'Glass' Trailer Breakdown: M. Night Shyamalan Reinvents The Superhero Film

Fans have been waiting for a sequel to Unbreakable for 18 years. Now, M. Night Shyamalan is delivering that, and then some. Shyamalan's Glass serves as both a sequel to Unbreakable and his recent thriller Split, and brings together James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, and Samuel L. Jackson. The Glass trailer dropped during Comic-Con, and it did not disappoint. Below, our Glass trailer breakdown delves into the twists and turns in Shyamalan's latest.

Glass Trailer

Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple

The trailer opens with Sarah Paulson as Dr. Ellie Staple, talking directly to the camera. "It's amazing to meet you," she says. "It is simply extraordinary." It's a jarring start, and Paulson talking to the camera, and, by extension, us, instantly draws us in. Shyamalan has used this looking-into-the-camera method before, but it's a type of shot perfected by Jonathan Demme (think of all those shots of Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling talking directly to the camera in The Silence of the Lambs).

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After Paulson's intro, the trailer kicks into gear showing shots of a mental hospital. It's an isolated, foreboding place, and there's a stark minimalism to the layouts of each location. "Maybe this will all make sense if I explain who I am," Dr. Staple continues. "My name is Dr. Ellie Staple, and I'm a psychiatrist. My work concerns a particular type of delusion of grandeur. It's a growing field. I specialize in those individuals who believe they're superheroes."

Glass cast

A quick cut reveals who Dr. Staple has been speaking to: Elijah "Mr. Glass" Price (Samuel L. Jackson), Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), and David Dunn (Bruce Willis). Elijah Price and David Dunn were first introduced in Unbreakable. There, we learned that Dunn has superhuman strength (notice he's the only one in chains here), while Elijah Price, who suffers from osteogenesis imperfecta, staged a series of deadly events in an attempt to discover David, thus becoming David's arch nemesis.

Kevin Wendell Crumb is from Split, where we learned he was a man with 24 split personalities. The 24th personality is known as "The Beast", and when Kevin transforms into him, he possesses supernatural powers. Mr. Glass ended up incarcerated at the end of Unbreakable, but it's not clear how David Dunn and Kevin ended up here. Kevin got away at the end of Split, and David was, of course, the hero of his own film. This is a brilliant set-up to the movie – Shyamalan is flipping the script. He's asking, "Were all the things I revealed to you in the previous film real, or are these individuals simply delusional?"

David Dunn

"The three of you have convinced yourselves you have extraordinary gifts, like something out of a comic book," Dr. Staple continues. During this continued monologue, we get a shot of David standing in the rain wearing what is essentially his superhero costume – a rain slicker. "David Dunn," Dr. Staple says, "the only person to survive that train wreck all those years ago." She's referring, of course, to the opening of Unbreakable, in which a train crash – caused by Elijah Price – made David discover he was impervious to harm.

I'm in security

security

"I'm in security," David tells a date, resulting in a smash-cut of him throwing someone against a wall. David was a security guard in Unbreakable, a fact that was underlined by Elijah Price when he said, "You could have been a tax accountant. You could have owned your own gym. You could have opened a chain of restaurants. You could've done of a thousand things, but in the end, you chose to protect people. You made that decision, and I find that very, very interesting."

Bruce Willis in Glass

Kevin Wendell Crumb

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"You think you have super powers," Dr. Staple says. "It's a feeling," David shoots back. "A vision...I have to touch them..." This is something else we learned in Unbreakable – when David bumps into "bad" people, he has visions of their crimes. We see here how David Dunn first crosses paths with Kevin Wendell Crumb: he bumps into him on the street, and has a vision of a group of cheerleaders chained up somewhere. Abducting young women is part of Kevin's M.O. It's also what he did in Split, with the plan to feed his abductees to The Beast.

"You believe you are a protector," Dr. Staple says, and it's clear from the tone of her voice she's not buying it. Again, I find all of this fascinating – will the film present a twist that reveals David is delusional, or is Dr. Staple simply barking up the wrong tree? I'm guessing the latter, but you never know with Shyamalan.

James McAvoy as Patricia in Split

Toothbrush

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After our intro to David, Dr. Staple focuses on Kevin. "I have no question there are two dozen identities that live in that body with you," she says. During this, we're treated to an amusing mini-montage of McAvoy acting out some of Kevin's personalities, including "Patricia", and the child-like "Hedwig." We see Hedwig skating around the chained-up cheerleaders, telling them that the Beast is coming for them "any minute." I love the shot of the many toothbrushes being set-up in Kevin's cell; it's a great touch highlighting how all of his personalities are wholly separate from one another.

The Beast

Beast back

Dr. Staple's conversation with Kevin continues: "What I am questioning is your belief that you are something more than human." Then we see two distinct moments: one with Kevin jumping down from the ceiling in Elijah's room – you can see Elijah in his wheelchair in the background. The other has the Beast and his very impressive traps rising up in what looks to be a subway or other underground facility.

