Coming off a year when Black Panther roared as Marvel’s biggest domestic hit yet (likely securing a Best Picture Oscar nomination in the process), Avengers: Infinity War broke $2 billion worldwide and Aquaman put DC back in the billion-dollar global box-office club, it’s clear that comic book movies are more popular than ever. At the same time, it’s also clear that audiences are increasingly hungry for comic book movies that challenge the genre’s status quo, whether that’s by “killing” half the cast, putting a biracial hero front and center or giving us not just one but six different Spider-people in the same frame. That trend toward the all-new, all-different superhero movie continues with Glass, the latest film from M. Night Shyamalan. (Watch our video interview with the director and cast above.)
Opening in theaters on Jan. 18, the movie completes a trilogy the writer-director started 19 years ago with Unbreakable, which told the origin story of David Dunn (Bruce Willis) — a security guard who discovers he’s a real-life man of steel with the help of his easily breakable mentor/nemesis, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). Both David and Elijah are back in Glass, and they’re joined by Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), the beastly bad guy from Shyamalan’s 2016 hit, Split. This may sound like the setup for a classic comic book movie slugfest, but the always unpredictable filmmaker has something very different in store.
“My whole take on it was, let’s do it super-grounded,” Shyamalan tells Yahoo Entertainment. “Let’s do the Sopranos version of this.” By that, he means using the idea of having great powers as a great way to explore the domestic dynamics of superheroes. “It isn’t you flying and lasers coming out of your eyes,” he explains. “It’s subtle; it takes some judgment. That’s overall my approach to these subjects, whether it’s aliens or ghosts or comic books or whatever it is. Make the house feel like your house and the people like your family.”
That approach appealed to Jackson, who is already a well-known citizen of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But as an expert in the Marvel brand of comic book movie, he hesitates to apply the same label to Glass. “I’m not sure this is a comic book movie,” he remarks. “The assumption is … ‘You guys think you’re superheroes.’ We think we’re extraordinary, [but] I don’t think my character considers himself a superhero. He’s highly intelligent and villainous in a way, but that’s all perception.”
McAvoy — a longtime member of the X-Men branch of the wider Marvel universe that stands independently (for now) of the main MCU — agrees that the trio of Unbreakable, Split and Glass represents a different approach to an increasingly familiar genre. “Nineteen years ago there were superhero movies, but they weren’t as ubiquitous and dissected as they are now. [Shyamalan] was making a deconstructionist superhero movie before we’d really constructed the superhero movie. The whole culture seems to have caught up, so it feels like the time is right for us now again to make a deconstructionist superhero movie.”
Glass opens in theaters on Jan. 18.
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