Updated: May 28, 2020
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW /HDR FRAME SHOTS
Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson) has three days to persuade David Dunn (Bruce Willis), Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), and Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) a.k.a. Mr. Glass, that they are “normal” people who simply believe they have super powers.
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019, PG-13 for violence including some bloody images, thematic elements, and profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: A dozen short featurettes contain an entertaining making-of
WHAT’S with critics and M. Night Shyamalan? Aside from his “Sixth Sense,” the writer/director/producer gets no love. On Rotten Tomatoes critics gave “Glass” a mere 37 percent, but the audience at large, 73 and growing.
Shyamalan’s trilogy – “Unbreakable” (2000), “Split” (2016) and “Glass” (2019) – takes a very different view of comic book archetypes and their movies. There are no capes, spandex or explosions; no fancy CGI or thundering orchestral cues. Character actions – hero, villain and bystanders – could have jumped out of today’s news. Each film has a unique style of its own, and ‘Glass’ had to be "able to stand on its own and not be derivative of either movie,” he says in “Connecting the ‘Glass’ Universe,” one of 14 bonus features on Universal Studios Ultra 4K, Blu-ray and streaming platforms.
Yes, it’s possible to enjoy “Glass” as a stand-alone, but when combined – in order – with the previous films, it’s a knockout. The story introduces us to good guy David Dunn/The Overseer, and villains Elijah Price/Mr. Glass, and Kevin Wendell Crumb/The Horde/The Beast. All three, played respectively by Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson and James McAvoy, earn our sympathy – and fear. David is burdened by his sense of responsibility. Elijah suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, brittle bone disease. Genius-level smart, he wonders if he was born this way for a reason, chasing a theory that comic books could be based on reality. Horribly abused, Kevin’s mind has “split” into 23 separate personalities called “The Horde” of which the evangelical Beast attempts to make a perfect world. “Kevin himself is somebody who’s been in a bit of a coma, really, for large periods of his life,” McAvoy says in “The Collection of Main Characters.”
Each character has his supporter. David’s son, Joseph, played by Spencer Treat Clark, helps his dad by checking on him while he’s in pursuit of evil-doers. Elijah’s mother, played by Charlayne Woodard, visits and encourages him. Casey Cooke, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, has found strength through her encounter with Kevin and The Horde. Her experience, “even though it was frightening and terrible gave her permission to be herself,” she says in “The Rest of the Family.” “Kevin’s a really wounded soul and he’s somebody that needs protecting.” The support characters are all played by the actors who portrayed them in the introductory films. Other actors reprise their parts, too.
David and Kevin are taken by an organization under command of Dr. Ellie Staple (Sarah Paulson), who specializes in treating people who believe they’re superheroes. They join Elijah in Raven Hill Memorial, an institution for the criminally insane. Staple has three days to convince David, Elijah and Kevin they are “normal” people or they will be turned over for trial. Each of their rooms has a failsafe – water, bursts of bright lights, and medication for Elijah, who’s been incarcerated for 19 years. But Elijah has been substituting his drugs for aspirin; his mind is as sharp as ever. And he's made a plan to break them all out for a final confrontation: good vs. evil - a showdown at the new Osaka Tower, a shout-out to Willis' "Die Hard." "Glass" is filled with in-jokes.
Staple calls in the police as Joseph, Mrs. Price and Casey arrive. The support group has uncovered secrets of their own to convince the doctor she’s wrong. Nothing goes as planned, but Shyamalan leaves us with a hint that his world of superheroes and villains could continue.
Dr. Ellie Staple interviews Elijah, Kevin and David in the Pink Room of Raven Hill Memorial, a hospital for the criminally insane. The primary colors of Unbreakable's world begin to dim whenever Shyamalan’s superhero realm is questioned. “The pink room for me was red going to white,” he says in a featurette.
Digitally shot, both the Ultra 4K (disc & streaming) and Blu-ray have reference quality video and audio. The film was sourced at 4K, and even the scenes using CGI look completely realized. The 2160p (2.39:1 aspect ratio) gets the best of it with excellent color definition and HDR toning, sterling detail and great contrast. Every visual choice was deliberate.
“In ‘Split,’ because nobody knew they were in a comic book movie, we really muted all of those colors and made sure that they were not [overpowering],” Shyamalan says in “‘Glass’ Decoded.” “The only really big pop … comes in the last scene where [David Dunn appears] and you see the big reds and all those big colors … ‘cause in his world he’s aware of the comic book world around us. But in ‘Glass,’ that’s what everybody is thinking about so we had the opportunity to really use color in a big way.”
There are long expository dialogues, where the characters sit and talk, balanced with action – some eerie and shadowed, others more explosive. “Glass” was filmed at the abandoned Allentown State Hospital in Pennsylvania. Rumored to be haunted, it’s been the focus of many paranormal investigations. The actors say it was creepy and cold – and it looks it on film. “It almost becomes another character,” Paulson says in “Raven Hill Memorial.” The turn of the century architecture is grandiose and specific to the period. It was found early in production and Shyamalan made adjustments to the script to tailor it to the physical setting.
“It’s all telling a story, with not just the dialogue and the acting, but with the camera just as much,” Spencer Treat Clark says in “Behind the Lens.”
The 2160p and 1080p discs offer dynamic Dolby Atmos and default Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtracks. Effects range from subtle to vigorous. A low bass rumble helps carry effects and music, while every word of dialogue comes through clearly.
The score by composer West Dylan Thordson was recorded inside the Allentown State Hospital. “He would go into the hospital after we finished and just play music in these cathedral rooms, in these gymnasiums, in these hallways and put microphones everywhere,” Shyamalan says in “The Sound of Glass.”
“I was fascinated by the energy that was there. Kind of vacant and also alive at the same time,” Thordson says, explaining the score’s modern orchestral music. “We recorded a lot of ups and clicks on string instruments mixed with actual clock sounds, but then blending that with out-of-tune timpanis and big tom-toms. I did a lot of smaller ensemble recordings, mixed with ultra-microscopic, tiny sounds.
Thordson, who also composed scores for “Split” and “Joy,” contacted a violinist friend, Tim Fain. “We just went from room to room. The dampness of the air affected the tone of the score, it mellowed everything out.”
Find an “Alternate Opening” with an optional introduction from Shyamalan, and eight deleted scenes in addition to the 12-part making-of: “The Collection of Main Characters,” “A Conversation with James McAvoy and M. Night Shyamalan,” “Bringing the Team Back Together,” “David Dunn vs. The Beast,” “Glass Decoded,” “Breaking Glass: The Stunts,” “Connecting the Glass Universe,” “M. Night Shyamalan: Behind the Lens,” “The Sound of Glass,” “Enhancing the Spectacle,” “Raven Hill Memorial,” and “Night Vision.”
These entertaining bonus featurettes are loaded with filmmaker, cast and crew interviews and information.
There isn’t anything like “Glass” and The Unbreakable trilogy on film today – and that’s how Shyamalan intended it to be. It’s important to him that his films be original. “My movies don’t get acclaim the day [they’re released]. I have to wait longer,” he said on IMDb regarding critics’ negative reactions.
Just don’t let yourself wait any longer. “Glass” is a film to enjoy today.
— Kay Reynolds