After the success of Split, M. Night Shyamalan began work on Glass, a sequel to his acclaimed superhero film, Unbreakable. Catching up with the mysterious David Dunn is an exciting prospect, but given how well the original film ends, is a sequel really necessary?
Unbreakable is a brilliant take on the superhero genre. It follows David Dunn (Bruce Willis), a seemingly normal security guard who, after surviving a train crash without any injuries, discovers he’s virtually indestructible. With the help of an eccentric comic shop owner (Samuel L. Jackson), Dunn slowly discovers that he’s an actual superhero, and now must face the responsibility of protecting others from evil.
Unbreakable achieved wide acclaim upon its release, with critics and audiences complimenting its subtle, contemplative take on the superhero genre. Quentin Tarantino cited the film as ‘one of the masterpieces of our time,’ and many consider it Shyamalan’s greatest work.
After Unbreakable, Shyamalan’s career began a downward curve with a seemingly never-ending string of failures. However, his most recent film, Split, proved to be his most well received since Unbreakable.
Split told of the mentally ill Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man with 23 separate personalities who kidnaps three girls and holds them hostage. Due to his multiple personalities, Crumb is dubbed The Hoard by the media. As the film draws to a close, we learn that The Hoard exists in the same universe as David Dunn, and is the next super-villain to challenge the budding hero.
Split not only marked an end to Shyamalan’s losing streak but brought renewed interest to Unbreakable. As a result of its success, the writer/director got his chance to make a sequel, continuing the stories of Split and Unbreakable, hopefully bringing a satisfying conclusion to both.
Glass, Shyamalan’s upcoming film, will be the final chapter of the David Dunn saga. In this film, Dunn tracks down The Hoard, and the two square off in a battle evocative of the comic books only hinted at in the first two films. Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodard will return from Unbreakable, and James McAvoy and Anya Taylor-Joy will reprise their roles from Split.
For the first time in what seems like forever, people are actually looking forward to a Shyamalan film, myself included. But given how Unbreakable ends, one does wonder. Is it possible that Unbreakable not only didn’t need a sequel but that the very act of having one might do it harm?
In its earliest stages, Unbreakable was a far more conventional super-hero story, following Dunn as he discovers his powers and eventually takes on a real-life arch villain. During the writing process, however, Shyamalan found the first act more interesting than the rest of his script, so he ultimately made the entire film just about David’s discovery. Could showing Dunn as a fully-fledged superhero actually weaken the character?
This is the same problem that plagued another series of films, The Omen. The original Omen told of little Damien Thorn, the AntiChrist, and followed the first step on his rise to power that would lead to the end of days. Showing Damien’s rule wasn’t the point of The Omen. The film worked instead by building up anticipation that something bad was coming, then leaving the audience hanging. Seeing the apocalypse wasn’t the point, but rather the anticipation of it. The Omen took that threat and used it to make the sight of a child’s smile into one of cinema’s most chilling endings. When Damien’s rule was shown in the third sequel, it not only proved underwhelming, but also weakened the ending to the original.
Glass runs such a risk. Unbreakable‘s ending took its strength from the feeling that big things were coming for Dunn, but not telling us exactly what. This was the beginning of a new life of punishing evildoers and keeping people safe, his life as a quiet family man now a thing of the past. Like The Omen, it’s the anticipation of David’s future that gives the ending its potency. The absence of a sequel actually strengthens the ending.
Though the idea of a sequel is somewhat off putting for me, I’ll gladly go see it. Given Shyamalan’s recent successes, Glass may well prove a return to form for the long struggling director. One can’t help but feel excited about returning to his unconventional take on the superhero myth, because that’s what made the original film so remarkable. Unbreakable told an origin story in a way that was uniquely its own. If Glass can tell a superhero story in the same way, that could make it a very worthy continuation, even if it’s not totally necessary.
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