Cue the fanfare because M. Night Shyamalan is back. Split, the acclaimed director's latest thriller, is not only ruling it at the box-office, but winning back critics of his work. Despite his directorial debut being in 1992, it wasn't until 1999's The Sixth Sense that Shyamalan cemented himself as the master of the cinematic twist. Since then he has shocked and wowed us with the likes of Signs, The Village, and Unbreakable, but seemingly derailed his career with duds like The Last Airbender, After Earth, and the dire Mark Wahlberg outing where the wind killed everyone.
So, did Shyamalan do a Joel Schumacher and become box-office suicide? Well not quite. #Split marks a glorious return to form for Shyamalan, but more importantly, the film's third act marks an exciting turn for the future of his films and opens up the possibility for a Split sequel. So, what does Split's increible final scene mean for Split 2 and the rest of the M. Night Shyamalaniverse?
Warning: Spoilers ahead for Split
Breaking The 'Unbreakable'
2000 was an important year for Shyamalan, and in an era before Raimi's Spider-Man swung around New York, or R.D.J. polished his Iron Man armor, Shyamalan created one of the best superhero films ever. #Unbreakable starred Bruce Willis as David Dunn, the sole survivor of a rail crash, who finds himself tested as an indestructible man. Dunn is mentored by Samuel L. Jackson's Mr. Glass, a man suffering with a rare brittle bone disease. The big M. Night twist is that comic book dealer Mr. Glass is in fact the villain of the film, orchestrating disasters in his search for a hero like David and a way to cure his illness.
Aside from Shyamalan's classic films, Unbreakable is so remarkable because it is a superhero film without even knowing it is. Dark and brooding, a great hero, and a shock villain reveal, Unbreakable has been waiting for a sequel ever since, while most hope was lost until now. Split's shock ending finds Bruce Willis sitting in your everyday American diner, dressed in a boiler suit and reprising his role as David. Apart from being accompanied by James Newton Howard’s original score from Unbreakable, it was a move no one saw coming. It was actually a decision that has been in the making for 17 years. Shyamalan confirmed in a recent interview that the first draft of Unbreakable included a version of a character that suffered from having 23 different personalities and focused on David rescuing kidnapped girls from Kevin:
"The original draft of 'Unbreakable' focused on David Dunn and Elijah as his mentor. Elijah tells him, 'You’re a comic book character, go try it.' And instead of bumping into the Orange Suit Man, David bumps into one of Kevin’s personalities and goes to save the girls. So you’d have been watching the girls side of it the whole time. That was the outline."
This meant that not only some of the scenes for Split were already written way back when, but that Shyamalan already had the makings of his own superhero universe long before the DCEU and MCU suffocated our cinemas. He has previously teased that he had always envisioned Unbreakable 2, or even a trilogy, but that it had to come from the right place so not to feel artificial. Well, given the critical response for Split, it seems like a pretty good place to start to me. Whether it be a new Split move or another Unbreakable, we haven't seen the last of The Horde yet
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A 'Split' Decision
Split was good, don't get me wrong, but I felt there was something missing. Tension was high and there were a few good jump scares, but it muddled off in the middle and lacked the tension that it needed to keep you gripped. Looking at what the first 2/3 of 10 Cloverfield Lane did for the whole kidnap/bunker trope, Split pales in comparison. The death of Dr. Fletcher could be seen a mile off, while Haley and Jessica's shock demises off-screen would have worked if we actually cared for them; there is also the film's harsh criticism for its representation of those suffering with psychological disorders.
However, whereas 10 Cloverfield Lane went way off-piste for its finale, Split does the reverse. It would have been far too easy to kill off Kevin and his (now) 24 personalities, which create "The Horde," but given only a glimpse of his many sides, it would have been such a waste of a great character; Shyamalan saved him, possibly for a rainy day, possibly for an Unbreakable sequel. Then there was the diner scene in general; as soon as you heard one customer say “a funny guy in a wheelchair, what was his name?" the little 10-year-old fanboy inside me exploded. In some ways Split felt like it was just there to set up Unbreakable 2, but given the opportunities that presents, who really cares!?!
The Legion Of Doom
Any plot for Unbreakable 2 remains a mystery, and with a constantly stalled process, many think it will never happen. Thankfully, Shyamalan looks like he is (finally) returning to his opus thanks to Split:
"I don’t know what’s going to happen when I go off in my room, a week after this film opens, to write the script. But I’m going to start writing...[I have] a really robust outline, which is pretty intricate. But now the standards for my outlines are higher. I need to know I’ve won already. I’m almost there but I’m not quite there."
Split seemingly confirms that David Dunn will at least go up against Kevin or Mr. Glass, but hopefully both, in a sequel. Jackson has always maintained that if Willis and Shyamalan expressed an interest to return, he would too. Speaking in 2015, he said that he would "love to break out of the asylum.” Imagine a Batman/Arkham-esque film where Mr. Glass breaks free and recruits his own supervillain troupe to lure Dunn out of retirement. We already have Kevin's Horde, and given Shyamalan's dark mind, there is any number of dark creatures lurking out there. While the director might be known for his plots more than his characters, both Mr. Glass and The Horde stick out as some of his greatest work.
Willis had always hoped for an Unbreakable trilogy, so it is unclear whether Split forms the second chapter, or whether we will get another two full David Dunn films (let's hope for the latter). Split not only gives us one of the best Shyamalan endings out there, but it inadvertently pitches itself as a horror/superhero film in a landscape that is packed with Guardians, Leagues, and Avengers. On its own, Split is B+, but as a pseudo-sequel to Unbreakable and as a superhero film, it rockets to be one of the most promising films out there as Shyamalan sets the groundwork for an even more exciting future and an inevitable Split sequel!
Check out the trailer for Unbreakable, and don't forget our poll below!
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