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.

Split (2017): Dropped Arcs and an Unfocused Theme Bring This Film Down

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   “Split” is a film that could have been good, hell it even could have been great if it hadn’t missused and jumbled up it’s themes and characters it would have been as the acting in this is steller and the dialogue works. There is no reason either of these things should be he case given M. Night Shyamalan’s track record as of late.

    I haven’t watched a Shyamalan film in theaters since “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” if you’ve been reading the blog you’ve probably seen some of my reviews of that show. It is one of my favorites and what Shyamalan did to it was an insult to the show and art. I never knew someone could miss the point of the source material so bad that it would make Michael Bay’s “Transformers” look good by comparison…but Shyamalan succeeded and up until last night I would not watch his films in theaters.

     M. Night Shyamalan wrote and directed this film and was one of the producers along with Marc Bienstock and Jason Blum.

    The story involves Kevin (James McAvoy) kidnapping three girls as a sacrifice for his 24th personality called “The Beast.” It is up to Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy) to find a way out as at the same time Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), Kevin’s psychologist seeks to find what Kevin is hiding from her.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The Idea – The idea of a character who holds multiple personalities that interact with another and worship a stronger mysterious one is compelling as is the teenagers escaping from a threat and having to face the monster.

The Writing – The writing is actually really good. When things are told to you they are in the context of Dr. Fletcher speaking before a classroom so show is on display. The same goes for the different personalities. We are shown rather than told who they are.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part of the film and keep it from being bad. It is really the dropped arcs that ruin them not the characters themselves.

Dr. Fletcher – Dr. Fletcher is a great character! She is helping Kevin find balance among the personalities and interact with people normally, but she isn’t stupid either. When she is getting red flags from him she writes down how to fight him before he kills her.

Claire and Marcia – Claire and Marcia are initially presented as “mean girls” but over the course of the film you see their courage and empathy, both with one another and with Casey. That should have been rewarded as it is the relationship that develops between the three of them that shows beautiful solidarity and shows different facets of who they are.

Casey – Casey is the heroine of the story whose arc it seems at the beginning is facing her Uncle who raped her when she was a child and is to the point of the story taking place. Kevin capturing them is a claiming of her agency as we see her fight back when she wasn’t able to before. Sadly we don’t see her get justice against her uncle and she doesn’t kill Kevin (he escapes and lets her go). God, she deserved justice and that seems to be what the story is setting up but fails to deliver.

Kevin and the Identities – Kevin and his multiple personalities are intriguing. Some are more sympathetic than others like Hedwig who is a scared 9 year old but than you have ones like Dennis and Patricia who worship the beasts and still power from the other personalities. They are called “The Horde.” They eventually win out and become dominant as “The Beast” who arose out of time around the animals in the zoo where Kevin works chose to protect them. The ending has them on the loose. James McAvoy is an amazing actor and this film truly displays his range.

The Cons: The Cinematography – The cinematography looks cheap and awful. It looks like a syfy film in how the colors are off or over-saturated.

Exploitation of Rape and Trauma – Casey’s rape and trauma are exploited in this film as she doesn’t get justice for either and Kevin praises the fact that she’s broken from it. There is nothing good about that as it misses just how evil these things are.

Dropped Character Arcs – The sisterhood arc with the girls is dropped as two of them get eaten, Casey never gets justice against her Uncle or Kevin and Kevin just gets controlled by the bad personalities…what a waste. No ones arc is complete.

Exploiting Dissociate Identity Disorder – This is a real thing that people go through where what is presented in the film is more like science fiction. If you want to know more about it read and research, don’t take this film in any way as reality as it is just exploiting a disorder that is not known very well.

     This was a film that could have dealt with healing and Casey finally having justice done against her Uncle after she defeats Kevin who has kidnapped them and wants to eat them. Instead Kevin is turned into somewhat of a hero and the fact that he was traumatized is presented as a con? That is some serious messed up crap. He is not someone who should be sympathized with, he hate two girls. The best writing and acting can’t save this film because it misses the point. Casey is never allowed to heal and or have justice when it seems to be setting it up to be the case and the sisterhood that is forming between her friends is for not. This isn’t a bad film but I can’t really recommend it either. This is a film with missed potential that could have been so much more.

Final Score: 6.3 / 10

X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) – An Alright Made for Television Film

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  There is a comment that Jean Grey makes after her and the other X-Men leave the school to go see “Return of the Jedi.” She says, “We all can agree, the third film is always the worst.” Meant as a jab against “X-Men 3” by Bryan Singer, the same rule also applies to the new Trilogy that began with “First Class,” as this film is clearly the weakest in the new Trilogy. It isn’t a bad film, “Return of the Jedi” isn’t a bad film…but a lot of it doesn’t work and in the end it feels like an okay, made for tv movie in both production quality and filming.

