. The United States that is presented isn’t stable and is true to the historical United States. The oppression through the 40s and 60s is talked about on screen which is where you can see overall where Superman’s perspective is to fix things. Luthor doesn’t see anyone outside of himself until the end, which is meant to mirror the United States as it grow’s in it’s relationship to the world.

Diana  / Wonder Woman – Diana in the comic goes from admiring Superman to having their friendship end in them as enemies. Over the course of the film we see her lose faith in man’s world and agrees with her mother as their nation once more goes into hiding. This is the first turning point for Superman in the film, where he begins to question his actions. It isn’t enough at this point but her arc of losing faith in Superman is powerful as she saves his life but Batman’s killing himself and the breaking her Lasso of Truth helps her realize the dictator Superman has become.

Superman’s Corruption Arc – Superman’s arc of power corrupting is realistic. We see him go from a tool of Stalin, find the Gulagz and his childhood friend dying and this leads him taking control of the Soviet Union. From here expands Soviet Power to end oppression of workers around the world. As Lex Luthor sends Superior Man, and Brianiac attacks we see Superman lose his ability to trust others. He uses Brainiac to mind control dissenters (he does in the comics as well) and each attack against him makes him more certain in his revolution. It is very well done and I like how the film captures those key turning point, and with it his disconnect from humanity.

The Freedom to Choose and Superman’s Return – The turning point for Superman, when he realizes people should be able to choose their own future is after Wonder Woman leaves and First Lady Lois Lane brings him Stalingrad, the city that Brainiac had shrunk into a bottle in his initial attack. It is after this Brainiac reveals his true intentions to conquer and it is only through Luthor and Superman working together that he is finally stopped for good. It is after Superman’s “death” that we see him return in the classic Clark Kent gear to watch Luthor’s resignation as Luthor also realizes his own obsession has hurt others as Superman’s did.

Okay:

Brainiac -In the comics he uses both Lex and Superman and I think it is stronger having him use both of them at different points. He just shows up in the film, which is fine but we never really see what the overall goal of Brainiac is. He is still a good threat but his presentation and arc is only okay.

Lex’s Arc With Lois – Lex’s arc with Lois is how his obsession with destroying Superman feeds his ambition and leads to him not being aware in his relationship at all. We can see hints of how he’s changing, such as when he kills Superior Man and Lois is disgusted by him…but we don’t see the next steps. It is only when he shows up to save Lois at the end and ally with Superman that we see a changed man. There needed to be another step inbetween for this to be a pro. It wasn’t badly done, but it needed more.

The Cons:

Svetlana – Svetlana shows up at the beginning as Superman’s childhood friend and is the one who tells him he should give his power to the State. She is later dies in the Gulag because she knew who Superman was before he was Superman, so had to die. She could have been a Lois Lane type character but the relationship between her childhood and death didn’t exist and that is really the only con. She is important but isn’t given enough scenes for how much she inspires Superman in her life and death.

This was a great DC Animated film of one of my favorite comics. If you are a fan of DC, animation or the original comic…this is a film well worth your time. The biggest comic has a huge twist that I will not spoil here, really you should read the comic, it is amazing.  This is a film that could have been longer and it would have worked and that in the end is the only real con against it. There were certain characters and plots that deserved more development. I highly recommend this film and the comic.

Final Score: 9 / 10

Glass (2019): A Film That Almost Worked

Glass Poster Ahead Of Comic-Con | Cosmic Book News

      “Unbreakable” was the film that put Shyamalan on the map for me. I was not a fan of “Split.” I thought it was a passable horror film that of preyed off people who did suffer from multi-personality and making them villains (which is sadly a common trope of horror of making “The Other” the enemy). It is part of the “Unbreakable Trilogy” and as far as non-spoiler thoughts, “Glass” is the weakest part of the Trilogy. I’d choose flawed “Split” for at least knowing what it was. This film doesn’t know what it wants to be. At times it wasn’t to be a psychological thriller, other times it wants to be a super hero film. Because it can’t settle I feel like it muddles whatever message it was trying to say, which is a big reason this film will never be more than passable entertainment.

The film was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan who was also one of the producers.

The story picks up after “Split” with Kevin / “The Horde” (James McAvoy) capturing a few cheerleaders as as David Dunn “The Overseer” (Bruce Willis) seeks out his location in order to rescue them. In the end they are captured and put in an asylum under Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson). Here they find Elijah / Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) is also a member of the asylum and must face the reality of what they are while people connected to them seek answers.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros:

Cinematography – This is a beautiful looking movie. Even though it is Blumhouse Studios the use of colors here to represent the different characters look amazing. Mr. Glass with dark purples, Kevin with yellow clothing and the ever present green whenever David Dunn is the “Overseer” or thinking of embracing the roles. This is handled best in Mr. Glass’s plan to free them all and reveal heroes to the world as the color contrasts bring scenes to life during the escape.

