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Why M. Night Shyamalan Will Never Make Another Sequel Again

M. Night Shyamalan is one of the most influential directors of the last quarter century. He may not have invented the twist ending, but he certainly redefined what it could be. And while the concept of the Shyamalan twist has been parodied over the years, there's no denying it changed the way people make and view movies.

The practice of plugging up one's ears to avoid spoilers was normalized after people prodigiously started ruining the ending of 1999's The Sixth Sense for anyone who hadn't seen it yet. "Darth Vader is Luke's father" might be the first mainstream spoiler, but the fact that, even over two decades later, it still feels wrong to type the words "Bruce Willis was a ghost the whole time" tells you what a big deal The Sixth Sense was to everybody. Star Wars spoilers made Star Wars fans angry. Speaking The Sixth Sense spoilers aloud could elicit the rage of anyone. That's the difference.

However, despite Shyamalan's influence on modern film, he doesn't quite fit in with the way films are made now. We are a culture consumed by remakes, reboots, and adaptations. One of Shyamalan's most criticized films is his live-action version of The Last Airbender. Generally speaking, Night's most successful works are ones that are either wholly original ideas, or ones which take common tales and turn them on their ear.

However, while Shyamalan has made sequels before — two of them, in fact — it turns out the director has no intention of ever making a sequel again. But his reason is probably not what you think it is.

Unbreakable was always supposed to have a sequel

If there is any genre of storytelling which invites sequels and reboots, it is the superhero narrative. Six different actors have played Batman, in the movies alone, since 1989. Spider-Man has been rebooted twice. The MCU currently has a total worldwide box office revenue of 22.56 billion U.S. dollars. So, it's not surprising that Shyamalan dipped his toe into the sequel waters for his own superhero story, Unbreakable. Before the MCU began and in the same year Bryan Singer directed the first X-Men movie, Shyamalan put out a Superman-esque story set in a mundane world. Unbreakable pits an unaware superhero named David Dunn (Bruce Willis) against Elijah "Mr. Glass" Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a man whose physical limitations cause him to seek meaning and control.

Once the superhero craze came to dominate the box office, Shyamalan surprised everyone with Split — a story about a supervillain with multiple personalities, which just so happens to be a side story set in the same universe as Unbreakable. Shyamalan used Split as a means to bring back both David Dunn and Elijah Price for the unexpected third chapter, titled Glass (2019).

However, sequels were not Shyamalan's plan — it's just that he had too much story for one movie. "The Unbreakable series was a very specific thing that I don't believe will ever happen again," Shayamlan told ComicBook.com. "The Unbreakable script, in its entirety, was essentially the three movies. When I first outlined it, it was all those three movies in one go. And I was like 'this is impossible, I can't write this in two hours.' So I pulled out Crum's character [James McAvoy] out of Unbreakable and was like 'let's just make the first act of this story in Unbreakable.' So I was intending to do Split right away, essentially. But it didn't end up being that way."

It made sense for Split and Glass to come out much later

Sixteen years is a long time to hold off on finishing a story. It turns out that Shyamalan wasn't sure if completing Unbreakable's story made sense after its initial reception. In an interview with Enquirer.net, Shyamalan described the response to Unbreakable as dissident. "I didn't know quite how to take it," Shyamalan said. "I was like, I guess the whole idea of making a comic book movie is not a great idea. I remember, it was a weird reaction even with audiences, this sense of not knowing what I was trying to do."

Shyamalan felt like there was a change in audience's reactions to Unbreakable over the years. Perhaps it was the result of comic book movies becoming such a dominant force in popular culture, but Shyamalan started getting asked, more and more, when he was going to do an Unbreakable sequel. It occurred to Shyamalan that such a long wait in between Unbreakable and Split was a good thing. "One of the benefits of waiting for those years is that you could have a sense of a lifetime," he said. "What is it like to go from a boy to a man and believe your dad is still Superman? What is it like to be someone who has these powers for a lifetime? How does it wear on you? Are you weary? Do you even want it anymore? Do you stay alone a lot?"

While Glass made nearly $250 million at the box office from a $20 million budget, it was not a critical success — it presently has a 37% rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In that way, it seems audiences spoke again, and now so has Shyamalan — no more sequels.