How ‘Glass’ May Cement M. Night Shyamalan’s Comeback

Glass is a $20 million-budgeted, self-financed, distribution-only flick that just nabbed a $40.5 million Fri-Sun/$48.06m Fri-Mon debut weekend. Yes, it’s a sequel, it but it’s a sequel to what began as a wholly original genre flick and a sequel to a genuine cult favorite. So, to the extent that this opening feels anything like a disappointment, it’s mostly a matter of potentially unrealistic expectations, concern for long-term grosses and what its critical reception means for the guy above the title. There’s a lot of context to discuss, but for the record, this is a $20m superhero flick that just nabbed a $90m global opening weekend, which is a record global bow for M. Night Shyamalan. Even if it is as frontloaded as Watchmen or Green Lantern, it will make money for all parties.

Universal/Comcast, which distributed Glass in North America, swore that it wouldn’t open any higher than $50 million for the four-day weekend, and they were correct. A $48m launch is close to the projection, and I’d argue that reviews (36% rotten and 5.1/10 on Rotten Tomatoes) and word-of-mouth (a B from Cinemascore) were to blame. There is nothing wrong with how the movie was presented or how it was marketed, other than, like WB’s Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald trailers, it tricked me into thinking the movie would be good. That Glass opened to the same as Split (a $40m Fri-Sun launch in 2017) and Unbreakable ($32m Fri-Sun/$46m Wed-Sun in 2000) shows that perhaps the fan base for both IPs was almost entirely overlapping.

Glass is a combo sequel, existing as 2 Split 2 Unbreakable. The film plays off the twist epilogue from Split which revealed that the James McAvoy/Anya Taylor-Joy thriller took place within the same world as the 2000 Bruce Willis/Samuel L. Jackson cult classic Unbreakable. That film was somewhat divisive 18 years ago, turning off many with its unspoiled “Hey, this is a real-world superhero drama!” reveal just before (2.5 years after Blade and four months after X-Men) the superhero movie sub-genre entered its secondary mainstream phase. Ironically, it suffered a fate not unlike Mystery Men, a pinpoint superhero satire (one very much aimed at the notion of superhero stories as white male power fantasies) that got clobbered by the opening weekend of… The Sixth Sense.

18 years later, superhero movies are all the rage, and Glass (hopefully) represents the culmination of Shyamalan’s recent artistic and commercial comeback which began with The Visit and continued with Split (which snagged a $40 million opening weekend and legged it to $137m domestic and $275m worldwide). It also represents the first wholly original cinematic universe (in at least a few decades) give-or-take Fast and Furious (which became a cinematic universe by accident by being unable to snag both Vin Diesel and Paul Walker for the first two sequels). Come January 18, 2019, Glass will be a big deal to fans of Unbreakable, fans of Glass and folks who just think it looks like an exciting and offbeat fantasy thriller. It’ll benefit from being the first “big” movie since the triple whammy of AquamanBumblebee and Mary Poppins Returns a month prior.

Moreover, and this could be the kicker, it may benefit from a generation of adult moviegoers who grew up with Sixth SenseUnbreakable and Signs and now have kids who are old enough to tag along. As someone who never gave up on him even during the grim years (2006-2014), I’m beyond thrilled to see my faith (eventually) rewarded as the filmmaker has embraced his destiny (ala Bruce Almighty) as a maker of high-end pulp. It has been even more wonderful to see a generation of young genre filmmakers who grew up on Shyamalan’s early triumphs making their own genre classics (SearchingA Quiet Place, etc.) that retain the empathetic spirit which made everyone cry at the end of The Sixth Sense. Even if this comeback doesn’t stick, that’s a hell of a legacy.

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