Mr. Glass

This all culminates with a wonderful close-up of Elijah with a devious grin on his face. He's clearly very impressed with Kevin and The Beast, and has some nefarious ideas. The scene cuts to black, and we hear Elijah say: "And yet...it is true." This is the moment where Shyamalan appears to be underlining the fact that these characters aren't delusional as Dr. Staple thinks. They are, indeed, "more than human."

glass contraption

David and Kevin have had their time in the spotlight, now it's time to zero in on Elijah. "My bones break easily," he says. "I've had 94 breaks in my life." "But you have an extraordinary IQ," Dr. Staple counters. To underline this, we see Elijah putting together some sort of device. What this device is, and how he got ahold of it in a mental asylum, remains to be seen. But my guess is this won't result in something good.

Philadelphia

It wouldn't be a Shyamalan film without some reference to the City of Brotherly Love, so here's an obligatory shot of the Philadelphia skyline. "This is not a cartoon," Elijah says. "This is the real world."

Casey Cooke

One particularly surprising moment in the trailer comes here, when Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy) shows up and embraces Kevin. Why she would be doing this is a mystery, since in Split, Kevin abducted, terrorized and tried to eat her. But since we see Dr. Staple in the background, we can presume this is part of some type of therapy.

Bruce Willis in Glass

Bend steel

A montage begins. "Some of us still don't die with bullets," Elijah says. "Some of us can still bend steel." During this, we see David unfurl his slicker like a cape. We also see Kevin taking aim at someone with a gun. And finally, we see David throw some people into a shipping container, and then trap them inside by bending a steel bar over the lock. This final bit is very much in the spirit of Superman, and it underlines that deep down, this is still a superhero movie. It may not be the kind of superhero movie you're used to, and that's what makes it so exciting.

Spencer Treat Clark, Anya Taylor-Joy, Charlayne Woodard

Here are the three people closest to the main characters: Spencer Treat Clark as Joseph Dunn, David's son; Anya Taylor-Joy as the previously-mentioned Casey Cooke; and Charlayne Woodard as Elijah's mother. They all appear to be right outside the hospital, which again indicates Dr. Staple has brought them in for some type of therapy with her three patients.

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Someone peruses a comic book shop as Elijah whispers, "I have been waiting for the world to see that we exist." There's a particularly nice touch here – the "heroes" section has a green tint to it, green being the color of the heroic David Dunn's rain slicker, while the "villains" side is awash in purple, which is the predominant color of Elijah.

Sarah Paulson

A great shot of Dr. Staple warped in a mirror in a comic book store. I'm going to go out on a limb here – I swear, I have no insider knowledge – and guess that Dr. Staple is going to turn out to be the real villain of the film. That she knows that her patients really do have superpowers, and she's been manipulating them as part of her own diabolical plan. I'm basing this on nothing, really, except for the fact that this shot makes Paulson look particularly ominous.

Meet the beast

Here we catch a glimpse of (part of) Elijah's plan. "May I meet the Beast?" he asks, as the Beast stalks out of the shadows towards him. "I hope for your sake he likes you," we see "Patricia" say. This results in my favorite moment in the trailer – Elijah replying: "That sounds like the bad guys teaming up." It's such a gloriously comic book-y moment, and it yet again underlines that this is a superhero movie unlike no other. It might just end up being the most interesting superhero movie in years.

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beast mode

Two quick action beats: a team of hospital nurses running towards something while David, in his "costume," stands in the background. And a very creepy moment of the Beast crawling across the ceiling towards his captive cheerleaders. Everybody panic.

the water

"A lot of people are going to die," Elijah says into a microphone. "Don't do this," David counters, before smashing down a door with his strength. In the midst of a flurry of shots, this might be the most interesting – we see Dr. Staple reaching for someone in the water. As you'll recall, the only real weakness David Dunn has – his kryptonite, so to speak – is water. Is it David she's reaching for here?

beast throw

drowning

Two more action beats: the Beast tosses David like a rag-doll, and the Beast and David battle underwater. Again, water and David do not mix, so this isn't the best news for David Dunn.

beast run

One moment that seemed to make the crowd at Hall H go nuts involves this quick shot of Kevin in Beast Mode inhumanly galloping across the hospital grounds while Elijah, in full Mr. Glass regalia, looks on. It's simple-yet-chilling moment, and it works like gangbusters.

Samuel L. Jackson as Mr. Glass

And here it is: the money shot. "What do we call you, sir?" one of Kevin's personalities asks. "First name, Mister," Elijah replies. "Last name...Glass." This should be a stupid line, but Samuel L. Jackson's delivery sells it, and then some.

Again, I'm very impressed with everything here. This really does look as if it might be the most original, and different, superhero films we've seen in years. I only wish we could see it sooner.

Glass opens January 18, 2019.

M. Night Shyamalan brings together the narratives of two of his standout originals—2000's Unbreakable, from Touchstone, and 2016's Split, from Universal—in one explosive, all-new comic-book thriller: Glass. From Unbreakable, Bruce Willis returns as David Dunn as does Samuel L. Jackson as Elijah Price, known also by his pseudonym Mr. Glass. Joining from Split are James McAvoy, reprising his role as Kevin Wendell Crumb and the multiple identities who reside within, and Anya Taylor-Joy as Casey Cooke, the only captive to survive an encounter with The Beast. Following the conclusion of Split, Glass finds Dunn pursuing Crumb's superhuman figure of The Beast in a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.