(This piece contains SPOILERS for Split. You have been warned.)
In what is easily the most shocking twist of them all, people have seemed to forgive M. Night Shyamalan (leaving aside the fact that one of the things people are “forgiving” him for is his masterpiece). It happened so quickly, too. He made one movie that people generally liked, and then went straight back into hitmaker mode with Split, a thriller about a man with multiple personalities. It made more money than any movie of his since Signs, got his best reviews and audience reactions since The Sixth Sense, and oh yeah, is a sequel to Unbreakable. Shyamalan even got Bruce Willis out of bed to film a little cameo at the end as David Dunn, sadly reflecting on Mr. Glass and the fact that he has to face a new supervillain in the form of a bald James McAvoy doing a lot of voices. This gambit would have probably drove Shyamalan out of directing anything, including instructional videos for new T.G.I. Friday’s employees, if the movie didn’t land, but the hand of the free market has spoken, and not only is Split a success, it is now not the last part of an Unbreakable Cinematic Universe.
Since Split‘s release, Shyamalan on Twitter (by the way, he is a consistently delightful Twitter personality, earnestly posting tips for writers and retweeting United jokes) has been cryptically posting about writing a new script. Of course, anybody who saw Split knew precisely what script it was, but he didn’t formally announce it until today, when he sent out a chain of tweets confirming that, yes, his next movie would be a combo Split and Unbreakable sequel (following 15 years of vague talk about an Unbreakable sequel). Here is what was learned from these tweets:
- The film is called Glass.
- Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson would officially reprise their roles as David Dunn and Elijah “Mr. Glass” Price, respectively, from Unbreakable.
- The same goes for James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy as Kevin “The Horde” Crumb and Casey Cooke from Split.
- The film will be released almost exactly two years after Split, on January 18, 2019, by Split‘s distributor, Universal (I assume they worked something out with Unbreakable‘s distributor, Disney), and production companies, Blumhouse and Shyamalan’s Bleeding Edge Productions.
Obviously, the returns of Willis and McAvoy and probably Jackson were as close to no-brainers as you can get, but Taylor-Joy’s return is something of a mild surprise (a very pleasant one, because she gives one of the best performances in any Shyamalan movie in Split). Her character ends Split, after being spared by the Horde, on the verge of freeing herself from her sexually abusive uncle, and that would seem to conclude her story. Very interestingly, Shyamalan describes her character as “the prodigy” in the tweet confirming her return, which suggests her being set up to be trained by either Dunn or the Horde in the sequel. I’m presuming Dunn, because the Horde did some not so nice things to some schoolmates of hers (tummies were devoured) and to her leg, and because both her and Dunn have come out on the other side after having terrifying encounters with supervillainy and their own pasts (plus there’s the symmetry of their initials being CC and DD, which I just realized today despite the fact that I’ve been working on a piece connecting Split to Unbreakable for months now). And also, come on, Bruce Willis leading Anya Taylor-Joy in a training montage sounds too rad not to do.
And then there’s the plot. It is described as following Dunn as he follows the Horde in “a series of escalating encounters, while the shadowy presence of [Elijah] Price emerges as an orchestrator who holds secrets critical to both men.” Given that the persistent worry from many about Unbreakable 2 was that it would just involve Dunn partaking in standard superhero escapades, this sounds juuuuuuuust right in terms of an escalation and not a selling out of Unbreakable‘s moody vibe.
There are still a few questions left lingering from this announcement, however. Given that he hasn’t shot a movie in a few years, one can assume Unbreakable‘s DoP Eduardo Serra will probably not be returning for this go-around (and Split and It Follows DoP Mike Gioulakis did such a great job that he would make a suitable replacement, not to mention that, based on his track record, Shyamalan is probably able to get any great DoP he could ever want), but who I’m really interested in seeing come back is James Newton Howard, Shyamalan’s former go-to composer prior to his comeback. Howard’s score is such a crucial part of what makes Unbreakable so good that it would be a shame to see him not return with Willis and Jackson. Thankfully, I recall reading an interview with Shyamalan where he said that he and Howard were still friends, so hopefully Shyamalan is able to easily wrangle him back.
But the bigger question is this; is this where the Shyamalan Cinematic Universe ends? I hope not. Personally, I hope this movie concludes with Casey’s uncle in prison being shotgunned to death by Ivy Walker, who quips “I cannot see your color” afterwards. Or one of the “escalating encounters” is at a minor league baseball game when Merrill Hess has decided to return to the sport. Or that the whole movie is just inexplicably a front for the long-awaited Last Airbender sequel.