Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Spoiler Space: Split

Photo: Universal Pictures

Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot points we can’t reveal in our review.

If Unbreakable’s David Dunn was M. Night Shyamalan’s version of the classic superhero, then what does that make Kevin? His take on an X-Men villain? Over the course of the film, Shyamalan drops a few hints about the connection between Split and his fondly remembered reimagining of the comic book origin story (the title and poster are dead giveaways, in retrospect), but it isn’t until the final moments—and the split-second return of Bruce Willis as Dunn—that the movie reveals itself as being set in the Unbreakable-verse. One can imagine a proper sequel that will pit Dunn against “the Horde,” as Kevin calls himself at the end of the movie. But how much does the connection between the two films really matter?


After all, part of what makes that ending twist so hard to guess is that Split and Unbreakable (get it?) are otherwise very different from each other in terms of tone. Even Dunn’s brief appearance is tongue-in-cheek: in a diner packed for the breakfast rush, he’s the only patron who can remember the name of Mr. Glass, the megalomaniacal villain who secretly terrorized Philadelphia all those years ago. The real twist, in a way, is that Shyamalan plays the premise of Split completely straight, while filling the movie with red herrings and misdirections: the similarity between Casey’s name and Kevin’s initials (K.C.), the redundancy of the other abducted girls, the fact that the Beast persona fits both rational and irrational explanations.

That’s all part of the movie’s self-reflexivity. Shyamalan knows his reputation and plays directly to the expectations of the audience. With Split, his career-long fixation on realized destinies and characters revealed and empowered through trauma becomes a bona fide internal mythology. It’s a little like the director is writing his own critical analysis, except that it takes the form of a crazy pulp story that doesn’t take a degree in Shyamalan-ology to enjoy.

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