The films of M. Night Shyamalan, with their shouty surprise endings—HE’S DEAD! IT’S A WILDLIFE PRESERVE! and my personal favorite, JUST THROW WATER ON THEM!—bring great pleasure to some and intense, groan-stifling agony to others. But even those in the first camp might have to work hard to love Glass, Shyamalan’s dopey dual sequel to the 2000 super-natural thriller Unbreakable and the 2016 multiple-personality hootenanny Split.
Glass takes place 19 years after Unbreakable, though it’s almost as if Shyamalan himself has been in the deep freeze just about that long, shaking himself awake just in time to slap together a convoluted plot. Bruce Willis returns as the superpower-enhanced vigilante crime fighter David Dunn, whom we first met in Unbreakable, now white-haired but still donning his magic rain poncho to find and dispatch baddies. Early in Glass, David captures Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), the loopy shape shifter from Split. But despite his heroism David is viewed as a threat himself. And so the two are tossed into an institution for the criminally insane, the same one where David’s old pal Mister Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), the brittle-boned comic-book expert who turned out to be a supervillain, has languished for nearly two decades. Psychologist Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) strides around the hospital in watercolor-hued cashmere outfits, fixing all three specimens in her classy, inscrutable gaze. What’s she up to? That’s for M. Night to know and you to find out.
Shyamalan’s deep thoughts this time around are supposedly a continuation of those he posited in Unbreakable: that comic books are mankind’s way of passing deep historical truths down through the ages. But the mythology he tries to build in Glass is rushed and sloppy; the surprise twist at the end is really just more of a damp wrinkle. Shyamalan believes so strongly in the dramatic impact of this trilogy that he almost makes you believe in it too—that’s his secret superpower. But the illusion is fragile. You don’t need a sixth sense to know you’re in for a letdown. The five you’ve got should be plenty.