The up and down filmmaking career of M. Night Shyamalan has been trending up the past few years. The Philadelphia-based director got the ball rolling again with 2015’s The Visit, a horror film pitting siblings against their grandparents that combined mystery, suspense and horror. Shyamalan then followed that surprisingly good entry the next year with Split, a psychological thriller that showed off actor James McAvoy’s incredible diversity and range (and delivered one of the year’s more refreshing twists). As you can imagine Shyamalan, who was anointed the next Spielberg, loves to keep audiences second guessing.

Split’s big reveal serves as prelude to Glass, which many know is third part of a trilogy that began with 2000’s Unbreakable. Shyamalan has created his own superhero world, incorporating comic book tropes within a real world setting, proving the Academy Award nominated director has the gumption to take risks.

Glass stars Bruce Willis, James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlayne Woodard, Sarah Paulson and Samuel L. Jackson. Willis and Jackson reprise their Unbreakable roles, with Glass taking place 19 years after those events. David Dunn (Willis) runs a home security store with his son, Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark). Of course, David has superhuman strength, so he moonlights as a vigilante, beating up low level crooks and bad guys.

Glass takes place 2-3 years after the events in Split, and David is on the lookout for Kevin Wendell Crumb (McAvoy), the man with multiple personalities. David is mainly worried about The Beast, Kevin’s most violent and unforgiving persona, whose strength is beyond human comprehension. Kevin still has a penchant of kidnapping teenage girls, and it just so happens four have gone missing. With Joseph acting as his handler, David walks the Philadelphia streets searching for Kevin and the missing girls.

Standing in David’s way are the police and Dr. Ellie Staple (Paulson), a psychiatrist who specializes in treating patients with delusions of grandeur. Basically, she studies people claiming to be superheroes and tries to talk them into accepting they’re not. After being captured during a confrontation with The Beast, David and Kevin are committed to an institution where Ellie can observe and treat them, but you’ll never guess who else is residing there, too.

Admittedly, Glass is slow for the first hour and change, but it picks up once Mr. Glass and The Beast agree to team up. I think Shyamalan wanted to provide some exposition, but it wasn’t necessary (considering Unbreakable and Split provided enough already. That choice makes the first act (and part of the second act) a slog to get through, and its early mood could induce some drowsiness. Once things pick up, though, it gets interesting… and entertaining.

Another drawback is some of the dialogue is forgettable. Shyamalan is a fantastic director with a good eye and a knack for creating palpable tension. But his writing, even dialogue he’s created in past efforts, is bland. Not all of it is bad, but there are certainly some eye rolling scenes.

As in Split, the best performance comes from McAvoy. He is a scene-stealer and, even though Glass isn’t as character driven - McAvoy provides some depth to his Kevin Wendell Crumb. Opposite McAvoy are Willis and Jackson, neither of whom have much screen time. They make the most of it despite their story arcs almost completely defined 19 years ago. Taylor-Joy is good, but her Casey was unnecessary. Finally, Paulson, who’s delightful in everything she’s done, is excellent here (even though Ellie isn’t a flashy role). I do have a problem with the type of characters she’s played, including this one because… well, I shouldn’t say any more.

If nothing else, Glass is a competently-made film that looks more polished than its $20 million budget suggests. Shyamalan is a big reason for that – his cinematography is sharp (thanks to cinematographer Mike Gioulakis), colorful to the point of being lush.

The score is haunting - we can thank West Dylan Thordson for that. He apparently combined his score from Split with James Newton Howard’s score for Unbreakable. The mash up is memorable and gives many scenes more gravitas.

One of the biggest obstacles I anticipated with Glass was the tone M. Night would opt to provide. Unbreakable is slow and moody, and is more mystery than traditional superhero film; whereas Split is the more horrific of the two, being a psychological thriller that lines up better with films like Se7en and The Silence of the Lambs than its predecessor. M. Night went both ways – the first half being the moody portion reminiscent of Unbreakable, and the second half more reflective of Split’s anarchy.

Leading up to opening night, there have been rather disparaging reviews for M. Night’s latest. It’s not as good as Split but it’s entertaining and gives its three leads much-needed closure. Whether or not viewers will agree with their paths remains to be seen (i.e., wait, that’s it?!!?!?), but Shyamalan, on his own terms, has built a fantasy world with real world stakes that rely heavily on comic book tropes. In that sense, Glass is more meta than I anticipated and comes a little too late (wait for me, Marvel!) in the superhero genre race (that is one complaint I’ve read which I sadly agree with). Still this is a good film, and if you’ve already seen Unbreakable and Split this will be worth your time.

3.5 stars out of 5

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