SDCC: Will Shyamalan’s ‘Glass’ save or shatter?

Next year's 'Glass' reunites some of M. Night Shyamalan's key characters, but what will it unlock his reputation?

M. Night Shyamalan burst onto the scene with 1999’s superb The Sixth Sense, still considered a classic slice of cinema.  Much was predicted for the writer / director but his 2000 follow-up, Unbreakable – also featuring Bruce Willis, now alongside Samuel L. Jackson – was not quite what was expected. However the story of an ordinary person finding out they cannot be physically hurt was seen as an interesting take on a genre that often went to more predictable ‘super-hero’ templates and was a slow-burn, if initially  under-appreciated release.  Shyamalan’s next movies had decidedly mixed results with critics noting that they seemed to rely on the now signature ‘twists’ in their climax.  Signs (2002) and The Village (2004) had star names attached but quite obvious flaws in their internal logic. 2006’s The Lady in the Water was more whimsical but didn’t do well at the box-office and 2008’s The Happening was mauled by almost every critic.  When these were followed by the derided The Last Airbender (2010) and the forgettable After Earth (2013) the general opinion seemed to be that Shyamalan had been a talented one-trick pony and his insistence that he be in full control, writing and directing almost all his projects to suit his own tastes, had done him no favours.

2016’s Split had the distinction of getting a lot of attention from reviewers. Some criticised what seemed like an almost exploitative look at multiple-personalities, with James McAvoy positively chewing the scenery as a range of characters trapped in the same ‘Barry’ body. McAvoy’s character was holding several girls hostage and they needed to find a way to escape from their unstable, unpredictable captor and his various whims.  But it was the ending moments of the film that caught most people off guard  with (spoiler warning)……………………. the appearance of Willis’ David Dunn and the revelation that the Split story was taking place in the same universe as Unbreakable. Shyamalan simultaneously announced that he had plans to make a film that would bring together Willis, McAvoy and Samuel L. Jackson’s Mr Glass in one film…. and this weekend’ Glass‘ got its trailer at the SDCC.

Though it’s not clear why Dunn, Glass and Barry/Beast seem to be in a mental hospital during the trailer, this will be the first time all three characters have been on screen at the same time and the idea that Sarah Paulson’s doctor is treating people she says ‘believe’ they have super-powers rather than actually have them is a different angle. Anna Taylor-Joy also reprises her role as Casey Cooke from Split, adding to the continuity factors.

Will Glass deliver a full beverage of horrors or only be half-full of ideas?  That’s the question that may or may not be fully answered when the film is released in January 2019.