The first blockbuster of the year is here and word on the street is that it’s… Shyamalan. Pure, underwhelming, borderline maddening Shyamalan. It’s sad, really. The pendulum of his goodwill in Hollywood was practically at a full upward swing, and this was the moment that would make or break him. Well, just like the title of his latest clunker, it appears Shyamalan’s reputation is about to shatter like glass again.
5 Ways to Prep: Glass
By George Rose
January 16, 2019
After a brief period of greatness (1999’s The Sixth Sense, 2000’s Unbreakable and 2002’s Signs) there was a loooooong period of inexplicable garbage (2004’s The Village, 2006’s Lady in the Water, 2008’s The Happening, 2010’s The Last Airbender and 2013’s After Earth). Then came 2015’s The Visit, which was touted as Shyamalan’s grand return to form. It’s funny when you think about it, though. Is a $65 million grossing film with a 66% positive rating a return worth bragging about? On a $5 million budget, yes, it’s huge. How about on a normal budget with a director that isn’t working for pennies? No, probably not.
It’s not until 2016’s Split that true forgiveness was awarded to him. 76% positive reviews is great after the dozen years of torture we went through and $138 million is a great total by any standard for a film costing only $9 million. Even more important than its critical reception or gross profit was its connection to one of Shyamalan’s prior films, Unbreakable. We all thought Split was just about James McAvoy killing teenage girls with his multiple personalities but, as it turned out, it has one final scene at the end that placed McAvoy’s “Beast’ character in the same world as Bruce Willis’ superhuman in Unbreakable. In that film, Bruce is crazy strong and his nemesis, Samuel L Jackson, is very weak.
The catch was that he was fragile (like glass) but smart as hell. Willis is Unbreakable and good, McAvoy is Split and crazy, and Jackson is Glass and the ultimate evil mastermind. Together, these three will merge storylines for this unexpected trilogy capper. Nobody knew Shyamalan was making his first sequel with Split and suddenly, only three years later, we have the next installment in this full-fledged franchise. Though the title insinuates the film will this time focus on Jackson’s character, posters and trailers suggest this is a true team-up feature with all three sharing the spotlight. We had previously hoped for the best and are now hearing it’s the worse, but like most fans of the genre you probably already have your mind made up if you’re going to see it or now. For now, all I can do is my part in helping you prep for this highly anticipated, poorly reviewed first blockbuster of 2019.
1) UNBREAKABLE (2000)
As with most new sequels, it stands to reason that a good movie to watch before it is the one that started the series. Unbreakable didn’t have the best reviews for a superhero film (69% positive) but, then again, it wasn’t a normal superhero movie. It was a more grounded, realistic take on the genre. It’s not set in a world of super humans but takes place where statistically anything is possible. By the logic that some people have better immune systems than others, Unbreakable takes that notion and says “that must mean one person somewhere has 100% immunity and, per the natural laws of balance, another has 0% immunity.”
With that you have David Dunn (Willis),the guy that can’t get sick and is super strong. Balancing Dunn is Elijah Price (Jackson), a man with ultra-breakable bones that could die by the gust of wind. To give Prince something to brag about, and to further emphasize the nature of balance, he is extremely intelligent and uses his gift to cause destruction until he can sift through the masses to find his unbreakable counterpart. Once he does, he makes it his mission to find Dunn’s balancing weakness. How do you kill someone that can’t be broken? You drown him, that’s how. Nobody is all-powerful and nobody is completely helpless, and Unbreakable does a surprisingly good job at giving this spin to the classic superhero genre.
2) SPLIT (2016)
So yeah, ok, Willis’ Dunn character can touch people and sense their thoughts, which is sort of a superpower and means Unbreakable is set in a world that is ever-so-slightly not realistic. But that was almost twenty years ago, and in that time we’ve had countless crappy Shyamalan films and a whole fantastic Marvel Cinematic Universe. Times have changed and people forgot all about “that guy that directed Sixth Sense” and now only care about “where the dusted people went that Thanos snapped away.” There was a blip a few years back that got our attention and that was the surprise reveal that a movie about Split Personality Disorder was connected to the long-forgotten Unbreakable.
I’m all fairness, I do have great appreciation for Shyamalan’s ability to take basic notions and run with them. If someone’s mental beliefs have the capacity to alter their physical composition (for example, someone who is stressed can make themselves sick), then why couldn’t someone have multiple personalities and have one that believes itself to be a strong, savage beast and physically change when that persona comes to the foreground of their mind? It’s crazy and extreme, but it’s a simple idea made big by the at-times-genius creator that is Shyamalan. To then take that idea, make a pretty good film about it (Split is 76% positive), make a great profit off of it, and connect it back to one of his best films was the ultimate twist-ending that nobody saw coming. Though I’m praying the early bad reviews for Glass got it all wrong, there’s a chance that the biggest twist of all is that this thrown-together franchise ends up shattering Shyamalan’s reputation for good.
