The January 16th. Continuation of Unbreakable and Split, Glass of Mr. Night Shyamalan sacrifice entertainment to theorical pleasure.
By Michael Patin
In 2017, the Split last screen makes hair-rising the toughest fans – or the younger – of M. Night Shyamalan. At a diner, camera showed the client’s banned looked while televisions sets spread the breaking news whose we have been, for two hours, the witnesses : Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a serial killer suffering of a dissociative identity trouble (24 people in a same body whose a “Beast” with superhuman abilities), escaped after having held a student group. “It’s like this crazy in wheelchair whom they locked 15 years ago”, said a waitress. “They gave to him a funny nickname too. What was it again ?”. Behind her stood out suddenly David Dunn’s silhouette (Bruce Willis), hero of Unbreakable. “Mr. Glass”, he answered before swallow a sip of coffee. Generic. A whisper concert shook the cinema.
“A famous trio of character can’t be enough to join both sides. A strong vision was needed. Taking the risk of leaving a bunch of fans on the side of the road.
We might know Shyamalan taste for his “méta” gesture (also his appearances on his own movies), this bombshell had a symbolic and unprecedented value. Referring to a period where American people embodied the new and bankable author cinema (thanks to the success of The Sixth Sense), the movie affirmed, from the inside, his return. Having gunned down his career with commercially disastrous blockbusters (The Last Airbender, After Earth), he founded at Blumhouse Production the ideal ecosystem (mini budget, maxi control) for his comeback. The public success of Split (280 million dollars of profit around the world), he was coupled with a critical return to grace. Yes, an important movie director could hide himself behind the doubtful theorist (the one of The Lady of the Water), and the damaged Golden Boy. The one who, 17 years earlier, signed with Unbreakable, a thriller with a stunning charm. The circle was complete. All seemed possible again.
“Big power involved big responsibilities”
The Spiderman mantra impose itself to each movie director which decide to manipulate superheroes. Even more since that, thereof rules undivided on the showbusiness. How Shyamalan was going to spread his own multiverse face to the mastodon Marvel et DC, without giving up to his windings and matures obsessions ? It’s was the other big question asked by Glass. Industrially, to bring together his characters (Crumb, Dunn and Elijah Price, the glass man of Unbreakable played by Samuel L. Jackson), the movie director has obtained both agreements from Disney (owner of Unbreakable copyrights) and Universal (dispenser of Split), nevertheless been little used to play collective.
But a challenge more complicated was waiting for him : form together wires of two movies separated by 17 years of doubts and reassessments. Between sophistication of Unbreakable, his chiaroscuro shots maniacally composed, his sense of mystery, his philosophical reflections ambush under a mist of suspense. And the craftiness of Split, which mixed without complex, noisy horror and psycho humor, there was a gulf to fill. A famous trio of character can’t be enough to join both sides. A strong vision was needed. Taking the risk of leaving a bunch of fans on the side of the road. After a preamble who has the specificities of the soap-novel wherein Dunn chases Crumb, the movie turns around brutally. Both men have been captured and locked on a psychiatric hospital where languish already Price/Glass. Here, they are submitted to Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) experiences, convinced that a psychosis is at the origin of their super-heroic madness. Cure this supposedly “super” of their illusions, it’s also sending back the spectator faced to his own. We’re waiting in vain the socking plans. We scan except fields. We regret the sacrifice of secondaries roles (even the wonderful Anya Taylor-Joy is figuring), the thinness is similar of the intrigue, the rhythm as asleep by the sedatives. Only those three creatures left, prison of a cold setting, played by three big actors (whose a McAvoy who is having fun like a madman by changing personalities on the same shot…)… And our beliefs which falter.
Faced to the deluge of specials effects, of non-stop fights and a geek humor of usual super-hero productions, Shyamalan took a radical inverse way : reducing of action and abundance of unanswerable questions. About the piece of courage announced, it will never make it. As Price/Glass said, who doesn’t give his name to the film by accident (he is the puppeteer, the double of the filmmaker : cerebral and demoniac), we aren’t dealing with a “special edition” (a comic focused on a big fight between “super”) but to a “narrative of origin”. This means that, for Shyamalan, a return to the sources of this film genre. Criticizing the hysteria around super-heroes, he is hunting human under the cape, the trauma behind the mask, the common trait merging the metaphor. Hence his decision, at the end (careful : spoiler), of killing his own creations. As a reminder to the principle of reality. Or a finger to the licensing business.
Glass, deep down, is David’s victory in wear and tear against Goliath. This of an author aware having a budget nine times lower to the last Avengers (40 millions dollars against more than 360 millions), who promotes trick to strength, intelligence to show, comment to action. As divertissement, it’s a disappointment. But for thickness, we still haven’t found anything better than Shyamalan.