I finally took the time recently to watch Glass (2019), the final chapter in M. Night Shyamalan’s superhero trilogy which began with Unbreakable (2000) and Split (2016). It had its good moments, particularly in pretty much every scene involving James McAvoy, but ultimately it was filled with plot holes, bad pacing and a completely unsatisfying ending.
In fact, I almost titled this article, “Why M. Night Shyamalan Should Stop Making Movies.”
The following discussion of the movie contains major spoilers for the entire trilogy. You’ve been warned. If you haven’t seen the movie, you’ll be saving yourself wasted time and money by reading beyond this point. I can’t do anything about the investment you’ve made into Shyamalan’s story with the first two films. Sorry.
Since it builds off Unbreakable and Split, you have to know something about those two films.
In Unbreakable, David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is hounded by comic book aficionado Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) after the former survives a train wreck without a scratch. Price, who suffers from Brittle Bone Disease, spends the film convincing Dunn he has superpowers through a series of tests, only to reveal that Price caused the train wreck to ferret out someone like Dunn, the physical opposite of someone like Mr. Glass. One of those tests revealed that Dunn’s weakness is the possibility of being drowned, because water makes him weak. Dunn turns Glass in to the authorities and Price is committed to a mental institution for the criminally insane.
In Split, Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man with 24 personalities, abducts young high school girls who have never known suffering and kills them as the Beast. The latter personality possesses superhuman strength and the ability to climb walls and ceilings. His abduction of Casey Cooke and three other girls ends with Crumb on a mission to widen his serial killing spree and Cooke spared because the Beast saw the scars where she has cut herself over the fact that her uncle molested her. Cooke was also able to speak to the original personality, Kevin himself, by saying his full name three times, at which point we learned that Kevin had been suppressed by the other personalities fir two years.
Afterward in a diner, several people watch the news which notes that Crumb’s numerous personalities have earned him the nickname “The Horde”. Someone in the diner then notes the similarity to the case of a wheelchair-bound criminal incarcerated 15 years earlier who was also given a nickname she can’t quite recall. The man sitting next to her says, “Mr. Glass.” Of course, the man is David Dunn.
So that set up this version of the Unbreakable trilogy, if in fact it’s a trilogy.
In Glass, we learn that the Black Clover Society has dedicated itself to killing superhumans because of the damage and loss of life they inevitably create. They’ve been killing supers for 10,000 years or so. Even so, they have allowed the you-know-she’s-really-a-villain-from-moment-you-first-see-and-hate-her Dr. Ellie Staple to try a “more humane” approach of trying to convince supers they’re delusional about their abilities before killing them off.
Here is your first plot hole. They know Elijah Price aka Mr. Glass exists. They know he killed everyone on that train and that he committed two other acts of terrorism to find David. They knew where he was for 19 years and how dangerous he was. Why was he allowed to live? Why didn’t they discover David was a super, or at least try to ascertain whether he was two decades ago? Surely, Glass left a trail leading to David…
Now Dr. Staple manages to capture the Beast and David, whose superhero name is the Overseer, with the help of the police. They’re clearly ready for Crumb because they have a seizure-inducing light array to force him to change to a less dangerous personality. They are taken to Raven Hill Memorial, the psychiatric hospital where Glass is being kept. David’s cell is equipped with water jets. Kevin’s cell contains switch lights. Glass is suppressed by drugs and security cameras. We know he’s probably faking it from the second we see him. The bigger point is that they were prepared for both Kevin and David, but we are never told how Dr. Staple knew they were at the warehouse together. That’s a serious omission. It had a fan on one site saying Dunn’s capture was a happy accident, but then again why did they have a special room prepared for him at Raven Hill?
Dr. Staple then tries to convince these three that they’re ordinary. How would David even entertain that possibility? He’s been the Overseer for 19 years at that point. He is not only really strong, but also gets visions of people’s sins if he touches them. The movie spends way too long on this obvious red herring we know won’t pan out.
Just as it spends too long pretending as if Glass were in a drug-induced stupor. We’ve seen the movie trailer. We already know he teams up with the Beast. It’s a relief when it finally happens. Glass then taunts David. Telling him to break out of his cell with his superstrength and stop them before they blow up Osaka Tower. Meanwhile, Glass has convinced the Beast to square off with Dunn at the televised opening of Osaka Tower, to show the world that he has superpowers and that he’s more powerful than David.
Another red herring, but we’ll get to that.
David beats down the steel door to his room and goes to confront the villains in front of the hospital. The Beast and the Overseer battle it out. At one point the Beast tosses David into the water tank that feeds the jets in his cell. The Beasts dives on after to make sure he drowns. Instead of dying, David uses his strength (that he allegedly doesn’t have in water) to punch a hole in the side of the tank. Dr. Staple has insinuated that David only thought water made him weak. David’s son gets the Beast to turn on Glass by revealing that Kevin’s father was also on the train Glass destroyed to find David, meaning he killed Kevin’s father. Glass is mortally punished.
This is another plot hole. Mr. Glass’ involvement in the train wreck is well-known for over 19 years at this point. Kevin should’ve recognized Glass and what he did the second he laid eyes on him. It would’ve made for a more plausible and interesting movie if Glass had to use his mind to keep the Beast from killing him while working out their escape.
Suddenly things go south. A man with a Black Clover tattoo puts David’s face in a shallow puddle and drowns him. Glass dies from his injuries. Casey Cooke convinces Kevin to emerge with a hug (is this The Santa Clause 3??), at which point a sniper kills him. The Black Clover Society, M. Night Shyamalan’s apparent stab at his trademark twist, wins. Until later when Mr. Glass’ true master plan, if you can call it that, unfolds. He arranged for the security feeds meant to monitor him to ge sent to his mother after his death. She, along with Casey and David’s son release the clips to social media where it becomes a big news story telling the world of the existence of supers and the Black Clover Society.
This is a weak and disappointing ending. As many critics have pointed out, this is a stupid master plan because it is doubtful the amateurish looking security feeds would have that much impact on the incredulous internet.
Also, why didn’t David realize that his ability to break the walls of the water tank… from inside… under the water… while fighting the Beast… meant that he still had superstrength enough to stop his murderer? Shyamalan literally cocked Chekhov’s Gun and never fired it. That is crap storytelling. Or maybe we’re expecting too much from a man who relies mostly on gimmicky twist endings to secure his reputation as a filmmaker.
The last plot hole is Glass’ assurance that this is an origin story. Whose? All of the heroes and villains are dead, except Dr. Staple… and her only superpower is being unlikable. The Black Clover Society? Yawn. Literally no one emerges. claims “it’s an origin story of a new age on earth: the age of superheroes and villains,” but why would I care about that when Shyamalan botched this film so badly and openly states he has no intention of making more films in this series?
After watching Glass, I dearly wish he’d said he had no intention of making ANY films ever again.