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Movie Review

Some people believe that they're heroes with extraordinary powers. But Dr. Ellie Staple calls that idea a comic book-fueled delusion of grandeur. She's convinced, in fact, that such fantasies often arise out traumas from deluded people's painful childhoods.

Dr. Staple has become quite famous for her theory. Because of that, she's been given the opportunity to work with three very special cases.

Kevin Crumb is a murderer with some 23 distinct personalities. One of those transforms Kevin into a hulking, vein-popping, wall-climbing killer that his other personalities call the Beast. But really, isn't it all just an amazing feat of self-delusion stemming from the man's abuse at the hands of his mother as a child? Dr. Staple tries to convince him. (Or, perhaps more accurately, them, as she talks to the likes of Patricia, Hedwig, Barry, Jade, Orwell, Heinrich or Norma—just a few of the personalities who manifest through the young man.)

The second subject is David Dunn. He nearly drowned as a boy. And because of this near-death experience, this now gray-haired man has not only convinced himself that he is physically indestructible, but also that he is super strong and has the ability to psychically sense when someone is a villain. (It's a claim that has some validity, however, as David was the sole survivor of a horrific train crash many years before.)

The third subject, Elijah Price, or Mr. Glass as he calls himself, is an unfortunate elderly man plagued with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease that cause his limbs to shatter at the slightest impact. In spite of his physical infirmities, or more likely because of them, the hyper-intelligent mastermind is arguably the most dangerous and disturbed of the three. He wholeheartedly believes that comic books have chronicled the existence of powered-up heroes and villains, like him and his fellow inmates, for decades.

Dr. Staple is having none of it. She employs logic and science to refute these damaged patients' superhero delusions. She prods them to see that the "facts" they have been basing their beliefs on are completely false. And in the cases of Kevin and David, they're beginning to wonder if she's right.

Mr. Glass, however, isn't convinced. So he may soon require a … procedure on his brain to make him more mentally malleable. A simple, but very effective procedure.

What this self-assured psychologist doesn't realize, however, is that Mr. Glass—who's drugged most of the time to keep him from causing trouble—has plans of his own. He's quietly working on a plan to stoke the Beast into slaughtering rage and to send David Dunn out to rescue thousands from the man's superhuman fury. If this imbecilic doctor wants to see some proof of who the three of them really are, he'll give it to her.

Then the whole world will witness what real superpower looks like.

Positive Elements

Glass brims with philosophical ideas, themes that this complex story invites viewers to wrestle with—especially when it comes to questions of belief.

Mr. Glass, for instance, has no qualms about hurting others, if it suits his purposes—which is obviously not a good thing. But he also believes that humanity can be encouraged to see the greatness that potentially lives within each person (though especially people with superhuman abilities).

On the opposing side, David Dunn is an upright guy who knows only one righteous path. He will do whatever it takes and pay any price to save those in danger. David's young adult son, Joseph, is deeply loyal to his father and (somewhat ironically) often tries to protect him.

Kevin Crumb, for his part, is a man at odds with himself. His personalities range from pure animal rage to individuals who have no taste for the evil actions they're forced to be a part of. Within his fractured mind, various personalities seek to dominate and control him and the others—though there's a spark of hope that perhaps one day Kevin's mind might be whole again.

In this light, we're asked to consider the difficulties of reaching out to the broken people in the world. The film paints in shades of gray instead of absolute moral black and white, prodding us to grapple with the fact that some complex situations can't easily be boiled down. We're also challenged to see the value of every life. At one point, we hear one character proclaim, "I wasn't a mistake."

One young woman, who believes in that value as well, goes out of her way to reach out to an emotionally damaged character in the hope of breaking through to him. We see her efforts bear fruit.

Ultimately the film declares that believing in yourself, even in the face of harsh criticism, can make a difference in the world. (Never mind that the difference that Mr. Glass makes is, in many ways, pretty negative … something the movie doesn't want us to spend too much time fixating upon.)

Spiritual Content

The story doesn't examine the nature of belief from a spiritual point of view. Still, people of faith may find elements here to muse upon.

In a very modernist kind of way, Dr. Staple uses logic to debunk the three men's belief in their superhuman abilities. Everything can be scientifically explained, she tells them, even things that seem otherwise inexplicable. (Like, say, bending iron bars or crawling on the ceiling.)

Her insistence on getting Kevin and David to agree forces them to consider what they believe about their reality, and why. Not surprisingly, they ultimately resist Dr. Staple's desire to impose her scientifically informed dogmas upon them.

Dr. Staple refers to one of Kevin's personalities as the "high priestess" of the group. David puts on a St. Christopher medal and kisses it. Dr. Staple notes her belief, "There just can't be gods amongst us."

Sexual Content

A young woman named Casey wears a low-cut and form-fitting top. A comic book store owner calls out to a guy in the back of his establishment, saying, "You're not one of those Hello Kitty pervs, are ya?"

We see four young teen girls, chained up in an abandoned warehouse and wearing short-skirt cheerleader outfits. The Beast, who's kidnapped them, says that they deserve death because they are "impure" and haven't known suffering.

One of Kevin's other personalities is apparently a gay man who flirts with a male hospital attendant. Then, as Kevin shifts to another personality, he makes crude reference to his anatomy. Another of Kevin's personalities is a strong-willed woman named Patricia, who often serves as a de facto leader of what's called "the Horde" within Kevin. At one point while Patricia is in charge, Kevin is wearing a dress.

Kevin always removes his shirt and flexes when the Beast takes over, with the camera focusing on his chiseled, veiny physique.

Violent Content

There is quite a bit of heavy hitting and deadly violence in the movie's action. Most of the truly bloody moments, however, occur just outside our view.

