Of all the superhero movies in 2017, from Wonder Woman to Thor: Ragnarok, none were as surprising or shocking as M. Night Shyamalan’s Split, a surprise sequel to the director’s 2000 cult thriller Unbreakable. Now, the director is gearing up for the final installment of his dark superhero series, 2019’s Glass, which is in good enough shape that he was able to show 12 mostly finished minutes of the upcoming film. And the director is teasing Glass as a completely different superhero movie.
On Monday, Shyamalan tweeted that he previewed 12 minutes of Glass to executives at both Universal Studios, which released Split in early 2017, and Walt Disney, which owns the distribution rights to Unbreakable. “Just came back from LA where I showed 12mins of #Glass to @UniversalPics & @DisneyStudios,” Shyamalan wrote. “Very very gracious reaction. #comicbookthriller”
That hashtag, #comicbookthriller, is a pretty revealing description at just three words. If it wasn’t obvious already by both Unbreakable and Split, Shyamalan’s series reinterprets the often bombastic superhero genre into something smaller, surreal, and cerebral.
The films sport less outlandish spectacle than anything from Marvel or DC, and it reduces the bright and colorful trope of superhero costumes into rain ponchos and yellow zip hoodies. These stripped-down deconstructions of superhero stories are among the better works in Shyamalan’s long and divisive oeuvre, which includes duds like 2007’s The Happening and 2010’s The Last Airbender.
What’s more remarkable is that Shyamalan’s series was almost prescient; Unbreakable was released right at the dawn of the superhero movie explosion, which arguably started when Bryan Singer’s X-Men came out that same year.
In Unbreakable, starring Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson, Willis plays a father named David Dunn who discovers he has superior strength and invincibility. At the same time, his “mentor,” a disabled comic book collector nicknamed “Mr. Glass” (Jackson) turns out to be a domestic terrorist who wanted David to accept his destiny as a superhero.
Seventeen years later, Split stars James McAvoy (also from the X-Men films) as Kevin Wendell Crumb, a patient diagnosed with an extreme (and scientifically inaccurate) form of dissociative identity disorder (DID). With 24 separate personalities, his most violent is an inhuman monster he called “the Beast.” In the end of Split, Kevin reveals himself to the world, with the news media giving him the moniker “the Horde.” In a cameo appearance, Bruce Willis reprises his role as David Dunn in a manner not unlike Marvel’s post-credits scenes that set up future installments.
In Glass, characters from both films will collide as David Dunn is the only one capable of stopping the Horde’s rampage.
M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass will be released in theaters in 2019.