Sunday, August 14, 2022

Reassess M. Night Shyamalan’s glass after a year without MCU

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As one of the few current filmmakers capable of attract crowds based largely on brand recognition, The most interesting and controversial M. Night Shyamalan movies – in particular his trilogy “Eastrail 177”, composed of Unbreakable, Split and Glass – are all linked by a neat sleight of hand. As with the work of Christopher Nolan or Jordan Peele, mainstream recognition and relevance has resulted from staying one step ahead of audience expectations while keeping your finger on the pulse of ongoing pop culture … even if we did not always realize it at the time. It is fascinating to consider how Shyamalan’s entirely original superhero trilogy, planned in its outline from the conception of the first film, not only exists separately from the behemoth of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that followed it, but is also inextricably linked to it. While rendered a mere footnote amid the devastation of COVID-19, going through an entire year without a single MCU theatrical release in 2020 only reinforces the unique dynamic between the two franchises and raises an intriguing hypothesis. : Would Glass have been received differently if it had been released after a year-long hiatus from the MCU, rather than a time when Marvel was at the center of superhero chatter?As each episode of the trilogy opened to mixed reactions (The weather has been extremely kind to Unbreakable and, despite some valid concerns, maybe also for Split), Glass might be the movie that, in retrospect, stands to gain the most from comparisons to the MCU.

Eliminate the “super” from “Superhero”

Time separated from Marvel’s origin stories makes it clear that the arcs of Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, Thor, Stephen Strange, Carol Danvers, and more are all variations of a similar theme. The focus is on naturally gifted people who take their superhero calls, live up to the potential of their powers, and never look back.

M. Night Shyamalan, however, does the exact opposite by folding the The Hero’s Journey at its breaking point. Vigilante “Overseer” David Dunn (Bruce Willis), evil genius Elijah “Mr. Glass ”Price (Samuel L. Jackson) and Kevin Wendell“ The Horde ”Crumb (James MacAvoy) all have abilities that they respectively ignored, misused, or attempted to suppress. They spend much of their anonymous lives – and most of the trilogy – struggling to find a purpose … something that Marvel characters typically embark on in their own films at the end of Act 1. .

For many, one of the most off-putting aspects of Glass is the way he strips the superhero concept to its bones, seemingly undermining what Unbreakable and Split have accomplished. Thanks to Sarah Paulson’s hugely persuasive psychiatrist Ellie Staple, much of the film tests the faith of our three main characters and pushes them to face the very thin line between belief and delusion. Every fantastic act we’ve witnessed in the previous films seems to have a daily explanation. Each character appears to have a plausible scientific justification for their supposedly superhuman abilities. Their entire existence, terrifying enough, could have no purpose.

Every M. Night Shyamalan Movie Rotten Tomatoes Score

If the MCU encourages audiences to live vicariously through its ambitious heroes, M. Night Shyamalan demands that we exercise a more introspective part of our brain. By making the characters doubt if they were really special, we wonder what we want from superheroes in the first place.

Although Dr. Staple is ultimately revealed to be a manipulative and anti-gas antagonist, each spectator must decide whether being slaughtered such a metatextual rabbit hole works for them or not. At the very least, these sequences put forth a powerful suggestion in a way that comic book movies are rarely interested in doing. Traditional superhero storytelling spends a lot of time and effort building worlds to make the impossible plausible. In stark contrast, Glass pulls the rug out from under us and dares to suggest that the impossible is, after all, just that.

But much like one of M. Glass’s storylines, the M. Night Shyamalan endgame here isn’t enough what it appears.

Break the unbreakable

In hindsight, the final act of glass serves as an encapsulation of the trilogy’s multifaceted relationship with the MCU. In order to orchestrate their escape from the prison at Staple Psychiatric Hospital, Mr. Glass forces David and the Horde to rely on their individual powers to escape, restoring their self-confidence in the process. In a more mainstream superhero movie, this self-realization at its lowest point would set the stage for an epic, climactic battle in which their exploits of heroism and villainy would finally get the recognition they deserved – a result that the script itself encourages us to anticipate.

At its most crucial moment, Glass doubles down by denying audiences what we thought we wanted.

At its most crucial moment, Glass doubles down by denying audiences what we thought we wanted. Instead of a scuffle atop Philadelphia’s tallest skyscraper – which is teased throughout the film – we have a disappointing skirmish in the hospital parking lot. Instead of a glorious moment of triumph, our three “supers” are unceremoniously killed. Apparently, for better or worse, the superhuman trilogy perspective is falling into place, and it couldn’t be more different than the MCU’s. Where is it?

In a roundabout way, Glass’s controversial ending signals when the two superhero properties begin to converge. On the one hand, Unbreakable can be seen as a forerunner ahead of its time of Iron Man – a realistic, grounded superhero origin story for a skeptical audience. On the other, Split came out at a time when Marvel’s shared universe experience was already in full swing … and almost in homage to Nick Fury (played by Samuel L. Jackson, ironically enough) opening the eyes of Tony Stark on a bigger world than ever. imagined, Shyamalan instantly broadened the scope of his own mini-universe with a truly shocking cameo from David Dunn. Then leave it to Glass to evoke the end of the cliffhanger of Avengers: Infinity War by destroying mercilessly all of his super people in the space of five minutes.

So why do this? Ultimately, Shyamalan had more on his mind than trampling his own iconic characters or subverting expectations just for the sake of it. Elijah’s plan was to capture the powers of David and the Horde on camera for all to see, proving their existence to an unbelieving world. As he explains in a final posthumous narration, “I believe that if everyone sees what becomes of a few people when they fully embrace their gifts, others will wake up. Belief in yourself is contagious. We give ourselves permission to be superheroes. “In the final scene, the superhumans of Shyamalan achieve a sense of immortality that very few cinematic heroes outside of James Mangold’s Logan, Tony Stark, or Nolan’s Bruce Wayne have come close. At a time when he’s become the exception rather than the rule, Glass’s real twist is his courage to deliver a definitive ending.

A lesson in inheritance

As radical as it sounds, Glass is starting to make more sense in light of a simple, if rather obvious, fact: these are superheroes through M. Night Shyamalan, not Disney. Understandably, the creative freedom at his disposal has allowed him to take certain risks that the MCU just isn’t capable of. Chief among these is the decision to end the entire Eastrail 177 trilogy by focusing on the supporting cast of non-motorized characters and raising questions about the legacy of David Dunn, Elijah Price and Kevin. Wendell Crumb.

Tellingly, the film’s emphasis on faith and belief is shown through the eyes of David’s son Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark), Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) and the victim-turned-friend. by Kevin, Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy). Shyamalan treats the loyalty, belief, and love that superhumans receive from their respective loved ones as “powers” ​​in their own right, allowing Kevin and Elijah to die in peace as David’s legacy continues. It is then entirely appropriate that Elijah entrusts the sensitive security images to these specific individuals and that they witness the effect this has on the world at large. Dressed in color combinations corresponding to their overpowered counterparts, it is evident that these mundane people are, in Elijah’s own words, “the main character set” who represent the purest distillations of heroism.Ultimately, it cannot be denied that glass is somehow an acquired taste whose ultimate legacy remains unknown. But in a world where our superhero movies are so locked into a few traditional approaches, the idea of ​​reevaluating Glass in a vacuum without an MCU is interesting. Does the Shyamalan experience have more wiggle room between it and more conventional superhero tales? At worst, it will continue to be a quirk that divides the search for its niche. At best, he’ll be inspired by three superhumans with unique flaws who ended up having a bigger impact than they ever could have imagined.


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