There's no denying that director M. Night Shyamalan's filmmaking career has been polarizing, with movies in the quality range of The Sixth Sense to, somehow also, After Earth. Of course, if there's a calling card to Shyamalan's directorial style, it's his propensity for third act twists that can flip a movie on its head. That's what makes The Sixth Sense so iconic.
To that end, his controversial film Split is quintessential Shyamalan, with a final twist that puts the entire narrative in a whole new light and adds exciting possibilities for a sequel. The twist is perhaps worth the price of admission in and of itself, but here, we can discuss it in length. Just, seriously, don't read on if you don't want this twist spoiled — it's actually quite clever.
(Editor's note: Spoilers ahead for the ending of Split, and this is your final warning. We'll use a trailer for Split as a buffer, but then we're spoiling that ending).
So turns out, Split exists in the same cinematic universe as Shyamalan's 2000 superhero film, Unbreakable. We learn this when — having escaped the police after a series of gruesome murders — James McAvoy's character Kevin is seen on a diner tv, which is showing a news report about the acts he's commited. Kevin has a form of dissociative identity disorder and had 23 different personalities before a 24th, "the beast," took shape. This personality was accompanied by superhuman abilities. Folks at the diner discuss the incident and recall a similar story from over a decade ago, about a guy with a funny name commiting a few acts of terror. Then, Bruce Willis' character from Unbreakable chimes in, having recalled it himself.
Holy shit. So the reference to the man with the funny name is Samuel L. Jackson's Mr. Glass, who is the de facto villain of Unbreakable to Bruce Willis' David Dunn. The signature Shyamalan twist in Unbreakable is when David learns that Mr. Glass — who has helped David learn about his own superhuman abilities — is orchestrating several terrorist attacks to try and find someone with said powers (the Batman to his Joker, in the cheesiest interpretation possible).
What this could mean — assuming Split has some financial success to go with its positive reviews — is that we could be treated to a third film, in which David goes up against Kevin, and by extension, "the beast." Interestingly, Shyamalan revealed in an interview with io9, published Friday, that Kevin was actually in an earlier script of Unbreakable.
"I had about 15 to 20 pages written [focusing on Kevin] and those scenes are all in [Split]," the director says.
While it's not like we have a dearth of superhero movies right now, a hypothetical Unbreakable follow-up would be a refreshing change of pace for the formulaic, third act sky beams we've come to expect from the likes of Marvel and DC Comics.
Split is currently playing in theaters nationwide.