Universal City, California, February 26, 2019 – Writer-Director M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense, Signs) completes a mind-bending trilogy created nearly twenty years ago with GLASS, a comic book thriller available on Digital via the digital movie app MOVIES ANYWHERE on April 2, 2019 and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-rayTM, DVD and On Demand on April 16, 2019, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
GLASS is a grounded-in-reality, comic-book thriller where the heroes and villains are people first. The thrilling culmination to the trilogy that started with Unbreakable and Split, stars James McAvoy (Split, Atonement), Samuel L. Jackson (Hitman’s Bodyguard, Avengers Franchise), Bruce Willis (Unbreakable, Die Hard), Sarah Paulson (Ocean’s Eight, American Horror Story) and Anya-Taylor Joy (Split,The Witch). Go inside the mind of master of suspense M. Night Shyamalan to uncover the connections and references that bring the three films together in one universe. Experience more than sixty minutes of never-before-seen features elaborating on his process and artistic vision including an in-depth look at the making of the film, deep insights on the characters, a never-before-seen alternate opening, and deleted scenes.
It’s hard coming here to review Atomic Blonde after ripping in to Valerian last week. I said Valerian was a gorgeous movie with well-executed action sequences that didn’t click for me because the script was a genuine chore to think about. Atomic Blonde has a lot of the same problems, and at times looks like someone’s aesthetic Tumblr came to life on the condition that it had to recite a tired spy story to stay alive. I’m not sure why, but it works for Atomic Blonde. Maybe an overdone spy story is just more fun than an underdone science fiction story. Maybe Charlize Theron and James McAvoy are just that much better than Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne. It could be as simple as grey and neon and the fall of the Berlin Wall is a better mood than the promise of a fantastic science fiction world if you get beyond the bland corridors.
Atomic Blonde has the kind of story you swear you’ve seen a hundred times but can’t quite place any of them. It’s kind of Skyfall meets The Usual Suspects if you only pulled the worst bits from the latter and the best bits from the former. It’s set in 1989 just before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and a file containing the names of every agent from every country working in Berlin has fallen in to the wrong hands. The list also contains the identity of a notorious double agent. MI6 sends in Lorraine Broughton (Theron) to retrieve the list and rendezvous with David Percival (McAvoy) an agent who has been without supervision so long he has “gone native” which in this context seems to mean that he’s playing a Mad Max villain dialed down to 70%. The story has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting, but I never felt like anything made enough sense. The combination of the unreliable narrator and the endless double crosses makes everything one or two degrees too muddled for me. Not that this is a movie that wants to be remembered for its plot; it wants to be remembered for its action.
This is a movie directed by someone that started as a stunt coordinator who then hired a top notch crew of stunt and fight choreographers. The action beats in this movie are completely nuts. There’s a one-take continuous fight scene that travels through an entire building that is spellbinding. Because movies have become so enamored with quick-cut action scenes this becomes instantly anti-cinematic and feels even more real. A rejection of the Bourne model of fight scenes (ironically made by people who did work on fights in those movies) and a statement that this is a movie where fights are longer, more brutal, and have a more lasting effect. The other fights are also superb but they were also universally featured in the trailers, including the climactic fight scene, so it felt like I had seen everything else before I got there. I know that the people who make the movie don’t cut the trailers but the marketing people did this movie a disservice by putting out so much of the good stuff for free.
I don’t tend to like movies that use grey as their primary color, and Atomic Blonde uses an awful lot of grey, but it works here because they use it exclusively to allow pops of other color. Berlin is dreary and sedate in this film but none of the characters are. Everyone has something about them that jumps off the screen be it hair, clothes, some kind of prop. Lorraine gets all three. The locations sometimes defy belief (there were neon pink lights in flop house hotels in 1989 Berlin?) but I like beyond belief if it lends itself to a better looking film. Atomic Blonde is slick without being shiny and that’s worth a lot for a movie that’s supposed to be set in such a pivotal moment. I would roll my eyes at any movie that wanted to end with the backdrop of fireworks, but if the Berlin Wall is falling and the fireworks look like the kind of thing you see from people in cities where fireworks are illegal it kind of makes it okay.
I would absolutely watch Atomic Blonde if I saw it on HBO, I might even buy the graphic novel to see if it makes the plot any easier to understand. I appreciate that I seem like a hypocrite for praising this movie after slagging a movie with similar attributes a week ago, but I don’t care. Cool counts. Atomic Blonde is cool and catchy and sticks with you. It pushes itself above mediocrity through grit, charisma, and gumption.