       “X-Men: Apocalypse” was directed by Bryan Singer who was one of the producers and creators of the story. The screenplay was by Simon Kinberg who was also one of the producers and the other producers are Lauren Shuler Donner and Hutch Parker.

SPOILERS ahead

    The story involves the awakening of the first mutant, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaacs) after he is trapped underneath a pyramid when his people rebel against him. From here it is up to the X-Men to stop him after Professor Xavier (James McAvoy) is kidnapped by Apocalypse and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) is made into one of Apocalypse’s Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The Pros: The World – The world of X-Men is a wonderful world. There are so many factions and characters. This is a world that is always in flux and that a single X-Men can often change the shape of that world.

The Characters – The characters are fantastic and the strongest part of this series. Each of them is flawed and an outcast and it helps define their struggle, making them compelling.

Cyclops – Cyclops demonstrates why he will later become group leader in this, as we see him demonstrate courage after he makes friends with Nightcrawler and Jean Grey and mounts a rescue with them to save Mystique, Beast and Quicksilver from Striker.

Beast – Beast is back and is the adviser and friend to Xavier. His arc is making peace with how he looks and through it he helps Mystique do the same.

Nightcrawler – Nightcrawler is one of my favorite X-Men and it is awesome to see him here again! We are introduced to him in the Mutant Fighting Pits that Human supremacists run and later at Professor X’s school after Mystique rescues him. He shows courage on countless occasions.

Quicksilver – Evan Peters is a great Quicksilver and he is one of the best parts of this film. His relationship to Mystique and Magneto are fascinating and we see that he admires his dad but is ashamed of him too as he chooses not to tell him that he is Magneto’s son…He knows his dad turning on the villain at the end doesn’t rewrite all his past murders.

Mystique – Jennifer Lawrence is good as Mystique and her arc is making peace with herself again as we see her embrace her natural look by the end and become a member of the X-Men, helping to found the newest generation of them. She is a Mutant revolutionary in this as after the events of last film she represents mutant power to others and she continues to be the one who rescues them from harm.

Magneto – Fassbender is awesome as Magneto! In this we see him have a family in Poland only to lose it all when the locals panic, causing him to be manipulated by Apocalypse into one of his Horsemen. His arc is realizing that his friends are his family and that he isn’t alone. He still doesn’t trust people, and he has a lot of bad stuff he’s done…but by the end there is the man who will act for good for Mutants and all.

Professor X – Professor X’s arc involves him realizing how he is like Apocalypse (Apocalypse influences people to do his will) which leads to Xavier giving Moira back her memories as she is an ally (she sadly is just kind of there in regards to the script though…). Apocalypse captures him and wants to use his body as his next vessel so he can control everyone’s mind and see into everyone’s mind. Professor X fights it and with Jean Grey’s help is able to get Apocalypse out of his mind.

Jean Grey – Sophie Turner is a great Jean Grey and she actually has a decent arc! Her arc is releasing her full powers and in the process defeating Apocalypse. We see her afraid of what she sees and it mirrors Professor X’s journey. She is the best hero in this. Only complain is her American accent doesn’t always work.

Okay: Wolverine – Wolverine has a Cameo at Striker’s base and we see that he just got his claws. He reeks tons of havoc upon Striker’s forces and is only brought out of his feral state by Jean Grey, establishing why he’ll be attracted to her later. It wasn’t needed, but it wasn’t bad. Jackman continues to dominate this role.

The Other Horsemen – The other Horsemen are just kind of there and aren’t given much to do. Storm is a thief who later joins the X-Men, Angel is a fighter in a mutant fighter arena . Psylocke is an enforcer who turns against Apocalypse with Storm and Magneto at the end too. Though she might be possessed by Apocalypse’s spirit at the end, so I guess that is something that was done with her character at least.

Okay/Con: Apocalypse – Apocalypse seems bored most of the time.

The Cons: Direction and Cinematography – The direction looks like television…whether is the cheaper looking costumes or the cinematography that makes me appreciate the cinematography in “The Flash” more. When you are less than the CW, you are television level directing.

Stan Lee Cameo – The cameo happens when Apocalypse gets rid of the World’s nukes. It makes the scene funny when it should have been dramatic and serious.

Unfocused Narrative – The narrative felt unfocused at times, especially after we visit Striker’s base…

Costumes – The costumers look bad. The leather makes everything look big and it has none of the realism from the Marvel films or even the decent looking costumers the DC films.

