Unmasking M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable Trilogy & Glass

14 Apr

Release Date: April 16, 2019

Although M. Night Shyamalan‘s Unbreakable trilogy took nearly twenty years to finish, the wait was certainly worth it. Ever since I saw the first film, I could not help but think of the line from Snow White, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest of them all?” Instead of considering the response from the Disney movie, I feel another meaning can be pulled from it. Anyone who has looked upon this reflective surface is asking to themselves, “Who am I, really?”

Not everybody will like what they see of themselves reflected back. With titles in part two and three suggestive of different mental states, I have enough theories going on in my head wanting to break down what this auteur’s films are about. The bonus material which comes in the home video release of Glass, however brief they are, offer more than a few teasing answers and confirmations in what I already believe. Upon seeing all three films again, back-to-back, I have a few theories.

To recap: Unbreakable introduced a world without heroes. Dunn (Bruce Willis) is seemingly immortal–he cannot get injured and has psychic abilities. He does not want them, but Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) sees something special and wants to capitalize on that. The next film Split, looks at another threat, an origin story of Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder who nearly transforms depending on the person which manifests. This thriller was thought to be a self-contained narrative until Dunn shows up.

Glass sees all the major players together in a melting pot of tension and terror. Dr Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) is from a specialized branch of the Philadelphia Police Department, and she knows more. Perhaps superheroes truly exist, but they’re not the type we normally associate with or know of from children’s comic books. She can control Crumb’s change from one personality to another through the use of light therapy and she can keep Dunn at bay with water sprinklers. Price is tougher, and he has to be sedated. However, he’s wise to the Doctor and tries to sabotage things as the film goes along.

Shyamalan’s style shines to get viewers up to speed to the inevitable. His signature dark tone makes more sense with this film and last. The featurettes in this release explain what this filmmaker intended for the trilogy. They are interconnected with a simple premise. Instead of showing people with powers gained through radiation or crazy chemical experiments, I feel he’s created a what if product based on Charles Darwin‘s work, On the Origin of Species.

Price’s discourse in what makes a hero or villain is not without provocation. Staple may well represent a government agenda to prevent people from becoming vigilantes, but we will never know. The narrative dismisses those choosing to act for a greater good. Even Dunn has to work undercover since he does not want the attention.

People dismissing this trilogy as not a comic book film will most likely change their mind. Price has been the mastermind all along and he makes Lex Luthor’s manipulations look tiny in comparison. To see Crumb go through all his personas with ease and that they are simply known as “The Horde,” suggests they represent a collective opinion.

We can consider the second movie is Shyamalan’s take on Darwin’s The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals (1872). I feel that now that the trilogy is complete to view, fans of the series can offer essays in how much M. Night has changed the superhero movie genre. They do not have to be by the numbers style plots that DC and Marvel Entertainment has been pushing. In the live-action front, Zack Snyder wanted to delve into this exposition a few times. Are superheroes gods or monsters? This theme was better explored in the animated 2015 Justice League film by Bruce Timm and the upcoming Brightburn by James Gunn on May 24 is promising. Shyamalan pulls this discourse off, and the success will keep this cult trilogy well-spoken of for years to come.

4 Stars out of 5

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