Mission Lab

REVIEW: ‘Glass’ delivers a muddled moral message about superheroes, talents

January 18th, 2019 / By: Michael Foust / comments

REVIEW: ‘Glass’ delivers a muddled moral message about superheroes, talents

Credit Universal

David Dunn is an unassuming middle-aged man who runs a home security system during the day and dons a cape-like poncho to fight crime at night.

That’s when he becomes the “Overseer,” a shadowy figure with super strength who makes headlines for his good deeds but is viewed with suspicion by the Philadelphia police, who consider him a vigilante. They want him in jail.

That threat of arrest, though, doesn’t prevent Dunn from trying to solve the city’s latest crime: the kidnapping of four cheerleaders by a crazed man known as the “Beast,” who has multiple personalities and has killed several people.

Dunn and his son, Joseph, believe they can pinpoint the Beast’s location by using police records, a computer program, and a ton of detective work.

Their hard work pays off one day when Dunn finds the Beast’s abandoned warehouse, sets the cheerleaders free, and goes “mano a mano” against this evil villain.

But then the plan goes awry. The police show up and surround Dunn and the Beast. Both are arrested and committed to the psychiatric ward, where they will be studied by a doctor—Ellie Staple—who believes they have severe mental problems. She also thinks the two men are wrong in their conviction that they have super strength.

Superheroes, she insists, don’t exist.

The film Glass (PG-13) opens this weekend, completing the trilogy by writer/director M. Night Shyamalan that began with sci-fi/drama film Unbreakable (2000) and continued with the thriller Split (2016). It stars Bruce Willis (Die Hard) as Dunn, James McAvoy (Split) as Kevin Wendell Crumb/the Beast, Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s Eight) as Staple, and Samuel L. Jackson (Avengers series) as Elijah Price.

The film is part-superhero film and part-thriller, but it’s mostly just weird and dull.

Dunn, the Beast and Price all have extraordinary talents (or is it powers?) and believe they are superheroes, yet Staple refuses to acknowledge their abilities. Everything, she says, has a natural explanation.    

Glass has the surprising/shocking ending that Shyamalan’s films are known for, but it also has a muddled message about talents and everyday superheroes -- even though those are supposedly the film’s major themes.

There’s also this: Much of the action in the film’s final scenes takes place outside, in the daytime, which lessens the hair-raising potential. There’s a reason thrillers and horror films often take place at night. They’re just scarier that way. At times, the outdoor scenes in Glass border on goofy.

Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!

(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)

Violence/Disturbing

Moderate/extreme. The opening scene shows Kevin holding the four cheerleaders hostage in a warehouse; they’re hands are chained. We hear Dunn, off screen, beat up two young men. Kevin turns into the Beast and fights the Overseer; the battle is tame but still violent. We see a flashback scene of Kevin being threatened by his mother; she approaches him with a hot iron but the scene quickly cuts way. The Beast squeezes a man and breaks his back; we hear the sound of it. Price slits a man’s throat with glass. (We see it from behind and later see the body.) Someone is shot in the stomach. Several people die. The film’s most troubling aspect involves Kevin’s split personalities—he has around 20 in this movie—and his transformation into the Beast, which looks nothing short of a muscular man who is possessed. He growls like a dog. He walks on ceilings and walls. It’s eerie.

Sexuality/Sensuality/Nudity

None. Although one of Kevin’s personalities is a gay man who flirts with a male worker.

Coarse Language

Moderate. About 13 coarse words: A-- (5), b--ch (2), s--t (2), p---y (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1), b---ard (1), GD (1).

Other Positive Elements

David and his son are close and care for one another. We also see people reach out to Price and Kevin, despite their violent past.

Other Stuff You Might Want To Know

David is a widower whose wife died of cancer.

Life Lessons

Among the film’s major messages is the importance of a child’s upbringing and/or the negative impact that trauma can have on one’s life. Kevin/the Beast was abused as a child and, supposedly, developed his multiple personalities as a way to repress his memories. Dunn was bullied as a child and nearly drowned, and then later in life survived a train wreck that killed every other passenger. Price was born with a debilitating bone condition and was involved in a fair ride accident at a young age. Shyamalan wants us to feel compassion for the men, but with the exception of Dunn, it doesn’t happen. That’s because the violence and flesh-eating stuff overshadows the brief flashback-to-childhood scenes we watch. Speaking of that ...

Worldview/Application

Shyamalan also wants Glass to help people consider the “extraordinary things” all of us can do. In other words, we have superhero-like skills, yet “we can be talked out of” believing it is so (as happens in Glass) he told USA Today.

Glass, though, is an odd way to convey that message. Outside of David Dunn—who is a good guy and who does act like an average-man superhero—none of the other so-called superheroes are inspiring. In fact, they’re appalling. Price slits a man’s throat with a large shard of glass. The Beast breaks a man’s back, kills another man, and then begins eating human flesh. (In Split, he’s even more animal-like.) Once again: Why am I supposed to be inspired by these out-of-control murderers?

Scripture (Matthew 25:14-30) teaches that we all have talents and—in a sense—we all can do extraordinary things through God’s power. That’s definitely true.    

Glass ends with a dialogue about talents and superheroes that would make sense at the end of, say, Spider-Man. But not at the end of Glass.

I enjoy movies that leave me with a reason to be hopeful about the world. Glass doesn’t do that.

What Works

David Dunn as a superhero. McAvoy is impressive.

What Doesn’t

The movie’s promotion of Kevin and Price as superheroes.

Discussion Questions

  1. Did you consider Glass a superhero film?
  2. Did you feel sympathy for Kevin and Elijah Price? Why or why not?
  3. How can a child’s upbringing impact (both negatively positively) their adult life? Can it turn them into a so-called monster?
  4. Did you like the movie’s ending? Why or why not?

Entertainment rating: 2 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and language.