This past weekend I had the chance to attend the first ever M. Night Shyamalanthon, presented by Universal Pictures in partnership with Beyond Fest and American Cinematheque. This event was a back-to-back-to-back screening of M. Night’s “Eastrail 177 Trilogy” which included 2000’s Unbreakable, 2016’s Split, and the first American public screening of the third chapter, Glass. Along with the screening I attended, the Alamo Drafthouse was also participating in this marathon of film in 25 theaters across the country, which included an exclusive conversation with M. Night Shyamalan that was broadcasted live from Alamo Drafthouse Brooklyn into all participating Alamo Drafthouse theaters.
I had an inkling that this event would be interesting due to the fact that I had already seen Glass and wasn’t a huge fan of Unbreakable. I was intrigued to see if my views on the franchise as a whole would change once seeing them back-to-back-to-back and I’m happy to report that not only did they drastically shift, but that I also owe M. Night Shyamalan an apology for my critique on Glass. What he has created with this trilogy is something quite astounding, and if you take the time to watch them all together, it’s a story that will leave a profound impact on the viewer.
The first film that was presented was 2000’s Unbreakable, a movie that I have never truly been a fan of. For those not familiar with the film, it centers around a man named David Dunn (Bruce Willis) who learns something extraordinary about himself following a devastating train accident. The film also stars Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass, a man who was born with Type 1 osteogenesis imperfecta, a rare disease that makes his bones incredibly fragile. The film was M. Night’s follow-up to The Sixth Sense (1999), and though many consider it to be his masterpiece, it received luke-warm reviews upon its release. The film deals heavily within the confines of the comic book world, specifically that of heroes and villains, and at the age of 16, this was not something I found myself into. Furthermore, I saw this film with my dad, who also wasn’t a fan, and sadly passed away 2 years later. Ever since then I’ve always had a negative connection towards the film that I hadn’t been able to shake. However, I decided to put all that baggage on the backburner and watch Unbreakable in a new light. This allowed me to have a much better appreciation for the film as well as a deeper understanding of the origin story of these two characters.
Next up to bat was Split, a film that many consider to be M. Night’s return to his true form of filmmaking. When Split was first released, no one knew that it was going to be tied to Unbreakable, which is why the ending was such a shock for most people as it clearly defined Split as being a film that was taking place inside the Unbreakable universe. I absolutely adore this film and if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably seen me post countless times about how I fully believe James McAvoy should have been nominated for an Oscar for this performance. For those not familiar with this film, it centers around a man named Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy) who is diagnosed with 23 distinct personalities and kidnaps three girls who must try to escape before the horrifying emergence of his 24th personality. I think why I was so drawn to this film originally was because it had a more horror element to it as opposed to the comic book heavy, Unbreakable. However, watching this film directly after Unbreakable allowed me to pick up on a slew of details and nuances that I never noticed before. A lot of these missed moments came from dialogue between James McAvoy’s character(s) and his therapist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley). Out of all the films in this trilogy, Split is still my favorite and the only one that I think works the best as a stand-alone film.
All that said, what we are really here to talk about, though, is Glass. As many of you have already probably seen, the reception to this third film hasn’t been the kindest, with many calling it M. Night’s worst film. I was never in that same boat, though my first viewing left a lot to be desired, but I never thought it was the worst film of his career. However, my whole perspective of the film has since changed after watching the previous two films back-to-back. What I originally thought was a dull and disappointing ending, held much more power and emotion than the first go-around. In Glass, we are reacquainted with David Dunn who has fully embraced his supernatural abilities and is on the prowl for The Beast, the 24th personality that has fully emerged from Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy). Though the majority of the film pits these two together, Elijah/Mr. Glass is never far behind as the evil mastermind. I can’t stress enough how important it is to watch all three of these films in a row. Not only do you pick up on details that could easily be missed, but it brings the whole trilogy full circle in a way that was surprising and unique. What I found was that I truly enjoyed what M. Night was bringing to the table because these were superheroes that were easily relatable, who had real-life flaws, and who could be destroyed. Does this movie work well as a standalone film? No, I don’t believe so, but as the third film in the trilogy it is a necessity. Along with our main cast converging for the film, we also see the return of Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy, Split) and Joseph Dunn (Spencer Treat Clark, Unbreakable), both pivotal characters to that of Kevin and David. Without giving away anything, I do believe there is an even bigger idea at play, but time will only tell. We are also introduced to Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story) which, by the end of the movie, made me incredibly curious about her origin story.
Glass is going to be divisive and maybe there’s nothing wrong with that. Most M. Night films come with extreme reactions of praise or hate and Glass is no different. I will admit that I was quick to dismiss this film due to not taking the time to revisit Unbreakable and Split, but now having done so, I have a much deeper appreciation for the amount of work that M. Night has put into his trilogy. It’s truly a work of art and I think those that end up loving the film will see it that way as well. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to attend this event, not only because I got to see Glass again, but because I gained a new perspective on a franchise that I was quick to dismiss. As one of my first events with Beyond Fest, I loved what they did during the brief intermissions we were given as it helped in hyping up the audience for what was to come. We also got the chance to hear M. Night talk about his latest film and the trials and tribulations he has faced in getting it made, which was incredibly enlightening. If I could give you some advice in regards to Glass it would be what I have been reiterating this entire time, which is to not only give it a chance, but to take the time to revisit the other films prior so that you don’t make the same mistake that I did. I don’t know where M. Night will go from here, but I can only hope that this isn’t the end of his superhero franchise.
GLASS will arrive in theaters January 18, 2019 from Universal Pictures.