This piece on the M. Night Shyamalan movies is the first in a series of articles written by Daniel Dockery.
For years, M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable was like an oasis in a sea of both Shyamalan movies and the superhero genre. When compared to likes of Shyamalan’s good films, like The Sixth Sense and The Visit, it’s special. And when compared to the superhero genre, which has come to feel like it encompasses half of all modern films, it’s super special. What’s more, this analysis of comic book tropes and Bruce Willis bench presses came out in 2000, a full eight years before Marvel decided that it would never leave your local theater as long as Robert Downey Jr. still drew breath.
Rumors of a sequel have always been…around? The idea of an Unbreakable 2 has been out there since Unbreakable was released, but it’s never been something that people have seemed that passionate about for any extended period of time. That’s mostly due to the fact that, after the vengefully average The Village, Shyamalan’s critical reception nosedived, slamming into the ground and then bouncing around the landscape of his wrecked career. The Lady in the Water, The Last Airbender, After Earth. Crash, crash, crash. He became less of a director and more of a Hollywood meme. The “twist” guy. Shyamalama-ding-dong. The dude that would forever have his name attached to The Happening.
I’ve always kind of dug Shyamalan, because even when the biggest twist in his film was “Surprise! This movie ACTUALLY got made!”, he’s always seemed thoughtful and sincere. Someone that was deeply excited about the prospect of just getting to make movies, which is neat, especially when most news from the filmmaking world is about how the process will strip your skin off and leave you naked against the onslaught of rich producers that just want you to find a way to tie your passion project into the next Avengers. AND SPEAKING OF SHARED UNIVERSES…
Split came out. I had just seen The Visit, which isn’t perfect, but it’s engaging and fun, two words that I hadn’t tied to a Shyamalan film since I was in high school. And Split, while also not perfect, was engaging and fun. It didn’t take itself very seriously, it had a delightful cast, and by god, I didn’t start to turn on it while watching it. I remember watching The Last Airbender, and getting about thirty minutes in before my body and brain began to actively revolt against the movie. Maybe I could go do anything else, I thought. Maybe I should be doing anything else.
But while I watched Split, I was happy, and I was content. And then the last short scene, with Bruce Willis in the diner, showed up, seemingly delivered to us on high, and if I hadn’t been surrounded by people, I probably would’ve fist pumped in the dark for a full hour. Even if there would be no Unbreakable sequel that dealt with a continuation of Willis’ and Samuel L. Jackson’s characters in any major way, Shyamalan had at least given people like me the acknowledgment of “Yeah, Unbreakable was pretty tight, wasn’t it?”
And now, a few months after the release of Split, we’ve received the news that we’re getting a cap to the Unbreakable trilogy. Glass, which features the return of Jackson, Willis, James McAvoy’s Kevin Crumb and Anna Taylor-Joy’s Casey Cooke, is projected to come out in 2019. And for the first time in a while, I’m legitimately excited about a new Shyamalan film. I dreaded The Visit, was hesitant about Split, but now I get to be downright pumped about Glass. A decade after we wrote off Shyamalan as a guy that had a great first third of his directing career, he once again becomes the most fascinating man in the superhero world.
Let’s do this. I think I’m ready.
Links to more by Daniel Dockery