Split is over a week old and that’s usually enough to disqualify a movie from coverage here. (This is the policy that keeps me from reviewing Blade 2 every six months in a vain attempt to force it in to the conversation for best superhero movie of all time.) But Split had a secret, and that secret didn’t get out until the movie had released and I had already watched the movie for last week. I’m going to talk about this secret right off the bat so if you have somehow avoided this piece of information I will tell you that Split is an excellent horror movie that might be a bit tame in the sheer terror aspects but is totally worth watching especially if you’ve liked M. Night Shyamalan’s works in the past. From here on it’s spoilers on; stop reading if you want that undisturbed experience.
The X-Men movies have a fairly high average quality for a franchise going in to its sixth entry. In fact, with the exception of a Brett Ratner directed monstrosity of bloat and pettiness, there isn’t a truly bad film to be found in the bunch. For a stretch of my college career I would have told you X2 was the best superhero movie ever made. I would have been wrong— Unbreakable was a lot better and Spider-Man 2 has held up better over the years if we’re talking strictly licensed fare. But this is a franchise that means something to me so it’s a shame to see them start to slip a little bit. Not that X-Men: Apocalypse is a bad movie or anything, but it’s a frustrating one in many respects and one that could be pointed to some years down the road as the beginning of the end of X-Men as a quality, bankable, brand.
I’m not certain when it became the decree from on high that every X-Men film had to be a period piece but with three in a row and a fourth on the way that definitely seems to be the way things are going. It felt revolutionary with First Class, these characters are timeless in their way and putting them in some historical context is a great way to show off the multi-faceted nature of the material (it’s also a great way to not have to pay some of your more expensive actors but that’s neither here nor there). Days of Future Past was also fun; the time-travelling Wolverine made it all feel a bit more earned, plus it was a great excuse to retcon away some of the worst bits of X-Men: The Last Stand that no one cared for. Now it’s starting to feel a bit unnecessary with another movie another decade later. I’m no longer feeling like these are timeless characters and instead they’re starting to feel dated; like the X-Men are nothing but a nostalgia act. The best X-Men comics I’ve ever read have felt cutting edge, like they were happening six months from now not thirty years in the past. I get that all storytelling eventually feels dated, but at this point I would much prefer them working and reworking things so that older stories felt new instead of constantly telling me how old and quaint the X-Men are.
I understand that if we accept the premise that every X-Men movie has to be a period piece, that recastings will have to be a constant part of the franchise (although all the people from First Class sure don’t look 20 years older but whatever) and I generally like the new blood. Sophie Turner is a great young Jean Grey, although it’s certainly possible the casting is trading on some good will borrowed from Game of Thrones. My only critique of Tye Sheridan as Cyclops is he’s a bit of an emo stick-in-the-mud, but that’s also my critique of Cyclops the comic book character so maybe he’s actually perfect. My only real beef is with casting Oscar Isaac as Apocalypse. You have one of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood riding a hell of a run and you put him in a big suit under a ton of makeup and have him just recite dialogue that would have felt cliché in comics 15 years ago. It’s a staggering waste of an incredible talent. Even my fiancée, a dyed-in-the-wool Isaac fangirl, didn’t even recognize him in the movie until I pointed him out.
It’s not the kind of thing I like to complain about, but I was quite struck with how much the final battle looked like it was taking place in a studio lot. I know that they can’t actually film in a destroyed Cairo or anything but a bunch of people in costumes with no bystanders and some generic looking rubble looks a bit too much like a SyFy channel original movie for my taste. I don’t even know how to fix it and I’m sure I’ve seen a dozen action sequences shot in lots this year alone, but something about this one had me thinking the tour tram could drive by the background at any moment.
I know I’ve crapped on this movie a bit here but I want to emphasize that the stuff the works works so well. Michael Fassbender is amazing as Magneto, displaying a tortured depth to the character that honestly surpasses Ian McKellen’s wonderful but more scenery-chewing effort. Jennifer Lawrence has made Mystique into a character more interesting than her comic book counterpart, and while I’m not entirely sure it lines up narratively with all her other appearances she carries the film through all its bumpy stretches. All of the stuff that’s been working since the reboot still works… it’s just the connective tissue is getting worse and the formula feels a bit more tired. This series needs a kick in the ass, and not in the way a film set ten more years in the future is going to do. Maybe the next Wolverine will be great though.