Not too long ago, news of a new M. night Shyamalan film would have been greeted with little more than a derisive snort. Once Hollywood’s golden boy, thrilling audiences with his signature use of plot twists (or Shyamalan switcheroos, as nobody called them but us), Shyamalan’s career was almost ended by a series of excruciating turds. In recent years he’s been clawing back some of that reputation, putting out arresting thrillers like his most recent effort Split. Yesterday it was reported that he has finished his 11-page outline for a follow-up to Unbreakable, his masterpiece from the year 2000, back when the name Shyamalan meant Sixth senses rather than Happenings.
Unsurprisingly for a writer/director who relies so heavily on suspense, Shyamalan is keeping details of the project close to his chest. What we do know, and what has us seriously intrigued, is that this is no mere sequel to Unbreakable. This will be the final chapter in a trilogy of which Unbreakable and Split were the first instalments. This means that Dunn, the invincible man played to perfection by Bruce Willis in Unbreakable will get a chance to cross paths with Kevin, James McAvoy’s troubled killer from Split.
Speaking on the Happy Sad Confused Podcast, Shyamalan gave as many details as he dares on the fates of David Dunn and Elijah, Unbreakable’s fragile-boned antagonist:
“My thought bubble would be—again don’t hold me to this—but Elijah never got out of the institution. He was just a guy who believed this, but David doesn’t quite 100% believe it that way, he just thinks that he is particularly meant to do this and is kind of faded a little bit. Like this idea of comic books that Elijah was saying the comic book world is based on reality, that it’s real—there’s no other evidence for this. It’s this crazy guy who has this bone disorder who’s in an insane asylum. But then this comes up and he’s like, ‘Oh my God, he’s right.’
Shyamalan has confirmed that Samuel L. Jackson will reprise his role as Elijah, and that the script will allow him to flesh out some more of Kevin’s 23 personalities. The director also went on to encourage audience’s not to expect a simple sequel. The new movie, he says, will stand on its own two feet with a central premise just as compelling and unique as the two other entries in the trilogy:
“All I can say is this: If Unbreakable was about a guy who is the only person who survives a train wreck, everyone dies and he doesn’t have a scratch on him. How is that possible? That’s a high concept, really cool story. And then this one is three girls get abducted by a person that has this disorder that he believes he’s many people, and all of the different personalities are saying there’s another personality coming to get them, it’s called The Beast. That in and of itself is a really cool thing. This third movie needs to have its own idea. The high concept of that final movie can’t be, ‘It’s the final Unbreakable.’ There has to be something about that that makes it its own movie… That’s when I’ll be happiest, is when it’s its own movie. In a way, it could be watched by itself.”
This commitment might have been what prompted Shyamalan to turn in his longest outline to date. Speaking on the podcast, he seemed somewhat daunted by the breadth of the project, but stressed that this was how it had to be:
“I have a pretty detailed outline of like beats, scenes. It’s very long, which is worrying me, but I don’t see how we can—probably by its nature it needs to be kind of epic. The storyline that I’ve thought through feels very intricate.”
Being excited for a Shyamalan project isn’t a sensation we’ve been used to for a long time, but this project, and the promise of him combining two of his most beloved films, certainly has us ready to get back on the Shyamalan bandwagon.