In 2019, every director has a superhero trilogy—including M. Night Shyamalan. A franchise more than a decade in the making moved on from ladies in water and disappearing bees to return to the world of Unbreakable (which Split is a part of! Mr. Glass is behind everything!). Part 3 of 3 dropped Friday, and, after seeing Glass, a handful of Ringer staffers joined together to talk twists, James McAvoy’s many characters, and Shyamalan’s disconcerting need to put himself in all his movies.
1. What is your tweet-length review of Glass?
Julie Phayer: My Glass review is a quote from the end of Unbreakable: “But he says there’s always two kinds; there’s the soldier villain—who fights the hero with his hands; and then there’s the real threat—the brilliant and evil archenemy—who fights the hero with his mind.”
Sean Yoo: I enjoyed Glass; I also left briefly during my screening to check out the Super Blood Wolf Moon. I enjoyed that too. I give a slight edge to the moon, mainly because it was free.
Miles Surrey: It me, the guy who was totally into Shyamalan’s two-hour lecture on superheroes and drowned Superhero Bruce Willis in a puddle. (Wait, why do I like Glass again?)
Justin Charity: I wanted a Casey Cooke movie and got an X-Men bootleg.
2. What was the best moment of the film?
Charity: Elijah Price’s delayed, irritated awakening.
Surrey: When the strobe lights kept going off in front of Kevin, who then filtered through a dozen personalities in the span of a couple of minutes. James McAvoy was doing the Absolute Most here, which is exactly what playing a character with 24 different personas calls for.
Yoo: Any scene involving McAvoy gets the vote here. For me, the scene when Sarah Paulson’s character first sits down with the Horde and cycles through his many personalities is easily the most memorable moment of the film. McAvoy puts in a masterful performance, effortlessly transitioning among these unique characters.
Phayer: When Mr. Glass meets Kevin/the Horde for the first time. I love when villains team up—after all, I am a Warriors fan.
3. What was your least favorite part of the movie?
Phayer: The close-up shots of Willis’s face when he was fighting the Beast. I imagine that’s how I look watching James Harden shoot
15-plus free throws a game: disinterested and annoyed.
Charity: The very beginning and the very end.
Surrey: Probably that Elijah promised an epic, superpowered showdown between Kevin and David at the opening of the largest skyscraper in Philadelphia, and instead we got shirtless McAvoy and washed Willis throwing each other across a quad. Glass didn’t have to do the superhero skybeam showdown we’ve seen a million times, but you can’t just ignore Chekhov’s skyscraper.
Yoo: It happens in nearly every movie that Shyamalan directs, but come on with the Shyamalan cameos. The one in Glass was cringeworthy, and to give you a sense of its impact, I heard at least a half-dozen audible groans during my screening.
4. Who’s the MVP of Glass?
Charity: Strangely, no one. I think the performances are uneven and unreconciled with one another, with McAvoy maxing out as Crumb while sometimes seeming to be in a different movie entirely.
Yoo: Clearly it’s McAvoy, but if I had to be more specific, his portrayal of Hedwig, the 9-year-old boy, was supremely entertaining to watch.
Phayer: McAvoy, unanimously. I especially loved his performance as Hedwig, and the curiosity and humor that personality brings to such a dark and twisted table.
Surrey: McAvoy, for sure. He cycles through personalities that range from playful to physically terrifying rather convincingly and somehow avoids overexerting himself to the point of parody. There are a few actors who could’ve handled such a demanding role—though I’d love to see an alternate version where Kevin is played by Jake Gyllenhaal. (In this alternate version, one of Kevin’s personalities is, by law, Jake Gyllenhaal in Okja.)
5. Tag yourself: Elijah Price, Kevin Wendell Crumb, or David Dunn.
Yoo: I’m not indestructible, I don’t have a beast within me, and I’m definitely not a mastermind—but I do bruise easily, so I would probably have to go with Elijah Price.
Charity: Price—flamboyant, pretentious, annoyed, but mostly sleepy.
Phayer: Uh, Kevin Wendell Crumb (don’t ask).
Surrey: By process of elimination, uh, David? [Whispers.] I think we should be reporting anyone who identifies as Elijah or Kevin to HR.
