Alright kids. Hold onto your butts, I’m gonna give you one last chance to turn around before I drop this. Give it a watch first.
Okay, here we go.
Split is a stealth sequel to Unbreakable.
Those of you who don’t squeal at that, this twist probably won’t mean much to you. So let’s explain a bit.
Unbreakable is Shyamalan’s 2000 take on the superhero origin picture, a realistic superhero story long before that idea was really popular in the mainstream. A dark and moody film about trauma and who it turns us into and the power we derive from it.
Starting to sound familiar?
At the end of Split, a news report comes over the air about the now-escaped Kevin, who’s fully given in to the power of The Beast, which transformed Kevin into a super-strong, impervious being with the ability to move at top speeds and crawl on walls. He’s now called The Horde. One of the patrons in the diner where we’re watching this report muses that sounds like a guy who committed a bunch of murders fifteen years earlier.
To which David Dunn (Bruce Willis), last seen in Unbreakable, responds that his name was Mr. Glass (Samuel L. Jackson).
Essentially, this twist isn’t one that reveals a mystery or completely reframes the story. Rather it’s a confirmation. Split becomes a supervillain origin story, and sets it on a collision course with the superhero origin he first established fifteen years ago. It creates a universe, a pulpy attempt to forge a superhero mythology born out of pain and trauma. It’s interesting and it’s a move that makes the follow-up to this something worth salivating over.
The superhero genre is now such a dominant part of cinema, it shocks me that we haven’t created any original series out of it. We can actually afford the ability to tell new and different stories in a genre that we now all speak the language of. If Shyamalan is there to do it? Then I’m down.