Critic Correction: An Equitable Look at The Eastrail 177 Trilogy

The images used are not my own work

The first installment released in 2000, continuing 16 years later and the latest insertion being last week, this much is all I’ve ever known about the Eastrail 177 Trilogy. I never knew they were M. Night Shyamalan’s projects, what the plots were about or even if they were any good. It wasn’t until all the negative reviews of ‘Glass’ that it made its way to my attention through a friend who believed it deserved a more trustworthy critique. Appealed by the challenge, I decided to abide and watch the trilogy to see for myself what standard of quality these movies are at and whether or not ‘Glass’ ruined everything.

 

‘Unbreakable’

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The storyline followed Elijah Price – a man born with such brittle bones that he was given the nickname “Mr. Glass” while he grew up around comic books – and David Dunn – living an unhappy life of marriage problems as he discovers he can’t get hurt or sick. What amazed me about this movie was how simple everything was. There wasn’t anything special about how it was filmed, yet the camerawork came across as delicate. Whenever details needed to be added in this simplistic setting, it came from Price’s dialogue. During a time where only Superman movies, Batman movies and one X-Men movie existed compared to the amount there is today, M. Night Shyamalan decided to create an evaluation of the Superhero/Villain narrative represented through Dunn being Price’s counterpart, like how every hero’s arch-nemesis is the opposite of them.

Price’s constant need to prove himself right about Dunn in order to truly give his life purpose never lacked suspense. Throughout, he set out to make Dunn believe there were no coincidences in life, especially within these events, that they truly were two sides of the same coin. The obsession with serendipity took the most unexpected turn when it was revealed that Price had murdered a lot of people trying to find the yin to his yang in Dunn, orchestrating events himself to get the chain reaction going.

‘Unbreakable’ was nothing if not rife with contrasting emotions as Dunn became the hero his son knew he was and Price ending up in a mental institution due to his years of trying to arrange these very circumstances. The fact that ‘Unbreakable’ came out 19 years is truly remarkable considering the impact it would also have if it was released in a more modern time among a sea of superhero movies.

Rating: 9/10

 

‘Split’

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16 years succeeding the events of ‘Unbreakable’, 3 kidnapped girls – Claire, Marcia and Casey – are all used as a plot device to explore the 23 different personalities of James McAvoy’s Kevin Crumb. Ironically, it was keeping the simple pace of its predecessor that helped the movie become more complex. When a multitude of dispositions are being explored with the same actor in the body of the same character, just one unfavourable move can send the whole thing spiraling out of control. A delicate balance is managed to be kept as the 3 most dominant personalities, Dennis, Patricia and Hedwig, come and go at different intervals, visiting the girls, who desperately try to escape with each slim opportunity they notice, and therapist Dr. Fletcher, who believed she was making progress with Crumb’s personalities.

James McAvoy’s acting throughout is absolutely mesmerising, at times switching back and forth between personalities so smoothly as the camera changes focus, back and forth from directly at McAvoy to his reflection. There were points where it felt like motives should’ve already have been revealed, but it didn’t matter. Viewers were given phenomenal performances with never-ending suspense. Eventually, the inducement is revealed that the girls will be used as sacrifices for the 24th personality – The Beast. The most intriguing part about The Beast was how it saw “impure” as someone who has never suffered and “pure” as those who have tremendously suffered due to Crumb’s abuse at the hands of his mother, victimising the “impure” sacrifices.

Simultaneously, we get to know Casey through unpleasant flashbacks. Sardonically, it was her past that kept her safe in this situation! She’s been through abuse countless times, so applied that to her current predicament and played things much more strategically than Claire and Marcia. It’s all sorts of messed up how Crumb and Casey having one major similarity kept Casey from the same fate as her friends. And yet, every step of the way couldn’t have been more fascinating. Simplicity leading to complexity, 2 characters vastly explored and the mood constantly overwrought. It was a worthy sequel for sure.

Rating: 9/10

 

‘Glass’

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[Warning: Spoilers!]

Garnering a plethora of negative reviews, what went wrong in the final chapter of the Eastrail 177 Trilogy? Honestly, nothing at all. I can understand where this negativity stemmed from, but it’s largely unjustified. Of the 3 movies, ‘Glass’ is the most standard. It didn’t have the same subtlety in its camerawork or any powerful meanings, but it was exactly what Elijah Price intended it to be – a final showdown. All ‘Glass’ needed to be was that decent third act of a movie where everything got brought together for the payoff. Even though we’re in 2019 and surrounded by superhero movies, it’s redundant comparing M. Night Shyamalan’s trilogy-ender to them since these movies have always been something different under more realistic pretenses.

Here, the 3 main men – “The Overseer” David Dunn, “Mr. Glass” and “The Horde” – are brought together in a mental asylum by Dr. Ellie Staple, a psychiatrist trying to convince each of them that they’re delusional and have no real powers. After an attempt to lobotomise Price, revealing as being part of a group to murder all 3 of them and succeeding in doing so, this is essentially what would really happen if people with superpowers existed – they certainly would get taken out due to fear.

The return of Price’s awareness of the hero/villain narrative was also a welcome addition. No one is ever aware of a story as it happens or the way it happens, Price is that viewers’ perspective everyone can relate to. The twists that were produced in the end were a great way to end the life of “Mr. Glass”.

The inclusion of these men’s personal supporters – Joseph, Price’s Mother and Casey Cooke – wasn’t all that necessary storyline-wise, but you can’t argue that it wasn’t nice for the superpowered men to have that support throughout until the very end.

Rating: 7.5/10

In conclusion, did ‘Glass’ ruin the trilogy? Of course not! I reiterate, the amount of negativity is unjustified. It was a decent climax in what is a critically underappreciated series of movies. Within the outstanding storytelling of ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’, ‘Glass’ was simply the cooling down period needed to signal the end of the Eastrail 177 Trilogy.

 

 

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