Spoilers ahead folks, ye be warned!
For those of you who have watched Split but were a little perplexed at the final scene which reveals Bruce Willis in a diner, don’t worry, it’s an ending years in the making. In fact if you haven’t M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable then you won’t have the foggiest idea.
So what happens?
After M. Night Shyamalan’s name blasts onto the screen in large bold letters, following the close of the main story of Split, we are led to a new scene where the patrons of a diner watching news reports of the story we have just watched. As the camera makes its way down the bar, one patron recalls a strange story years ago regarding the arrest of a man in a wheelchair who did evil things; the patron is unable to remember their name. Quickly the patron moves, and the camera focuses on a man who says the name of the wheelchair bound villain “Mr. Glass”. That man is David Dunn, the character Bruce Willis plays in Unbreakable. Then credit roll.
Why does that matter?
Before I go any further if you haven’t seen Unbreakable then I implore you to do so, it’s arguably M. Night Shyamalan’s best film and we are about to discuss it.
Unbreakable is the story of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the soul survivor of a fatal train crash who miraculously walks away without so much as a scratch. After the incident David tries to return to his life of a troubled marriage and raising his son, but his incredible story captures the attention of Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson). Price is a comic collector and purveyor of its story telling who suffers from osteogenesis-imperfecta, a condition which leaves his bones in a fragile state and prone to breaks.
In their first meeting Elijah tells David about the history of drawings as a story telling device of real life events. Elijah then goes on to tell him of his belief that the first comic stories were based on actual people who had unusual gifts and powers, but these stories were swallowed up in the commercial machine that is the comic book industry and confined to fiction. Feeling that if somebody is afflicted with his condition Elijah also believes that there must be somebody on the opposite end of the spectrum; one who is impervious to damage or injury. With David, Elijah believes he has found that person.
As the film goes on David sways between disbelief and realisation that there is something extraordinary about him. Just as he comes to accept his identity and who he is David informs Elijah of the news, ecstatic Elijah reciprocates with a reveal of his own. The ‘accident’ that David was involved in was instigated by Elijah, as well as two other catastrophic incidents, as he manically tried to prove his theory. Elijah was subsequently arrested, and adopted the nickname the kids on the playground gave him…’Mr. Glass’.
What does it mean?
First and foremost it means Split is a spiritual sequel/spin-off to Unbreakable. The characters of both films exist within the same universe. With that in mind it provides reason for why James McAvoy’s character Kevin is able to do what he does. As the multiple personalities of Kevin welcome the arrival of a new personality known as the ‘The Beast’, Kevin’s body undergoes transformation where he becomes inhumanly strong, has the ability to walk on walls with his strength, and becomes remarkably fast. Before the final reveal of the film this physical development of the character is very much supernatural as we’ve had no indication that this would occur, truth be told we all just thought he’d go a bit nuts at the end. However with the tie-in reveal to Unbreakable, it means McAvoy’s character and multiple personalities are actually a part of a world where normal people could have powers that they never knew they had. If we want to be blunt, James McAvoy’s character and his multiple personalities are now a supervillain(s) in a world populated with unsuspecting heroes.
At the start of the final scene in Unbreakable David meets Elijah’s mother during an art exhibition. Mrs. Price tells David what her son once told her about villains “he says there’s always two kinds; there’s the soldier villain — who fights the hero with his hands; and then there’s the real threat — the brilliant and evil archenemy — who fights the hero with his mind.”
If Mr. Glass is the former friend turned arch enemy of David, this would make The Beast the soldier villain and one who David may well have to fight in any followup to the two films.
Unbreakable can be categorised as a superhero film, albeit an extremely grounded one that belongs to the drama genre. Split may not be a superhero film, but it exists within the same world as one and that lends itself to a world of exciting possibilities for whatever may come next.
What did you think of the twist at the end of Split? Did you love it or hate it? Personally my brain exploded.