M. Night Shyamalan started his superhero legacy 19 years ago with the underrated Unbreakable, following the stories of David Dunn and Elijah Price as they each struggle with the tragedies that have befallen them. 15 years later, Split proved to be a bit of a sequel, following the deranged ramblings of the Kevin Wendall Crumb, as he kidnaps three young girls and struggles with the many different sides of his multiple personalities. Now, Shyamalan brings us Glass.
Taking each title into consideration, it is just to assume that Unbreakable was the story of David (Bruce Willis) and Split was the story of Kevin (James McAvoy), so Glass must therefore be the story of Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson). Each of these three characters become instrumental to the story and the legacies that they create.
With all three of them being imprisoned at the same facility near the beginning of the film for psychological research purposes, Shyamalan can explore regions that he has not delved into before. He may explore, not only his characters and events, but also his psyches. This film goes to great lengths to examine the minds of these three superhuman individuals. A Doctor will try to convince them that their superhuman abilities are, in fact, non-existent and they are simply, severely psychologically confused. Unrelenting in intensity and undying in passion, this Doctor goes to great and far-fetched lengths to prove herself correct. Or, at least, they seem far-fetched.
In the diegesis of this film, David, Kevin and Elijah have perfectly normal abilities that the audience has come to expect. However, when this Doctor enters the scene, she presents the most rational arguments for their super-strength, extreme intelligence and multiple personalities. Using logic, she will make everyone (audience and characters alike) question who they are. This is altogether the message that I believe Shyamalan is driving at. In an age where we are so fixated on heroes and the supernatural, he is giving us a whole other side to it, bringing into question everything that we already know.
Self-awareness comes into play here because this is possibly the most self-aware superhero film out there. Elijah narrates the common tropes of a superhero comic/movie as they occur in relation to the story. We can see how basic an understanding is required to understand them, yet certain characters miss the point. These ones are exemplative of all the characters presented throughout Marvel and DC history. These heroes don’t know who they are; they take themselves too seriously. This could be considered a different take on those household names, but it lacks understanding. Shyamalan is the one who truly understands what it means to be a superhero, or to be different and to know it.
Shyamalan’s view is the most impressively crafted to date, 19 years in the making. Marvel could never achieve what he has achieved, even with 20+ movies in 10+ years. Every character is crucial. Every insignificant shot of exposition is crucial. Only in the end, do we truly understand why.
Glass is Now Playing In Theaters, Nationwide