I’ve only just found out that one of my favourite films, Unbreakable, had a sequel and I didn’t even know about it. Apparently a film called Split starring James McAvoy came out a couple of years ago (it passed me by completely) and in a surprise ending revealed itself to be a sequel to Unbreakable.
I’m not spoiling anything here. The cat is out of the bag now and there is a third film, Glass, being advertised now which reunites the entire cast of both previous films, including Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson.
I’m slightly concerned… Unbreakable was such a perfect standalone film that I’m wary of sequels. In hindsight it did something that NONE of the subsequent mainstream superhero films have done, which is to treat the superhero genre with the subtlety and maturity it deserves. It’s so low-key it can hardly be called a superhero film at all.
Unbreakable also crystallised Shyamalan’s unique approach. At his peak (Signs, The Village) he was a master at recontextualising hokey, pulpy plots into quite emotional and spiritual experiences. Like Tarantino, he was a master of merging high and low art approaches. I’m a staunch defender of his peak films.
Crucially, however, I think his approach was maybe too subtle. His first major success, The Sixth Sense, had a novelty to it that carried it, where the follow ups didn’t. It’s all too easy to see how he can be dismissed as the guy who makes dumb films about aliens who are allergic to water.
I was with him until Lady In The Water (2006), which just went too lofty, too corny. My interest in his stuff diminished rapidly after that and I’ve never really kept up with him since then.
But for a few years at the turn of the millennium, I really believe he was a red hot talent with a unique voice. Let’s hope Split and Glass are a return to form and don’t spoil the legacy of Unbreakable.