Striker and his Base –  This whole side quest felt like a callback to X-2 as we are back at Striker’s base with a young Striker (didn’t Mystique replace him last film?) and he’s just there so we can have a human baddie to counter Apocalypse. More time could have been spent to develop Apocalypse and his motivations rather than this crap. Good action but pointless.

   As stated at the beginning this is the weakest in the New X-Men Trilogy that began with “First Class.” The production value doesn’t help, though the actors and characters add a lot to it and help elevate it beyond the cons making it a flawed but fun film that I wouldn’t watch again, but enjoyed while watching. This film is okay. If you are a fan of X-Men you will probably like it. Apocalypse could have been a much more interesting character and threat and his presentation just doesn’t work. The drama that works is when we are with the characters and their individual relationships trying to make their way in the world…and that is what made the film worth seeing.

Final Score: 6.4 / 10

Filth (2013): A Morbid Trip Into a Demented Mind

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“Filth” is a highly unpleasant movie that took quite a while to get through. Movies that have an antagonistic, unlikable protagonist are hard to pull off since from the beginning you are rooting for the person to fail, when in the narrative they are the ones you are supposed to root for. Bruce isn’t a Walter White or Frank Underwood…their motivations are clear and there are good aspects to their character that offset how ruthless they can be. Not so much for James McAvoy’s Bruce. I’ll get into the why in the assessment.

“Filth” was directed by Jon S. Baird who also was one of the producers and wrote the screenplay. The screenplay was based on the novel Filth by Irvine Welsh and the other producers were: Christian Angermayer, Will Clarke, Stephen Mao, Ken Marshall, Jens Meurer, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler and Mark Amin.

This movie took 3 attempts to watch to finally finish, which isn’t usual for me and a film. Usually I can get through a film in one go. So because of this I don’t want think about this film too much. Suffice to say it was a waste.

The premise of the story is Bruce (James McAvoy) is a sociopath, insane, bi-polar detective who enjoys abusive relationships and playing “games” with the people around him. When we meet him his core desire is to get his promotion so his wife will be with him again and this drives his actions and he continues to descend further into insanity as he sees people with animal faces and his life crumbles around him as his illusions are broken.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The Music – Clint Mansell does the music and it’s one of the things that got me through this train wreck of a film. The music keeps things compelling even if the characters are poorly written archetypes and Bruce is someone we hate. He’s one of my favorite composers and was perfect for the idea behind the film.

Cinematography – This film is beautifully done, it is stark, harsh and dark and the images we are given all look good in how they are filmed. This doesn’t help the script or the characters but it is very well done. Matthew Jensen knew what he was doing.

Inside Bruce’s Head – If this film just took place in his head it would be a little better. He has conversations with his therapist there and the scenes are trippy. If the movie had only been this and we hadn’t seen how much of a bastard he was outside it could have been a great film. Cause the scenes in his mind are fantastic.

Okay: The Minor Characters – Because we are seeing all of this through Bruce’s eyes the script never gave us a chance to truly know and sympathize with the surrounding characters. This was a huge disservice as the idea behind them was interesting and could have been explored if they weren’t archetypes to be exploited by Bruce.

The Cons: No Comedy – This film marketed itself as a dark comedy, but there was nothing funny about it. Everyone’s world and struggles were serious and the only one taking it as a joke was Bruce. For this reason it marketing itself as a comedy was false advertising.

Bruce – We have no reasons to sympathize with this character. He lost his wife and daughter, but for good reason…he cheated, did drugs, lied and no doubt abused them too. We see he wants to be with his wife as he dresses up as her to be closer to her but we have no reason to believe it’s anything more than want. He’s a character who kills himself at the end but I felt no sympathy for throughout the film or after. He was never going to start a new life he was so deep into his own psychotic world that nothing could pull him out of it, not demotion, not the family he was close too. My lack of sympathy really started with him picking on a rookie and after having a teen give him a blow job in order to blackmail her to stay quiet. That is messed up and initially how the movie presents it as we are supposed to like this guy? Really? This guy is one of the most unlikable fictional characters and even one of my favorite actors James McAvoy cannot change that fact.

This is a film I can’t recommend. It isn’t bad persay, it looks and sounds beautiful because of the music and cinematography…but it gives you no reason to care for Bruce or anyone else. It’s a very detached film, and when you are in a story you need to feel attached to the characters, or there isn’t any point to telling the story in the first place.

