WARNING: Major spoilers for the ending of Split
The resurgence of M. Night Shyamalan is officially underway as the writer/director’s new film Split has officially released in theaters to positive reviews. In fact, it currently maintains a 77 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, his highest overall score since The Sixth Sense back in 1999. Plus, a lot of the praise has been directed at James McAvoy and his compelling performance as Kevin, a man suffering from dissociative identity disorder (DID) who kidnaps three young girls. These two combined seem to be spelling out a winning opening weekend at the box office for Split.
Now, of course, with the film finally hitting theaters, there’s been a lot of buzz surrounding Split and Shyamalan’s trademark twist ending, with some calling it his best since The Sixth Sense. However, now the filmmaker himself is opening up on just what led to the shocking twist and how carefully he constructed a key scene in the film. One more warning: There will be major spoilers in regards to Split and its ending.
While speaking to io9, Shyamalan reiterated that Split was always meant to be a sort-of sequel to Unbreakable, revealing that the character of Kevin was originally supposed to appear in the film. The director wrote between 15-20 pages focusing on Kevin and tying in with Bruce Willis’s David Dunn character (who appears at the very end of the film). Shyamalan also revealed that his goal was to make a sequel and origin story without letting the audience know that was the intention. For Shyamalan’s full thoughts, read below:
“I said ‘Can we make a sequel that they don’t realize is a sequel? Can we make an origin story without telling them it’s an origin story until the last moment of the movie? So it plays as a thriller and becomes an origin story?’ So that was the idea from go.”
On Willis’ response to reprising his Dunn role, Shyamalan revealed:
“I called him and told him and he said ‘I’m there.’ He was so sweet, he flew down and shot that for the day.”
Shyamalan’s words are certainly in line with his distinct style as a filmmaker, the same style that earned him critical acclaim early on in his career. Going back to what he said nearly two years ago about a sequel to Unbreakable not feeling like a sequel at all, and the arrival of Split seems like the completion of some next-level foreshadowing. And fans and critics alike seem to be responding positively to Shyamalan’s considerable efforts to conceal such a shocking ending.
Still, some fans may view the twist ending of Split as Shyamalan’s attempt at cashing in on a previously successful film like Unbreakable, which grossed nearly $250 million at the box office. While certainly a valid concern, Unbreakable itself ended with Dunn finally realizing his purpose as a superhero-type and left a lot of open room for a continuation set in the same universe. Split seems like a natural progression for Shyamalan, as it’s certainly his style to keep something as substantial like a plot connection with a previous film under wraps until the final scene.