After a rocky few years where he came dangerously close to descending into self-parody with The Happening before delivering two of the worst big budget blockbuster of the modern era in The Last Airbender and After Earth, the success of Split turned M. Night Shyamalan into a valuable commodity once again.
The low budget psychological thriller stripped away all of the excess that had plagued his recent work, with James McAvoy’s tour de force performance the highlight of an accomplished genre film that did massive business at the box office. But because this is Shyamalan we’re talking about, there was a twist in the tale.
Unlike his more divisive rug-pulling moments, audiences were thrilled when Bruce Willis’ David Dunn showed up right at the end of the movie, tying Split directly to Unbreakable. Fans couldn’t wait to see the crossover between the filmmaker’s heightened realities, but it would be fair to say that Glass was a crushing disappointment.
It was clear that Shyamalan was deliberately subverting expectations, though in an effort to distance itself as far as possible from the standard superhero formula, it ended up being a bit of a chore to sit through. There were also a lot of confused viewers when the entire story was building to a climactic battle for the ages between Dunn and The Horde, only for Unbreakable‘s leading man to be drowned in a very shallow puddle instead.
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In a recent interview, the Academy Award nominee defended his choice to send the popular character out in less than spectacular fashion, as opposed to a blaze of glory, explaining:
“In the end, the simplest thing can take the strongest person down. It’s like more of Achilles’ heel that, in the mythos of it, you don’t need an army to take down the strongest man if you know their weakness.”
You can understand where Shyamalan was coming from, but David Dunn’s less than heroic demise definitely took all of the wind out of Glass‘ sails long before the story drew to a close.