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

“Wayward Pines” Season 1 – A Classic Dystopian Exploration of Humanity With Great Characters

Wayward-Pines-Season-1

    “Wayward Pines” is a fantastic show, and I’m grateful it got renewed. This is a show that is hard to get into without spoiling sine the premise is a mystery so I’ll give you a selling point by a comparison. This show is like “X-Files” meets an episode of “Black Mirror” or “The Twilight Zone.” It really is brilliant. If the show had lesser writers or actors this concept could have fallen apart, but it stayed strong and in that it sold the premise, so in that I highly recommend it.

    The show was produced by M. Night Shyamalan (At this point this maybe the only thing he should be doing, rather than writing and directing), developed for Fox by Chad Hodge and is based on the novels of the same name by Blake Crouch.

SPOILERS ahead

     The story involves Agent Ethan Burke (Matt Dillon) seeking out his ex lover and partner Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino) who has gone missing in Idaho. After investigating he crashes and wakes up in the mysterious of Wayward Pines, ID where everyone is trapped inside and must seek out of the truth of the town.

The Pros: The Premise – The premise works really great as a town that feels off and is full of secrets is such a fun concept to explore. You can do so many things with this sci. fi. concept that you can do so much with as any action taken in the town will affect everyone.

The World – The world is really cool! The world of Wayward Pines takes place far into the future after humanity has been destroyed leading to David Pilcher to wake everyone up to make his ideallic paradise of his chosen in the town of Wayward Pines…the only city that has humanity in a world overrun by Abby (Aberrations, evolved human mutants who only kill and hunt). It is a fascinating world and you can see how it shapes the people in it.

Wayward Pines – The town is Pilcher’s paradise that he is willing to destroy if it won’t let him control it. We see this in the executions for lawbreakers, the fact that there was another Group before who Pilcher may have destroyed (or who might have destroyed themselves). It is really cool as you have a small group that is living Pilcher’s experiment.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part and what really drive the story. I cared about what happened to them and that is what kept me in the story outside of the unique concept.

Arlene Moran – Moran is the receptionist at the police station and shows how courageous she is on multiple occasions. She is also the nosy member of the town and very loyal, giving her an interesting dynamic to everyone else. I really liked her character.

Harold Ballinger – Ballinger is Burke’s husband and is a stand up guy. We see he’s been fighting David as part of the resistance but is willing to see the truth to what is outside the town, though in the end he doesn’t live as the Pilcher mentality is instilled in the First Generation and a few of them kill him when Ethan Burke is holding them in the prison.

Arnold Pope – Terrance Howard plays a character who manages to be both threatening and empathic as we see he was someone who was a straight A student but was stuck as security guard until David Pilcher offered him an out. He became powerful as the sheriff of Wayward Pines and his loss of control with the arrival of Ethan Burke turns him into an even bigger tyrant as we see him full of regret as he kidnaps people that David Pilcher wanted to live at the end of the world in Wayward Pines. He is killed by Abbys when he tries to stop the Burkes.

Megan Fisher – Fisher is a hypnotherapist who is a true believer in David Pilcher, and in the end she wins. The First Generation survives and she manages to nearly wipe out all those in the generation who rebelled when she lets the Abbys in. She is someone whose perspective you can get (means justify the end) and her way of acting with manipulative empathy makes her compelling. Hope Davis did a great job.

Theresa Burke – Theresa like Ethan is on the path to find the truth and in the end sees that there can only be peace if they hold together. It is when Pam Pilcher reaches out to her that she discovers the truth and she takes it pretty well finding it on her own versus her thinking the town got to Ethan when he first tells her what happened. I liked her character.

Kate Hewson – Kate is Ethan’s ex-partner and former lover and is a great character who we see leading the rebelling against David Pilcher. This gives her power at the end as when she sees the truth she stands with the town together against annihilation. She stays empathetic throughout it and that seeing that her lack of information had made her so driven and willing to kill to free the town or escape. Garla Gugino is good in this role.

Ethan Burke – Matt Dillon is the agent who drives the story as he manages to stop the Sheriff from killing him and his family (and becomes Sheriff in the process), survives for a long time outside the town and discovers that the world is dead, and stops the rebellion and brokers a peace leading to David Pilcher’s attempt to destroy Group B. In the end he dies for the town, completing his arc as the man who didn’t want to be there in the first place.

Pam Pilcher – Pam is shown to be the villain at the beginning as she is the one calling for the killings for those who disobey and is always threatening Ethan. It isn’t until she sees how over the top her brother is getting that she allies with the Burkes and gets the town the truth. In the end she pays the price too as she has to kill David to stop him.

David Pilcher – Toby Jones is amazing! In this he plays the creator of Wayward Pines and we see how in the end was right about humanity and the fact that humanity would kill itself off. This makes him compelling as you see a man who generally cares about his group if only for his ego and it is only when his paranoia wins out with loss of control that he goes full villain. What a fantastic character.

The Nature of Humanity – The nature of humanity is a core part of the show. In it shows how too much information can cause people to destroy themselves (Group A) but also the danger of fascism and group think in the executions and David Pilcher willingness to execute Group B.

The Ending – The ending is really cool! There is the final fight against the Abbys while getting the survivors of Wayward Pines to safety while dealing with the threat of David Pilcher. At this point his sister Pam has turned against David, so it is great seeing her finally make the choice to shoot him as well as Ethan’s final sacrifice for his family.

Okay: The First Generation – The First Generation is the group of kids Megan Fisher their teacher is indoctrinating to follow the ideals of David Pilcher…they are his brown coat fascists…which makes them interesting but none of them have any depth, not even the Burke’s son. He’s okay but he is just there to show openness to accepting the ideas of David Pilcher and to later carry on his Parents’ ideas next season.

  The only real cons are the child actors, but they aren’t bad…I just didn’t care about them all that much. The adult actors added so much more empathy to their roles and their history to Earth’s past made their present situation in the future all the more powerful. The Ending is powerful too as David Pilcher is a hero even though he tried to kill everyone, and David Burke is hung in effigy even though he saved the town. It was powerful in that it showed no matter how much work human’s need for authority still stayed and the hero worship David Pilcher had instilled lived on. I can’t wait to see Season 2 to see the forms of resistance in the new Wayward Pines.

Final Score: 9.6 / 10