3) AVENGERS (2012)
When it comes to team-up features, nobody wrote the (comic) book or did it better than Marvel’s mightiest heroes. The whole world watched when Iron Man ($318 million), Thor ($181 million), Captain America ($177 million) and the Hulk ($135 million) came together to take down Loki in Avengers ($623 million). You all know what the movie is about but, as it has nothing to do with Glass, we’ll be skipping the story and getting right down to what’s important: the numbers.
When several good films comes together to make one great mash-up, the group effort has the ability to earn almost four times as much as the weakest link and two times as much as the strongest. Unbreakable made $95 million and Split made $138 million, so by Avengers logic Glass could earn between $380 ($95 million x 4) and $276 million ($138 million x 2). Obviously, the numbers are backwards. If Unbreakable is more like Thor/Capt, then it’s more like a 3.5x multiplier which means the ceiling for Glass is $333 million. With an Avengers-style comparison, Glass could land between $276-333 million. Then again, Marvel made good films leading up to a great collaboration. Shyamalan’s franchise is decent films leading up to garbage. If only there was a better comparison for that scenario.
4) JUSTICE LEAGUE (2017)
Oh look, I found one! It’s Justice League! DC tried to do what Marvel did and, boy, did it NOT work. Oddly enough, though, is that DC’s first run of solo-features actually made more money than most of Marvel’s first run of heroes. Before Justice League, DC gave us Man of Steel ($291 million), Batman v Superman (not really solo but, still, $330 million) and Wonder Woman ($413 million). Also before Justice League was Suicide Squad ($325 million), but that was more about villains so it doesn’t couldn’t. It does, however, make a good placeholder for the first solo-feature post-Justice League, which is Aquaman (headed to about $325 million). So DC’s first few non-team films made more than Marvel’s first non-team films, but had worse reviews and came together to make an even lesser reviewed League of Crap. Justice League nearly ruined the franchise with its 40% positive reviews and series-low $229 million. But, as we now know, Aquaman is helping right the ship so DC’s errors are moving further into the past which leaves us with nothing to talk about but THE NUMBERS!!!
Pre-Justice League, DC’s worst earner was $291 million and its best was $413 million. Justice League lost 21% from the low-end and 45% from the high-end. That means Glass could earn 79% of Unbreakables $95 million ($75 million) or 55% of Splits $138 million ($76 million). Eesh, that’s not good. So an Avengers-style bump takes Glass towards $300 million but a Justice League-style stumble drops it to $75 million. Oddly enough, most analysts prematurely expected somewhere right between ($185-ish million) before the reviews came in. Is there a chance Glass can save face and still pull off a $150+ million total? With the lackluster reviews starting to pour in, there’s only one comp left that can help carry this dud past $100 million.
5) DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE (1995)
Glass isn't the first time Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson have co-starred together in the final entry of a trilogy. That happened over 20 years ago after Willis broke out in Hollywood with his hardened tough cop routine in the Die Hard films. The first Die Hard ($84 million, 93% positive) was about a cop that takes down terrorists in a skyscraper; the second, Die Hard 2: Die Harder ($118 million, 68% positive) was about Willis taking down bad guys at an airport, and rode the goodwill of the first into a more successful second entry; and then came the third, Die Hard with a Vengeance ($100 million, 53% positive), that couldn’t keep the momentum going but was respectable nonetheless.
Well the reviews for Glass have also brought the series to a critical low point, and I would argue that interest for Glass is still more inclined to go the route of Die Hard 3 instead of Justice League. If that’s true, then Glass will land almost exactly between Unbreakable and Split with about $117 million. Considering how tarnished Shyamalan’s career was at one point, that’s a fantastic number. Considering it’s little more than what the pair pulled in together almost 20 years ago and that inflation is a cruel mistress ($210 million adjusted), and that it’s about what The Village made 15 years ago at the start of Shyamalan’s downfall, and that $117 million would put Glass at #66 on the list of biggest superhero movies (unadjusted for inflation) right beside Green Lantern, I’d say… thank God we’re one week closer to Avengers: Endgame! Yeah, Glass is going to disappoint and I’m super bummed about it. At least it’ll be the biggest hit of January but, ugh, 2019 is off to a rough start.