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Jessica Kourkounis, Universal Pictures
Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis and Sarah Paulson in “Glass.”

“GLASS” — 3 stars — Sarah Paulson, Anya Taylor-Joy, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson; PG-13 (violence including some bloody images, thematic elements and language); in general release; running time: 129 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — “Glass” probably isn’t what you’d like it to be, but it’s still pretty good, and when you think about it, it was probably never meant to be what you were expecting, anyway.

M. Night Shyamalan’s “Glass” is the follow-up to the director's 2017 film “Split,” which itself was a surprise sequel to his 2000 film “Unbreakable.” Set in a bleak and overcast Philadelphia, “Glass” pits a lone superhero against a pair of supervillains in a thinking man’s clash between good and evil.

Jessica Kourkounis, Universal Pictures
Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy, Bruce Willis and Sarah Paulson in “Glass.”

The hero is David Dunn (Bruce Willis), aka the Overseer, which admittedly is not a very good superhero name. David is, per his origin film, unbreakable — he can’t be hurt, can’t get sick and can sense the doings of bad guys through touch.

Supervillain No. 1 is Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson), a comic book-obsessed criminal mastermind with a passion for purple clothes and a skeleton so fragile a handshake would put him in the ER.

Supervillain No. 2 is Kevin (James McAvoy), who suffers from a split personality disorder that periodically shifts into a character called the Beast. The Beast has a predisposition toward kidnapping and cannibalism, but by keeping most of said behavior off-camera, “Glass” maintains its PG-13 rating.

As “Glass” opens, David confronts the Beast while trying to rescue a group of kidnapped cheerleaders. But before they can finish their fight, the pair is accosted by authorities and thrown into a mental institution along with Mr. Glass, who has been locked up since the end of “Unbreakable.”

Here the trio meets Dr. Staple (Sarah Paulson), a psychologist who specializes in treating individuals who are convinced they are superheroes. As the treatment begins, Mr. Glass spends most of his time looking catatonic, but Kevin’s various personalities are fiercely interested in learning more about David, who for his part is desperate to escape before the bad guys do.

Jessica Kourkounis, Universal Pictures
Samuel L. Jackson in “Glass.”

Outside the hospital, David’s son/sidekick Joseph (Spencer Treat Clark) is determined to prove that his dad is the real deal. Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy), the Beast’s lone surviving victim from “Split,” shows a strange ability to help his treatment. And Mr. Glass’s mother (Charlayne Woodard) is along for the ride, too, since even megalomaniacal supervillains still need their moms sometimes.

Employing a lot of the same moody, deliberate pacing and atmosphere that marks his early films, Shyamalan builds the story toward an inevitable showdown, but “Glass” is a lot more character-driven than you might expect, focused on the question of whether these guys are delusional over putting up a big Marvel/DC-style spectacle.

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Those expecting a dazzling third-act finale might be disappointed, and Shyamalan’s attempt to go back to his bag of twists late in the film leads to a bit of clunkiness. But if you remember that “Unbreakable,” “Split” and now “Glass” are intended as a commentary on comic culture and our popular culture in general — not just another franchise to line up alongside the Avengers or the Justice League — the results will make a lot more sense, even if the final product doesn’t feel quite as satisfying as it could have.

“Glass” is far from the most exciting superhero movie out there, and it has its flaws. But it is one of the most unique superhero movies to hit the big screen, and Shyamalan deserves credit for taking a new angle on a well-trod subject.

Rating explained:“Glass” mostly draws its PG-13 rating from some violent battle sequences and grisly imagery — such as the sight of a young boy’s fractured arm. There is also some scattered profanity.