In a world where comic book heroes have become unrelatable due to their power, why has the director of this upcoming film decided to buck the trend?
Words by Camille Hogg
Let’s face it: superheroes have never really had a basis in reality that we can connect to as boring, impotent humans. With perfect bodies, amazing powers and an uncanny ability to defeat the bad guy, they are a representation of man and woman’s idealised selves.
But whether they’re super because of money (Batman and Iron Man), the result of a science experiment gone wrong (Hulk and the Fantastic Four) or just freak accident (Spider-Man and Flash), the fact is that they’re not just like us, and on a very real level, we can’t #relate.
So what happens when the genre gets turned on its head and a group of humans realise they’re super, but instead of saving the world, the world just thinks they’re delusional?
It’s a question that director M Night Shyamalan is hoping to answer with upcoming drama Glass, set for release on 17th January.
The film is the final part of a trilogy that started in 2000 with Unbreakable and continued with Split in 2016. We’ll see the familiar characters of Elijah Price (Samuel L Jackson) – known as Mr Glass – whose super IQ is parried by his fragile bones, and David Dunn (Bruce Willis) – a regular guy invincible to injury – reunited, albeit under unusual circumstances.
Set directly after the events of Split, which focused on Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with 24 internal and sometimes murderous personalities known as The Horde, the action begins in a psychiatric facility where the trio is under treatment due to their so-called delusion that they have superpowers.
When Mr Glass teams up with The Horde to escape and avenge their imprisonment, the multiple personality murderer is once more on the loose and keen to display his superpowers. It’s up to David Dunn to follow the trail of destruction and subdue The Horde before it’s too late.
Hailed as ‘the first grounded superhero movie’ by Shyamalan himself, the film’s self-conscious turn away from the genre is markedly different from other movies released of late.
“Eighteen years ago I had this idea: What if comic books were based on reality? I tried to tell the story of superheroes in the real world with David Dunn,” Shyamalan told Entertainment Weekly. “Then two years ago, I got another crazy notion: What if the afflictions and disorders that everyone in society thinks make a person bad were actually gifts? And I created the origin story of an anarchist who could be good or bad.
“Each of the movies, we take a little bit of privilege, but not so much that anybody’s flying or there’s lasers or fire coming out of your hand,” he continued in an interview with digitalspy.com. “Can you bend an iron pipe? I’m not sure, I don’t know. I think I’ve seen a weightlifter do that, so it’s right on the edge of those things.”
So what made the director err on the side of superhumans instead of superheroes? It’s the intricacies of being human, he told denofgeek.com, that keeps us connected.
“You’re seeing the complexity of everyone,” he said. “They’re human beings. The fun of The Sopranos is he’s a mobster, but then he’s arguing with his wife, and his teenage girl doesn’t listen to him. That’s this version – they’re just regular people that happen to have these gifts. So leaning into the ‘regular people’ part is really great. It’s why we connect.”
Also starring: Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlayne Woodard and Spencer Treat Clark. Rating: PG15. Running time: 130 mins