a member of a self-appointed group of citizens who undertake law enforcement in their community without legal authority, typically because the legal agencies are thought to be inadequate._________________________________________________________
M. Night Shyamalan’s genius sometimes sacrifices the potential of a film to be great so that the director can focus on a particular storyline he chooses to tell. It’s actually a courageous move and though it diminishes what Glass could have been, he’s smart enough to give – at least in the case of this motion picture – enough energy and intrigue to make it (potentially) a commercial success. Multiple other attempts by the director did not fare as well, and at an early stage prior to release, this writer is assuming Glass will dominate at the box office.
Bruce Willis returns as the guardian angel/vigilante David Dunn (posing the immediate question, David done what?)- an extreme character who is a one man version of New York’s The Guardian Angels group founded in 1979 (The Guardian Angels is a non-profit international volunteer organization of unarmed crime-prevention vigilantes.) Shyamalan doesn’t hit you over the head with the obvious, Willis as a haunted “Spiderman” character, being hounded rather than praised, a more forceful version of Willis’ other role as a guardian angel, Malcolm Crowe, in Shyamalan’s masterpiece, The Sixth Sense.
Unbreakable (2000) wasn’t an accurate title for this guardian angel, though, as water could destroy “the wicked witch” in the Wizard of Oz, water is the kryptonite in this “Eastrail #177 train” trilogy – not to mention the fact the Mr. Unbreakable could also be broken down mentally, and is, by the “Mr.Stryker” of X-Men infamy here, psychiatrist Dr. Ellie Staple. Note that the Eastrail #177 train detonation is the terrorist act by Mr. Glass that finally discovered / uncovered David Dunn and his unique powers.
The references to X-Men abound, not the least of which is having actor James McAvoy, the young Professor X from X-Men, playing “the beast” (Hank McCoy, Nicholas Hoult’s character in X-Men,) and the word Marvel squarely on the cover of Philadelphia magazine. The result is that the combination of Unbreakable, Split and Glass analyze the philosophical aspect of comic books, the unofficial trademark of the late Stan Lee’s work in making political and spiritual statements in the same style that Gene Rodenberry put in the TV series Star Trek, contemporaneous, of course, to what Marvel did in the 1960s and up to today. M. Night Shyamalan infuses those aspects of storytelling into this dark exploration of the mind, and for audiences who embrace the cerebral, it can be a Rorschach test of not only the members of the audience, but the many cultures on our planet as well.
Since the Rorschach test is “a psychological test in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both,” this writer will bare all and give his own interpretation of Shyamalan’s impact on him.
32 year old Spencer Treat Clark is the subtle central figure in Glass, the victim. As Joseph Dunn, son of the vigilante, the film circles around him, Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Weoodard, “Sister Peg” in the Law and Order: SVU series,) known simply as “Elijah’s mother” in both Unbreakable and Glass – and boy does the silver wig make the 65-year old actress look like 79, and Anya Taylor-Joy from Split as Casey Cooke. They are the three most victimized by the chaos, though Elijah’s mother turns out to be an accomplice, calling her sons’ hundreds of murders “spectacular,” Taylor-Joy becomes the Judas Goat – leading the sheep to slaughter while its own life is spared. Elijah’s mother “Mrs. Price,” Joseph Dunn and Casey Cooke have to deal with the wreckage, but it is Joseph Dunn who pays the highest “price” (no pun intended, really, but perhaps a subliminal plot by director/writer Shyamalan.) Joseph Dunn is orphaned by the cruelty of the psychiatrist’s manipulations (again, Stryker from X-Men and his obsession with destroying the mutants, a thin disguise for homosexuality in X-Men) and he’s left to pick up the pieces through no fault of his own.
It’s hard not to take it personal when Shyamalan focuses the camera on the name “Joseph” on the bedroom door, and the word “Vigilante” in the press clippings. And therein is my Rorschach test, those who know me well have read my political leanings and can see why I take it personal. And what members of the audience can relate to the multiple personalities of Kevin Wendell Crumb’s emerging facets: his many distinct individuals who can hug you and hold you dear one day as the loving side emerges, while punching out the TV screen in the monitoring room, on a moment’s notice. Those very TV screens – the windows to the cameras that Mr. Glass secretly used to expose psychiatrist Ellie Staple and her ill-advised campaign, an essential element of the entire film – comic books transitioning from pulp and paper to the movie theaters. The beast engaging in one of the most famous lines of comic book lore “Hulk Smash” potentially smashing the show you’ve been waiting to see: Glass vs Beast vs. Vigilante. The rest of us being mere pawns. The Beast is as much a victim as Joseph Dunn, powers beyond their control using them for their own purposes disguised as benevolence -that being the fixated shrink, Ms. Ellie Staple.
Glass is the metaphor for happenstance, but there are no coincidences. Glass manipulates the beast and the victim, and all the beauty (Spencer Treat Clark and James McAvoy the most vulnerable, and beautiful, men in the film) is crushed by the play, and the parts that they are forced to play.
Glass is a Rorschach test, and it may take years for the public to get it and figure it out. This fan of comic books and movies has made a cottage industry of figuring out the plots before the show has come to its conclusion, which is, that we are all victims and should recognize that and fight the forces of evil…together. It’s the only logical solution.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.