Final Score: 6 / 10. Check out the music and visuals, but don’t bother with the film unless this type of film is your kind of thing.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Day of (Much Needed) Retcon

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“X-Men: Days of Future Past” is an amazing and much needed retcon of the embarrassing X-Men films that missed the point of X-Men (“X3:The Last Stand” and “Origins: Wolverine”). There was so much I enjoyed about this film, largely the character relationships and how they go about bringing about the retcon with one of the most fascinating stories from the X-Men mythos. It is better than X2 in some ways but worse in others but overall is comparable to it in relation to both the good and the bad.

The basic premise is Wolverine is sent back in time by Kitty Pride to change the future since the future is overrun by the Sentinels (think the Borg from “Star Trek” but robots or the Cybermen from “Doctor Who” except larger and specifically aimed at killing Mutants and all those who harbor or could make mutants). The drama unfolds as Wolverine shines a light on the flaws of Magneto and Professor X (as on the other side Mystique is doing as the primary antagonist besides Trask and his Sentinels). Mystique is the one who drives the drama since her act is what brings about the Sentinel controlled future. The story deals with this and the power of choice in how we choose to treat those who are different.

Now for the assessment:

The Pros – The Characters – X-Men is one of the most character driven franchises that marvel has. They do a good job at exploring motivations and the flaws of the characters. You think Professor X is perfect? Than you aren’t paying attention. You think Magneto and Mystique are simply evil? Look at what drives them and the real trials they’ve faced. “Days of Future Past” expands on this more than any X-Men movie prior and answers the questions we were left with after “First Class” in regards to what happens to the characters and the inner conflict that drives them.

The Message – X-Men has always had a great message. It is the message that all are worthy of equality no matter how different they are, it also explains why people may lash out. If a group is oppressed how do you expect the group to act? It is when people are supported and loved that they are healthy. We see that with Xavier repressing his power through drugs, through Trask and his Putin’s Russia or Religiously Tyrannical approach that seeks to annihilate all members who are gay, queer, transgender or otherwise…who in this case are represented by the X-Men. We see Wolverine, someone who has found peace in himself in coming out and how Xavier helped him get there, he helps Xavier in turn when Xavier is in the metaphorical closet. The message is one thing this movie gets right. That an eye for an eye just makes things worse and that the worth, rights and dignity of all people must be recognized if we are to have peace in our time.

The special Effects – There are some great cinematic moments. Not as good as “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” which in my opinion is the best Marvel movie so far. But it was good, though there was a con related to some of the filming I’ll bring up later.

The Retcon – “X3: The Last Stand” and “X:Men Origins: Wolverine” were some of the worst superhero movies that have been made. A contradictory message sent in both, horrible action and not much pacing to speak of…and of course killing off some of the characters that make X-Men, X-Men for no point but cheap thrills. This retcon was needed…if not Disney Marvel Studios should really get the rights back. If a company can’t treat their stories with respect, they don’t deserve their stories.

The Aftercredits scene: So much potential…it is great to see that the studio is getting back to the comic books stories in X-Men that made it so interesting. Here is holding out for “House of M” at some point!

The Actors – I want to see more movies in the “First Class” Universe. Young Magneto (Fassbender), Mystique (Lawrence), Professor X (McAvoy) and Beast are handled so well by the actors that I would love to see more of them. Even the minor actors who make appearances as Toad and others do a great job. Stewart and McKellan and Page are great in the future scenes too and of course Jackman is still the go to Wolverine for a reason.

Okay – The music. It wasn’t anything special and was like everything we’ve heard before from an X-Men movie. Again, didn’t touch “Winter Soldier” here, or even “The Amazing Spiderman 2” soundtrackwise.

The cons – Nostalgia – There was the way some scenes from filmed, as well as the leather fetish that showed that Bryan Singer hasn’t grown much as someone who can film a scene. It was better than the first X-Men movie that way, but even X2 had some better filming than this one at certain points. It wasn’t consistent but that nostalgia in costumes and filming detracted from the fact that this is a new film. Sadly it looks like he hasn’t grown to the level of the Disney Marvel Studies in relationship to their world (“Iron Man 3”, “Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “Thor: The Dark World” are all growth from the movies that came before in a MAJOR WAY). There was growth in “Days of Future Past” too, it was just small…how the next movie is handled will see if that growth fully happened or if we’ve just been retconned back to Square 1 where X-Men 1 and 2 are.

X-Men is one of my favorite comic books and comic universes besides Spider-Man and Batman in regards to the large franchises (for smaller I ones I love more there are “Hellblazer” and “Sandman” and would recommend both series). This movie is worth seeing since it treats the subject matter (message and story) with respect. I would definitely recommend this movie.

My rating for it is 9 / 10.