6. What is the most unnecessary comic book explainer in Glass, a movie that assumes nobody has watched comic book movies over the past 15 years?
Phayer: Dr. Staple is part of an organization dedicated to eliminating any superhuman beings, yet she needs a reminder that villain masterminds don’t reveal their true plan?
Yoo: Shout-out to the guy in the comic book store who is exuberantly explaining the origins of comic books to Anya Taylor-Joy. We get it, dude, you like comic books.
Charity: I disagree with the framing here. Shyamalan is not assuming so much as wishing, in the form of an alternate universe, that no one has spent the whole century so far watching comic book adaptations. It’s still annoying, however, when he sets brief scenes in what is essentially the comics store from The Simpsons for quaint, stereotypical effect.
Surrey: When Elijah nearly breaks the fourth wall talking about “the showdown” as Kevin and David duke it out. It isn’t even comic book specific so much as … a regular plot device that didn’t require explanation? I half-expected him to turn the wheelchair toward the camera and say: “Y’all ready for some twists?”
(Wait, why do I like Glass again?)
7. Glass is technically a superhero movie. What could it learn from the more traditional superhero movies, and vice versa?
Surrey: The Unbreakable trilogy is a character-driven superhero franchise that explains everyone’s motivations for fighting crime, being the villain, and so on. And yeah, that should be an obvious thing for any superhero story, but remember when you watched Thor: The Dark World and thought to yourself, “Literally why does Malekith the Accursed exist?” The MCU’s gotten better at this sort of thing, but no superhero franchise is batting a thousand.
Conversely, if Shyamalan is going to commit to his whole “grounded superhero” ethos, he should make sure that the action is fun to watch, so people don’t feel like they’re watching a TED Talk about superheroes.
Phayer: I love the meta aspect of Glass and the subtle acknowledgements that the idea of superheroes and villains is a bit cheesy. The Unbreakable universe keeps things simple. Superheroes wear raincoats and fight janitors. Villains are born from trauma and pain. On the other hand, the only thing Glass could’ve taken from traditional superhero movies is a Chris.
Yoo: Maybe Glass could’ve been a little less self-aware of the fact that it’s a superhero movie. At a certain point, I was waiting for Elijah to break the fourth wall and start talking to us.
8. How did you feel about Glass’s third-act twists? Did Shyamalan overdo it?
Charity: He didn’t so much overdo it so much as he undid it: The final act of Glass pantomimes as an MCU climax, and the Osaka Tower anticlimax isn’t the profound subversion Shyamalan hypes it to be.
Phayer: I loved ’em; they felt true to this cinematic universe. Going into the movie, I thought the twist would be that Dr. Staple was a superhuman villain. In a way, she was a villain, so Elijah and I were both right all along.
The only part of the third act I disliked was when Casey, Joseph, and Elijah’s mom went to the train station to watch people react to the security footage they released. Joseph had been monitoring the reactions to his dad via social media, so he should’ve already known that if you’re going to drop some viral footage, the best places to watch the reactions are Twitter and Reddit.
Yoo: Does Shyamalan ever not overdo it? Glass had, like, three twists that all seemed a little bit too confusing. What the heck is that clover tattoo crew, and why did we never really get an explanation about how they wait for people to leave restaurants when they could probably just rent out a work space?
Surrey: I guess this was the platonic ideal of the Shyamalan twists: They came quick and fast, some were probably unnecessary, and yet I can’t imagine the movie working without them.
9. Rank the three movies in the M. Night Unbreakable universe.
Phayer: Split > Glass > Unbreakable (I watched Unbreakable and Split for the first time three weeks ago. If I had seen Unbreakable when it was first released, maybe I would have liked it more.)
Charity: The chronological order of release is also the correct ranking.
Yoo: Unbreakable … Split ... I’ll still never forgive you for The Last Airbender … Glass
But I do think all these films are good—especially by Shyamalan standards. This is the same guy who gave us [deep breath] The Last Airbender, After Earth, Devil, Lady in the Water, and The Happening. Shyamalan should’ve had a life sentence in Movie Jail, but he got out somehow, and his last movies have been exceedingly watchable.