For example, the Beast beats a man to the ground and then leans down to apparently bite the man's throat. We see the action from the victim's point of view and only see the Beast's bloodied mouth when he pulls back. Similarly, Mr. Glass slashes a man's throat with a broken shard of glass from a picture frame, but we see the action from behind the victim and thereafter only see the fallen man from a distance. Someone else is shot. We see the bullet hole and watch as that character bleeds to death. Another scene results in someone else's broken bones. The Beast attacks and presumably kills a group of homeless men (we hear their screams, but don't see the attack).

In other thumping action, the psych institution's guards are physically crushed and beaten. A teen girl gets hit by a large table, breaking her arm (we hear later). The Beast thumps repeatedly into a security officer's van, eventually lifting it and tipping it over. In a flashback, we see the brittle-boned Elijah as a youth, who has both arms shattered in an amusement park ride. Another flashback implies that Kevin's mother punished him with a hot iron, the scarring evidence of which is still visible on his chest.

To keep her super-powered charges under control, Dr. Staple employs unique methods. Bright strobe lights cause Kevin's personalities to shift, something that seems almost physically painful to him. David is kept in a room where many spigots of water threaten to disable him if he tries to escape. And most of the time, Mr. Glass is drugged to keep his preternaturally creative mind from dreaming up nefarious schemes.

David tracks down a guy who beats people in the street and posts the videos of his attacks online. We see that guy slam someone full force in the face. David later throws the attacker physically up against an apartment wall to subdue him. David and the Beast get into several fights, and the equally matched men smash through windows, fall to the ground from heights, partially crush in the sides of a van and beat each other with savage strength.

Elsewhere, another character is killed violently. An employee at the mental institution threatens Mr. Glass by threatening to drop something heavy on the man's brittle legs. The villain also threatens to set off a chemical attack on a skyscraper that would kill thousands.

We hear that two groups of teen girls have been abducted and murdered, a fate that nearly befalls a third group of adolescents whom we see chained up in a secret location.

Crude or Profane Language

Several uses of the s-word join other a few uses each of "b--tard," "b--ch" and "a--." There's an exclamation of the British crudity "gobsh-te." Characters misuse God's and Jesus' names a few times; God's name is combined with "d--n" once. We see one crude hand gesture. A journal shows several written-out crudities.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Mr. Glass is frequently sedated (or appears to be), and we see some of the prescription medication he has to take. We also see people drinking wine in a restaurant.

Other Negative Elements

David's heart is in the right place when it comes to battling crime. But his savage attacks on those who've done wrong don't make him a hero to the police; instead, the authorities see him as a lawless vigilante who's taking matters violently into his own hands in a way that denies the court system the opportunity to establish justice.

Conclusion

Many M. Night Shyamalan fans will no doubt flock to theater seats with popcorn in hand for Glass, expecting this movie to be the perfect resolution of the director's 19-years-in-the-making superhero trilogy.

And if you're saying, "Wait: What superhero trilogy?" well, you're not alone.

Back in 2000, Shyamalan directed the comic book superhero-deconstructing film Unbreakable. It's the tale of an average guy named David who's surprised to realize that he's indestructable and gifted with a few other Superman-like abilities. He then finds himself pitted against an evil, comic book-loving mastermind with a brittle-bone disease named Mr. Glass.

That film was beloved by some and greeted with a big ho-hum by many others. Plans for a sequel were soon scrapped, and it seemed like that was the end of Shyalaman's epic super hero dreams.

But in 2016, Shyamalan hit cinematic pay dirt with a killer-with-multiple-personalities thriller called Split, a film that didn't reveal itself to be a sequel to Unbreakable until its very last moments.

Which brings us to Glass, the long-delayed third installment. So, is this pic the moviegoing perfection fans have been waiting for? Well … as you might expect from a Shyamalan feature, there's no universal answer to that loaded question.

In some ways, this movie has a lot going for it. The characters are provocative and compelling (actor James McAvoy's depiction of his character's tag-team personalities is something to behold). Additionally, the film wrestles with the concept of moral ambiguity and raises intriguing questions about the cultural impact of superheroes.

More important, I think, is the way Glass ponders the idea of belief. It's not dealt with from a strictly spiritual perspective. Rather, the film suggests that our belief system, our faith, is something powerful that other people don't always understand. The film also pushes back against the suggestion that rigid, one-sided scientific logic is the only lens through which to see the world accurately.

On the other hand, Glass can be a little hard to follow for those unfamiliar with these characters. Some fans may find Shyamalan's penchant for delivering a last-minute twist unsatisfying in this instance … if not ouright disquieting. And from a content standpoint, viewers have to contend with profanity-laced dialogue as well as several moments of disturbing violence and bloodletting.

The truth is, like any broken window—and, indeed, this cinematic portal is at times as broken as its heroes—Glass can sparkle in bright light but cut you if you're not careful.

Our faith is something powerful. To help your family establish an unbreakable faith, check out these resources:

4 Truths in a Culture of Lies

How to Raise Strong Believers

Do Your Children Know How to Draw Closer to God Through Prayer?

TrueU #1 Does God Exist?

Pro-social Content

Objectionable Content

Summary Advisory

Plot Summary

Christian Beliefs

Other Belief Systems

Authority Roles

Profanity/Violence

Kissing/Sex/Homosexuality

Discussion Topics

Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

Credits

Rating

Readability Age Range

Author

Cast

Bruce Willis as David Dunn; Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price/Mr. Glass; James McAvoy as Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Beast/Patricia; Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple; Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke; Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn

Director

M. Night Shyamalan ( )

Distributor

Universal Pictures

Network

Performance

Record Label

Platform

Publisher

In Theaters

January 18, 2019

On Video

April 16, 2019

Year Published

Awards

Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Content Caution

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