Geek exporter: The M. Night Shyamalan Verse

adminJanuary 10, 2019

Few board members have seen heights and lows like M. Night Shyamalan. His 1999 supernatural drama The sixth Sense was a surprise checkout blockbuster who established him as a name to see, capable of clear visual tricks and unusual twist endings. But that tendency also became a trap, as his mid-term films were haunted by viewers waiting for them. After the bad nadir of his live action Avatar: The Last Airbender, M. Night has returned to his roots with audience-appealing, low-budget horror flicks and the upcoming Glass, a sequel to his 2000 quasi superhero movie unbreakable. How do they connect? How did this new universe come to be? Read on, friends, and let's geeksplain everything.


What was unbreakable?

Before we begin, it is important to remember that superhero movies were in a completely different place in 2000. It would be eight years earlier Iron man kicked off the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the genre was in a rather severe decline. There is a reason why unbreakable seemed so revolutionary.

Bruce Willis stars as security guard David Dunn, the only survivor of a train crash killing 181 people. David comes from his experience changed – his strength is increased and he has a kind of ESP that lets him see evil deeds people have committed. He is helped in his embrace of these abilities by the art gallery owner Elijah Price, suffering from a disease that makes his bones as brittle as glass.

Here is the twist: Price caused The train crash to extract Dunn's new abilities, as part of a lifelong mission to prove that such extra-normal people existed. As swerves go, it was a pretty damn good one. The movie did well in theaters, but really took off on DVD, became a cool hit.


What about Share?

Now is where it gets interesting. Rumors of one unbreakable The sequel began to circulate immediately after the film's release, with Bruce Willis telling the press he hoped for a trilogy. But Touchstone Pictures did not think it was worth it and did not set up funds, so the idea died on the vine.

But one of the original drafts for unbreakable had an extra antagonist for David Dunn – a man named Kevin Crumb who hosted 24 different personalities, and when they take over they change their body as well. One of these personalities, "Beast", had access to extra-ordinary powers such as David's along with an insatiable desire for human flesh, and they would have conflicted. Share pulled that character out and gave him his own movie, a kind of supervillain origin story that followed Kevin's kidnapping of three teenagers. It is a very different feeling than that unbreakable, much slimmer, but it has a twist, too.

At the end of the film, we cut to a dinner where climbers look at a news report about Kevin … and one of those borrowers is David Dunn. And suddenly people were back on board. Share $ 278 million on a $ 9 million budget, and M. Night was negotiable again. Lo, Glass.

What is the story of Glass?

The first two films in SCU (if we can be so bold) were both essential origin stories, introducing us to characters and their abilities. These are, in our opinion, almost always the weakest type of superhero films. Think about how many times Spider man franchise had to make the whole uncle ben with great power come with great responsibility things? But Spider-Verse can get away with skipping it because Peter Parker's origins at this point are implicated in the American monopoly. Shyamalan doesn't have that luxury. He builds this from the whole cloth, so of course he had to take some time to set it up.

Glass (See this), but as the third film of a trilogy, everything is about finally bringing the pieces together. David pursues Kevin as Elijah Price – Mr. Glass – pulls the strings behind the scenes. Finding a few years after the events Share, the plot finagles a way to get our three main characters in the same mental institution being treated by a doctor who specializes in people with delusions of superhumanity. He has described it as the "first truly based comic book" that, uh, doesn't seem very accurate to me (ever seen Ghost World?)

We're not going to spoil everything for you, but critical reception has been pretty bad – when I write this, it's 40% at Rotten Tomatoes. And it's about the thing he has had the most trouble with: ending.


Why not twist at work?

We talked a little about M. Night Shyamalan's reputation as "the guy doing the turns." Front spoiler: Bruce Willis was dead all the time in The sixth Sense. Mr. Glass orchestrated everything in unbreakable. The village is listed today. But a twist is not all that is needed to make a good end – and in fact, the superhero genre is almost exclusively based on absence of twists. We want to see heroes save the day so they can move on to new adventures. Even Thanos finger snap at the end of Infinity War is just there to set up Endgame.

Twist i Share was rewarding because it did not negate anything you had enjoyed the movie. Instead, it reinforced it – knowing that Kevin existed in this fictitious space where other superhumanists were also linked to "hi, I know that guy." It did what you just looked at, seems bigger and more interesting. Same with his more successful films. But GlassGreat compulsion (sorry, there is one) does not. Instead, it serves as a lazy way to explain the film's mysteries without elaborating on our experience.


What's next?

That's an interesting question. In interviews, M. Night Shyamalan has talked about Glass Do not end the story, and some of the movie's events surely leave the door open for another sequel. Spoiler follows for parts of Glass, so if you don't want it destroyed, flip it off now.

One of the theories raised in Glass is that the presence of a few super-driven people like Dunn and Crumb actually stops the rest of humanity from embracing their own inner potential. And the people in power know it, so it's in their best interest to make sure that more superhumanists are not going to interfere with the status quo. Without giving too much away, it happens. There are other superhumans out there. But will there be movies about them?

The problem here is that "superheroes in the real world" are not as interesting and smart as it was in 2000. We are on the elbows in comic books from many different angles, from all-out comedy to gloomy and gritty vigilantes and cosmic consequences. What can the Shyamalan verse offer that DC, Marvel, Dark Horse et al cannot? It is a question that even your faithful Geeksplainer cannot answer.

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