Let’s Talk About the Last Scene of ‘Split’
Have you seen Split? That new Shyamalan film getting decent reviews where McAvoy plays a crazy person with 24 personalities?
No? Then you’d better leave. The movie drops a massive twist at the end and we’re going to talk about it. Our review is fairly spoiler free if you’re interested. And the distributor hates us spoiling new movies, so please don’t read further.
Still here? I’ll assume you have seen it. Right let’s talk about the twist.
The twist is…
Wait for it…
This is the buffer so the blurb doesn’t show the twist in social media feeds…
The twist is that Split is a sequel.
Specifically a sequel to Unbreakable, the one good Shyamalan film.
Right, so let’s explain. Some people don’t consider this a twist because it doesn’t really impact the story but it does and you can make that argument about any of Shyamalan’s films. Also it’s a story reveal that subverts audience expectation. That’s a twist.
In the final scene of the movie we hear a news reader announcing that authorities have nicknamed this killer (McAvoy) ‘The Horde’. This is both an amazing coincidence because that’s what he called himself and nonsense because they don’t know about his condition. Then we pan through a diner where some customers announce in LOUD SLOW VOICES that it’s “LIKE THAT GUY THEY ARRESTED YEARS AGO. YOU KNOW…IN THE WHEELCHAIR? WHAT WAS HIS NAME?”
Then amazing enough we reveal Bruce Willis in his outfit from Unbreakable and he says “Mr. Glass”, the villain from that film. The message is clear…The Horde and his amazing spider/man powers are the new villain for Unbreakable guy and Split isn’t a movie, it’s just a set-up for another Unbreakable film.
Many movie goers have been pleased with this twist, even praised it. I disagree. It’s terrible. Here’s why.
IT DOESN’T WORK AS A GOOD TWISTWhy have audiences praised this twist? I suspect, and I may be wrong, that it was so startling and unexpected that audience members didn’t pause to process the ramifications. Most people leave the cinema knowing that they were surprised by a sudden turn at the end of the movie, and that is a nice feeling. But I have a theory that if a twist doesn’t put the rest of the movie into a new perspective it isn’t a good twist. In other words, if you can cut the twist off the end of a movie and it still works as a story, it’s not a good twist.
An example might help. Fight Club has a brilliant twist. When initially watching the movie you’re likely to find Marla Singer (played by Helena Bonham Carter) to be a confusing character. She acts erratically, turns up into scenes out of nowhere and has no motivation. Once you’ve seen the movie to the end, learned the twist and rewatched it you’ll realise that you had her entirely wrong. Marla was completely sane (well, to a point) and it’s the main character who is acting in a confusing manner…we just saw it from the wrong point of view. THAT’S a good twist.Compare that to The Sixth Sense. I almost left the cinema before the twist reveal because the movie was dragging its feet to credits. The story about the boy who could see ghosts has been entirely resolved, and Bruce Willis is going to address his martial problems head on. Conflict resolved, character arcs complete…the reveal that Bruce Willis is a ghost the whole time doesn’t change any of that. Sure you can watch it again and think, “oh that’s neat, I didn’t notice he doesn’t talk to anyone else” but it has almost no impact on the story. It’s trivial.
The big twist in Split has nothing at all to do with the two hours that precede it. You can cut it out and it still works as a complete movie. In fact, it diminishes it because the presence of the ‘it’s a sequel!’ twist means we’ve been robbed of a conclusion to the movie we just watched.
IT DESTROYED THE CLIMAX
Don’t you find it strange that Split ended on such as unsatisfactory note? She got away and…he got away. The Beast didn’t get defeated, the girl didn’t win anything or come out better, they just kind of…went their seperate ways. This is a terrible ending for a horror film, and that’s because this isn’t a horror film. It’s an extended prologue for a superhero movie we haven’t seen yet.
In addition to ruining the ending of Split, the twist marks this as not a stand alone film but a set up for a bigger ‘extended universe’ franchise. This business plan is all the rage in Hollywood right now. Now, for shits and giggles, let’s name all the franchises who have done this successfully:
Still, with this one example (which had immensely strong groundwork and still took a huge gamble that succeeded against all the odds) everyone and their dog thinks they can do the same thing with one new release.
Here’s some examples of movies that have fallen flat or been less than stellar because they’ve tried to be the first part of a massive franchise: Batman v Superman, Suicide Squad, The Legend of Tarzan, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Ghostbusters, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Warcraft, Gods of Egypt…and those are just from 2016. There are more this year such as The Mummy, Skull Island and so forth. Movies more invested in their sequels than telling a good story are passable at best. And if you want to argue that any potential sequel doesn’t impact on Split, remember that Split doesn’t have an ending.
WHY A SEQUEL TO UNBREAKABLE?
The only reason they might make a sequel to Unbreakable 17 years later is because it’s generally referred to as Shyamalan’s only good film after The Sixth Sense (I disagree, it’s his ONLY good film). It’s built up a cult following over the almost two decades since it was released for this very reason.
But it’s still not widely seen. It was considered a flop when it was released. It has a cult following but very, very few people are going out of their way to see a movie two decades old by a film maker largely considered to be a joke for the past decade. When Split ended on the sudden appearance of Bruce Willis a large section of the audience was left confused. People around us were heard explaining to each other what that was about. It’s obscure enough that it might have been easier to have Shyamalan pop up during the credits to to explain it.Would I be happy if I got to see a really good sequel to Unbreakable? Of course! But I doubt it will be good. It’s been a long, long time. The major players have gotten older and the director has a career of unintentionally hilarious flops. We’re more likely to get another The Happening or The Last Airbender than another Unbreakable. If it happens, great, but I’m not holding out hope.
So, in conclusion, Split is a secret sequel to Unbreakable which is as stupid an idea as a sequel to The Boondock Saints released 15 years after the original. It robbed Split of having a satisfying ending for a cheap, ineffective twist so they can set up a movie that will likely bomb. Great job, Shyamalan, you still suck.