Unbreakable is not only one of my favorite movies from 2000, a pretty good year for movies, it is my favorite movie from director M. Night Shyamalan.
Unfortunately, most people didn’t agree. Coming off his 1999 blockbuster, even though Shyamalan reunited with star Bruce Willis for Unbreakable, the weak box office meant there would be no sequel for the rare movie that deserved one.
Unbreakable is, as Shyamalan himself described, the first act of a superhero origin story told over the course of a feature length film. In nuts-and-bolts terms, Shyamalan took 23 minutes of story and spread it out over 106 minutes.
And it worked. At least it did for me, and did so beautifully. Unbreakable’s pacing isn’t slow, it’s deliberate and lovely and moving and riveting. Bruce Willis plays David Dunn, a security guard living in Philadelphia whose marriage is falling apart. After he walks out of a train wreck, not only as the sole survivor but without a scratch, he’s visited by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a man crippled by a terrible bone disease who believes Dunn has superpowers.
Unbreakable ends where the second act of origin movies begin — with Dunn realizing he is indeed imbued with superpowers and the introduction of the super-villain.
But I was fine without the trilogy Shyamalan promised two decades ago. Unbreakable is perfect as a standalone, as one of those movies that allows you to enjoy the pleasant exercise of filling in the blanks using your own imagination.
Anyway, the years passed, Shyamalan lost his storytelling mojo and box office prowess, but he still figured out a way to make Unbreakable 2, in a sneaky and admittedly ingenious way.
Whereas Unbreakable cost $75 million to produce all those years ago, in 2016 Shyamalan wrote and directed Split for a mere $9 million, and surprised everyone, not only with a $280 million worldwide gross, but a closing scene with Willis’s David Dunn that tied his new hit into the Unbreakable universe.
And so, Glass was green-lit, which completes the promised Unbreakable trilogy, and what a terrible disappointment it is.
I wasn’t a big fan of Split, but Glass is much worse, even with the presence of Willis and Jackson.
Whereas Unbreakable is deliberately paced and beautifully structured, Glass is ponderous, repetitive, and horribly structured. Almost nothing happens during its bloated 129-minute runtime, except James McAvoy’s exhausting and tedious showing off his incredibly-amazingly-awesome acting skills using the split personality of his tiresome Split character, Kevin Wendell Crumb aka The Horde aka The Beast aka please shoot me before he does it again.
And unfortunately, McAvoy is the star of Glass, which means Willis and Jackson inexplicably disappear for very long periods of time.
When the three men do finally meet it’s during “therapy sessions” that are impossibly dull (considering the starpower) and repetitive.
Throughout, we’re promised a huge skyscraper finale that never arrives. Instead we’re treated to an overlong and poorly choreographed battle that includes a ton of exposition and wild coincidences. Oh, and it all takes place in … a parking lot.
And I hated the ending. Good God, I hate what happened to Dunn and Elijah.
Actually, I hated all three endings.
Shyamalan, who is a terrific director, just can’t stop trying to regain his crown as the King of Breathtaking Twist Endings, and so we get two here that… Well, considering how bad Glass is, the promise of a sequel and the expanding of the Unbreakable universe feels more like a threat.
This is a movie that completely wastes Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson (which should be a felony) and not only fails to pay off on the two decade promise of Unbreakable, it fails to pay off its own promise.
The Glass Blu-ray (with a ton of extra features) is available for pre-order and hits store shelves on April 16.
Corrected McAvoy’s name. My apologies. These guys all blend together.