(WARNING: Spoilers for Split below)
M. Night Shyamalan has entertained us with some truly imaginative stories such as The Sixth Sense (1999), Unbreakable (2000), Signs (2002), and The Village (2004). In the early 2000s, M. Night's movies were unstoppable at the box office and whispers of him being the next Alfred Hitchcock were circulating. But then, the unthinkable happened: The audience turned on M. Night for making a movie about skinny dipping (Lady In The Water) and humanity's arch-nemesis, vegetation (The Happening). Honest Trailers even poked fun at the ridiculousness that was The Happening, and for good reason:
It looked like it was over for the once highly regarded writer/director, but Hollywood kept giving M. Night opportunities to redeem himself. In 2010, M. Night's The Last Airbender (6 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and Devil (52 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes) were released. Both movies flopped, and it appeared that M. Night's movie-making career hit the bottom floor and finally went to hell.
Fast-forward seven years and Split sneaks up on us out of nowhere. I didn't even think M. Night was making movies anymore. I mean, do you know anyone that was saying: "I can't wait to see the next M. Night movie!" No, nobody was saying that. Everybody, including myself, thought M. Night gave up movie-making to become a park ranger somewhere.
Although M. Night has burnt audiences in the past, many found the trailer for Split to be captivating. From what the trailer showed, it seemed as though M. Night was getting back to his Hitchcock-esque roots, and what better way to do that then tell a story that on the surface seemed to be similar to Psycho (1960).
Split is currently holding a modest 74 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, a bit low compared to the Rotten Tomatoes audience rating at 81 percent. It would seem that Split is a bounce-back movie for M. Night, which will allow him to continue making movies. Based on how Split ended, it looks like M. Night is ready to pursue his own line of superhero movies, something that Hollywood is mainly afraid of doing. Who better to buck the system then the guy who gave us one of the most ruthless, diabolical villains in cinematic history — Mr. Glass?
Creating A Universe
Audiences are hungry for superhero movies right now. Looking at the top grossing movies of 2016, Captain America: Civil War was the most profitable, pulling in $1.15 billion dollars and absolutely crushing the other categories: highest opening weekend, highest in international sales and highest in domestic sales. Deadpool became the highest grossing R-rated superhero movie in 2016, and right now, the PG-rated Batman Lego Movie is getting rave reviews and dominating the box office. It doesn't matter whether it's PG or R, animated or live-action, fans want to watch their superheroes on the big screen.
I always wondered why movie studios haven't been trying to develop original superheroes of their own in order to cash in on the superhero genre. Additionally, I've found it odd that movie studios haven't been mining superhero properties published by Image Comics like Spawn, Savage Dragon and others. Now, I know that the Spawn movie released back in 1997 wasn't all that great and succeeded modestly, but still, you'd think that the studios would want to put out fresh, new superheroes to entice the audience.
It hasn't been since Unbreakable that a superhero genre movie was made that didn't come from a comic book. It's a very simple but classic story of good versus evil told in a way that makes sense within the world we live in. It's grounded in reality with a hint of the fantastic. It's a mix of everything good that comes from comics.
Now that Split has been released and surprisingly tied into Unbreakable we can see that M. Night is building his own comic book universe within film, something that no other director is taking a risk to do. Slowly, the pieces are coming together and we are beginning to see a pattern emerge from the effects of the train crash caused by Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson) in Unbreakable. Did Kevin (James McAvoy) lose someone in the train crash, causing him to develop multiple personalities to cope with the loss? Only time will tell.
Whatever the case may be, it's refreshing to see some original comic book-esque movies coming to the big screen from the mind of M. Night Shyamalan.
What do you think of M. Night Shyamalan's attempts to create a new comic book universe?