Every time I sit down with a story of any kind – book, movie, game, etc. – I have expectations. Everyone does. Those expectations will be based on things we heard, read, or saw about the story before beginning it.
In the case of the movie Glass, I needed no hype. Unbreakable has always been one of my favorite movies ever. The Lord of the Rings trilogy tops all, of course, but if I’m going to sit down and watch one single movie in my collection, it’s probably going to be Unbreakable. (I could write another lengthy explanation for why that is true, but that’s not the point of this blog post, so just accept it and we’ll move on.) So when I heard about the ending of Split, and then that a new movie was coming that was the long-awaited-and-dreamed-of actual sequel to Unbreakable… I needed no hype. I was ready.
I saw that the critics hated it. No big news there. Critics have hated everything Shyamalan has directed since The Sixth Sense. Even Unbreakable got mixed reviews. I ignored them and went to see for myself.
My expectations were not met. The movie had two big flaws – one excusable, and one… not. The first one is a movie problem. But the second is a storytelling problem. Without delving into deep spoilers, here are my problems:
- The music. James Newton Howard’s original score for Unbreakable is beautiful. I listen to it all the time. When the familiar theme started playing at the end of Split, I got excited. I love the music almost as much as I love the story itself. Sadly, Howard did not compose the music for Glass. Was he not available? Does he cost too much now? Instead, the music was done by West Dylan Thordson, completely unknown to me. And after reviewing his credits on IMDB… he remains completely unknown to me. The Unbreakable music did show up in the movie a couple of times, but only in flashback scenes (which were actually deleted scenes from the first movie).Howard’s score for Unbreakable is moody, yet quietly uplifting. In the climax, it swells to triumphant, yet still maintaining an element of melancholy. It’s brilliant. The Glass score is… not. It’s filled with standard horror music tropes in a misguided attempt to build tension and sound creepy. When the Unbreakable music slips in, it’s so, so much better.
Ultimately, I can forgive the music if the story is brilliant. But that brings me to the second problem.
- The missing character arc. I’m talking about David Dunn. You know, the hero of Unbreakable? The protagonist? The new movie seems to be primarily about him at first. (In fact, it’s kind of odd that a movie titled Glass doesn’t give its title character a single line of dialogue until at least halfway through!) It seems to be setting him up for a big, important thing at the end… and then it doesn’t. Without giving away the ending, let’s just say that David doesn’t get a satisfying conclusion to his character arc. He really doesn’t even have a character arc. He’s just there to look confused and fight the bad guys. Bruce Willis may have had more acting to do in his cameo appearance in The Lego Movie 2. Since I so loved his character development in Unbreakable, I was very disappointed in this.
Now to be clear – character arcs are not always necessary, despite what Peter Jackson says. Some characters are intended to be icons, unchanging. And that’s okay, when done right. But this movie repeatedly hints at a character arc for David, then never follows up on it.
By necessity, David is much older in this movie. His son Joseph is all grown up. So he’s been sort of a hidden superhero for many, many years. And we didn’t get to see any of that. There are some brief references to it, but that’s all. Going from Unbreakable to Glass is like reading the first issue of a comic book series, and then the final issue of that same series… without reading anything in between! Or imagine reading the first few chapters of Harry Potter… and then skipping to the last few chapters of the seventh book, without reading anything in between. A lot has changed, but you don’t know why. Glass tries to throw in explanations of those changes, but they feel forced.
They’re forced because ultimately, it seems that the continuation of David Dunn’s story isn’t the story that M. Night Shyamalan wanted to tell. He wanted to conclude the story he began in Split, drag in the connection to Unbreakable, and point out the brilliance of mastermind Mr. Glass. He accomplished all of that. But for those of us who wanted a real sequel to the original story of Unbreakable, it feels less than acceptable.
I could be wrong. I’ll watch it again when it’s finished its theatrical run. Maybe it’s better than I’m thinking right now. We’ll see whether I end up being satisfied at this conclusion to one of my favorite stories, or whether I decide to stick with my own head canon and ignore this movie altogether.