One of the reasons the twist ending at the conclusion of Split was so great is that it provided a tease fans of Unbreakable had been waiting for since 2000. While other M. Night Shyamalan movies have their fans, the one people constantly wanted a sequel for was Unbreakable, a film that underperformed in comparison to Shyamalan’s breakout 1999 movie, The Sixth Sense. But Shyamalan’s sly deconstruction of superheroes and comic books still holds up remarkably well, and the success of Split shows that audiences are now finally on board for what Shyamalan was pitching.
I haven’t seen the conclusion of this trilogy, Glass, yet, but we know that the film will bring together the main characters from both movies. Split did very well at the box office, so you’re probably aware of James McAvoy’s character Kevin Wendell Crumb, a man suffering from multiple personality disorder who unleashes a 24th personality known as “The Beast”, which gives him super strength and agility. This ties in nicely with the world Shyamalan created back in 2000 with Unbreakable.
What you need to know about Unbreakable is that it’s not a superhero or comic book movie in the traditional sense. Instead, Shyamalan is asking—like he did with Split—what would superpowers look like in our world? His solution is that comic books are an “exaggeration”, but that their tropes are undeniable and give us a sense of our place in the world. That’s what brings together security guard David Dunn (Bruce Willis) and art dealer/comic aficionado Elijah Price aka “Mr. Glass” (Samuel L. Jackson), so named as a taunt by children due to his fragile bones.
The story of Unbreakable begins when Dunn is the sole survivor of a massive train wreck in Philadelphia. Not only is Dunn the sole survivor, he is completely unharmed. He then receives a note from Price asking if he has ever gotten sick. This causes Dunn, a seemingly normal man, to start revaluating his life and if Price might be on to something with how Dunn has never gotten sick, never had a serious injury, can bench-press 350 pounds, and also has the ability to get a sense of danger while working as a security guard. This “sense” manifests as the ability to see the actions of bad people when he touches them. He also has a signature weakness a la kryptonite, which is water.
The “twist” is that Price caused the train accident because he was specifically looking for his opposite. It turns out that although Dunn might be the hero of the story, it’s been Price with his genius intellect pulling the strings, a villain looking for a hero. Price, who due to his condition feels like he’s a “mistake”, wants to know that there’s a place for him in the world. By proving the existence of Dunn, an unbreakable man, he has found his arch-nemesis. Price processes the world through the mythology represented by comic books, and in the end, that mythology proves him right as there is a relationship between the villain and the hero. Price doesn’t mind being the bad guy as long as it gives him purpose and a place.
We don’t know how Glass is going to go, but if it fits in with Unbreakable and Split, it’s clear that Shyamalan is interested in pursuing the concept of heroes, villains, and powers, but within a realistic context. In the larger sense, David Dunn is the good guy and Elijah Price is the bad guy, but for Shyamalan, he’s more interested in the tropes that brings these characters together and what defines them as “heroic” or “villainous”, and when he throws Crumb into the mix with Glass, I’ll be curious to see how those concepts clash and expand.
Glass opens January 18th. Click here to see if you’re a hero or a villain.