The first two films of M. Night Shymalan’s only series, Unbreakable and Split, were individually well received. But it appears that for many the so-called Eastrail 177 trilogy was somewhat de-railed by its final instalment, Glass, shattering M. Night Shyamalan’s dreams of a resounding comeback. And despite the wordplay, I see this outcome as a great injustice.
The criticism of Glass meant that the series was not appreciated as our Lord Shyamalan intended, that is to say as a trilogy and therefore a full story. I remember seeing Split in the cinema and not having the foggiest notion that it was a part of something bigger. I, like everyone else, had just been drawn to the big screen by a sinister, bald, schizophrenic James McAvoy. The film was of course centred around this unique, brilliant performance. But when a wild Bruce Willis appeared in a diner just before the closing credits, audiences discovered that Split was in fact a sequel to Unbreakable (a film from fifteen years prior featuring Willis as another follicly-challenged, albeit good-natured, superhuman called David Dunn. The story clearly demanded a third chapter where the two characters would face off.
Pulling the strings of it all is the evil mastermind Mr Glass, who sports a tall hairstyle despite being played by the undoubtedly bald Samuel L. Jackson. His core belief, vindicated by the events that unfolded, was that superhumans were real and always had been, and that the depictions of comic books were an exaggeration of the collective human memory. This is a fascinating concept, and manages to avoid venturing up its own derrière, as can happen with meta-fiction.
Shyamalan executes his idea extremely well. The problem is that for some reason, a lot of people seemed to be expecting a conventional superhero film in Glass. This is akin to being disappointed with Unforgiven because William Munny didn’t save his friend and shoot up every bad guy. David and Kevin (McAvoy) are not supposed to be flying around toppling skyscrapers; that’s the whole point. The naff car park setting of the final fight scene was admittedly due to the low budget, yet it also perfectly encapsulated things. These men couldn’t blow stuff up with their minds, but they could dent steel with their fists. This I found that little bit more exciting; more real. I don’t know what gets some of these critics going, but I was sat in Edmonton Odeon with a heart beating so fast that I actually got a bit worried for my health.
I could waffle on about other things: the stellar cast, great twists and brilliantly constructed secondary characters. But basically, if you’re yet to watch this trilogy, don’t expect a Marvel-esque trio of pictures. Expect a disarming, thought-provoking affair (although generally it’s best not to expect anything with Shyamalan). Beware: the ending may have you tearing your hair out.
The three films of the Eastrail 177 trilogy, Unbreakable, Split and Glass, are available to buy on Blu-ray and to rent or buy on iTunes and Amazon Prime.