What is Real? – The basic premise is pretty good and I wish it had focused on this and not given us an answer. In the asylum we are given plenty of examples of how our main characters aren’t supernatural in any way. Being very strong does not make one Superman and being very smart does not make one Lex Luthor. As Dr. Staple breaks down the barriers of defense our characters have put on their beliefs it gives us some really good slow tension. I wish this had been the film as the ending could still happen without the ending we got, which says “Superheroes are real.” In this way it could have stuck to landing as a more psychological piece.

The Main Characters – The main 3 who the story is built around are the best parts of the film. Seeing Mr. Glass manipulating everything, David Dunn being conflicted over his identity and the many personalities in Kevin / The Horde. They are what keep this movie from sucking and I wish we’d gotten more time with them and didn’t have the minor characters at all.

David Dunn / The Overseer – Bruce Willis is back and we finally get to see some development on who he’s become post “Unbreakable.” In this he has embraced his role as vigilante and is the reason that Kevin and him get captured as it his action that leads to the rescue of the captured cheerleaders but also the arrival of the Police who capture the two of them. He spends the most time questioning his role and nearly decides not to take action at the end because he believes he isn’t a hero. In the end he comes through to begin rescuing people from The Horde, only to be taken down by Dr. Staple’s organization with the other 2.

Kevin / The Horde – The Horde are a wonderfully creepy villain and Kevin being the child who lead to them coming about when he reacted to abuse from his Mother is fascinating. This is explored more in the story as we see the Horde exists to protect the core personality and within the different personalities there isn’t always consensus, which makes the Dr. Staple conversations fascinating. In my opinion he never stops being a villain even though Shyamalan tries his best to give an undeserved redemption story via one of his victims helping Kevin come out (only for Kevin to be killed shortly after in the final fight).

Elijah Price / Mr. Glass – Mr. Glass is only in the movie interacting with people for a short amount of time, and the movie could have used so much more of him. He’s the most interesting out of all of our characters and seeing his mind in action is easily the best part of the film. I wanted more of that. We get a flashback of when his bones break when he was younger, but we don’t get scenes of him as the super villain or him realizing that that is what he wants to become. Him questioning being a “Super” would have been the most profound as well, as he as the strongest believer in the concept dating all the way back to “Unbreakable.”

The Cons:

The Minor Characters – Casey, the surviving victim of the Horde is now drawn to him and feels connected to him because she was abused by her Uncle. Mr. Glass’s Mom is around but seems to be just there to witness things and David Dunn’s son believes his dad is a super hero. The characters when they have anything interesting are awful in how they seem to glorify abuse via Casey and Kevin’s connection (The movie never admits and calls out that Kevin is a serial killer who eats people) and David Dunn’s son has no personality. In the end they reveal the videos of heroes existing, which just struck me as stupid. We follow these characters but none of them work for different reasons. I would have preferred they not be in it all and us left with just with “The Supers.”

Glorifying Abuse – This ties into Kevin being a serial killer never being called out. Again, Casey cares about the serial killer who killed her friends because Kevin was abused to be that way and we learn recently that she’d been abused by her Uncle. This ends up feeling like a tactic glorifying of abuse as in the end Kevin finds human connection with Casey and she ignores all the people he has killed. I’m not sure what point Shyamalan was trying to make with their relationship but it really hurt the story.

The Final Reveals – There are multiple reveals, none of which I felt work. One is that the asylum is a place suppressing that super heroes exist and the other reveal is that the train that killed David Dunn’s wife also killed Kevin’s dad. I hated that reveal so much, it was bad storytelling and there was zero reason for it happen beyond giving The Horde a reason to turn against Mr. Glass, when that didn’t matter because they were all going to be killed by Dr. Staple’s organization anyway. In the end the reveals canceled out any point the story might have had.

For all of the cons that I mentioned, this film could have still worked if it had known what it wanted to be. We spend so much time in the asylum that I wanted that to be the truth. The truth is that they weren’t “Supers” and there isn’t a conspiracy. That could have been a good psychological thriller. Or, don’t have the asylum at all, just give us the heroes facing off against one another as the ending was really strong and worked as that type of film. Be a psychological thriller that makes you question reality or be a super hero film with elements of reality more akin to “The Dark Knight” or “Super.” It is in this that the opening and the escape are the strongest parts of the film, but the lack of focus and the very obvious cons kept it from being good.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Lower than the other 2 in the Trilogy because at least those films knew what they were trying to be.