There was a time when M. Night Shyamalan was the second coming of Alfred Hitchcock in plenty of people’s eyes. His snaky suspense and stark mise-en-scène was the best thing going for a while. Even in his best works, Shyamalan’s deft craft and core-grabbing familial scenes masked his shortcomings of ego, hubris, and dialogue writing. Those deficiencies caught up to him at the same time as a daring new generation of filmmakers have surpassed him for creating superior thrillers. Despite a minor glimmer of resurgence lit by The Visit and Split, this sharp decline has reached a point where all M. Night Shyamalan has left to hang his hat on are his signature twists.

Unfortunately, audiences have seen him overuse those crutches and they can’t cover for him anymore, especially if there’s not improved substance in front of the swerves. If M. Night Shyamalan misses on his coup de grace rug-pull by taking a narrative angle or two for s — ts and giggles that do not work or become logically asinine, any good knack or proficiency becomes wasted on inanity. That is precisely what crashes with Glass. Injections of high interest and good graces were attempted by attaching the hope of the present to an old hit of the past. The big Unbreakable reveal that elevated the otherwise uneven Split is wasted in miscalculations to the point where Glass can weaken a portion of that first film’s favor.

Nineteen years have passed since the Eastrail 177 crash outside of Philadelphia caused headlines and begin a journey of self-discovery for security guy David Dunn (Bruce Willis). Graying and lonely now but resolute, the recent widower has taken his rain poncho shroud, rugged invulnerability, and empathic touch on prowling strolls through the city streets as a crime-fighting vigilante the local press have dubbed “The Overseer.” David is supported by his tech-savvy Oracle-like son Joseph (a returning and grown-up Spencer Treat Clark) who still carries deep reverence for his dad’s valor.

One such criminal on the loose in The City of Brotherly Love is “The Beast” Kevin Wendell Crumb (the top-billed James McAvoy). The sadistic DID case with 24 personalities escaped the events of Split with the same voracious fondness for abducting “unpure” girls, wall-climbing, and the occasional side dish of human flesh. When the hero clashes with the monster, the Dunn and Crumb are pinched and institutionalized together at a mental facility that just so happens to guard another ominous figure. Now feigning a catatonic state, Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), better known as “Mr. Glass” (Samuel L. Jackson), was the domestic terrorist responsible for Eastrail 177 and dozens more sabotaged disasters executed by the maniacal will to uncover more superheroes in the world.

The manipulative egghead with the first crack at treating these certifiably unique patients is Dr. Ellie Staple (Emmy winner Sarah Paulson). The goal of her study on superhero disillusionment is to convince Dunn, Crumb, and Price that they are not the specially-powered beings they believe themselves to be. Dr. Staple’s therapy also engages Joseph Dunn’s fatherly adoration, Elijah’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) and her ever-present pride, and, lastly, the Stockholm-smitten connection of Casey Cooke (Anya Taylor-Joy), the one Crumb victim who got away. Once the thematically-hued trio of would-be titans are thrust together, commonalities and dichotomies are tested as everything points to an inevitable and long-foreseen showdown.

LESSON #1: IN A ROUGH ESTIMATE, 80% OF MENTAL HOSPITALS DEPICTED IN MOVIES ARE NOT ON THE UP-AND-UP — It’s time to call out this tired trope. Between One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Shutter Island, Sucker Punch, Girl, Interrupted, 12 Monkeys, Gothika, T2: Judgment Day, and many more, audiences have been trained to spot deficiencies and expect the worst. Glass doesn’t improve that with its telegraphed heel turns and nonsensical developments of characters and settings. All Glass has going for it are some overly elaborate personalized safety countermeasures in each cell. Whisper your “that’s cool” reaction and go back to tallying the protocol mistakes.

Just as with Split, James McAvoy saves the day from the villain’s perch and Anya Taylor-Joy radiates the most possible affinity. McAvoy’s encore performance to churn out character shuffles as fast as a pull-string toy chirping out new catchphrases is an impressive treat to relish, even in a smaller, ensemble-sharing dose here. With every bated breath and trembling shrug of composure, Taylor-Joy exudes more gravitating emotionality than both returning Unbreakable stars combined. Backed by composer West Dylan Thordson’s gnarly snarl of a score and some solid depth of camerawork from Mike Gioulakis (both fellow Split alums), they are the two actors going above and behind.

The compelling aim of Glass ends there. The languishing pace of Glass keeps the Samuel L. Jackson burn down to mere smolders and the Bruce Willis fortitude stuck in placid ponds for too long until business picks up. The timbre of that tedium is not helped by Sarah Paulson. Scene after scene, her constant, waxing exposition adds to the meandering instead of the menace. This drag counts as the aforementioned reduction of worthy substance failing to offer anything compelling before the narrative backflips we know are coming.

LESSON #2: POSSIBLE VERSUS PRACTICAL — Is it mystical ability or a professional guesser? Are a diet of comic books, with their invalid history built on fiction, an obsession signifying a loss of perception for the real world? Perhaps it is morbid fate that this pushy moral challenge phrased by this lesson being shoveled by Paulson’s doctor could very well mirror the entire movie and its wayward filmmaker. Her character’s clinical insistence attempts to denounce facts of belief ingrained in her three super-powered subjects. In the same way Dr. Staple gets those men to question their essence, this film and Shyamalan’s many other misses nearly force an evaluation on their (and his) practical value versus possible brilliance.

At the concept level, Glass was undoubtedly intriguing. The variations of “what if” circumstances within this grounded comic book landscape were ominous with potential. There was a portending promise for something greater. The optimism garnered by that intrigue keeps people coming back to M. Night Shyamalan. The monotony replacing ambition pushes viewers to be ready for washed-out despondency.