What We Want To See From M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable 2

There's a lot of buzz around M. Night Shyamalan's newest movie, Split, and for a number of reasons, so take your pick: a bravura lead performance by British actor James McAvoy playing Kevin, a man with double-digit split personalities; a sense of Hitchcockian tension; a return to more intimate, lower-budget filmmaking by the director. But perhaps nothing has gotten people more excited than the reveal at the end that—spoilers ahead!—the movie is a stealth sequel (or sidestory) to Shyamylan's 2000 The Sixth Sense followup Unbreakable.

In that film, a grounded take on the superhero origin story starring Bruce Willis as invincible security guard David Dunn, the villain was a brilliant-but-fragile madman played by Samuel L. Jackson, who earned the moniker Mr. Glass. Now, the news is out that 2017's Split is firmly in Unbreakable's world, and the villainous multiple-personality-suffering Kevin is thoroughly in David Dunn's orbit. In the wake of that reveal, Shyamalan has reiterated his plans to film an Unbreakable sequel, and soon. He's floated the idea before, but now it looks a hell of a lot more likely to happen. Let's get in on the ground floor and talk about what we want to see from the potential picture.

The return of Mr. Glass

Samuel L. Jackson has stated his willingness to do an Unbreakable follow-up in the past. His comments, at risk of stating the obvious, pointed out that while nearly 20 years have passed since the original film came out, all the elements that made it work are still available. "Night's still around. Bruce is still around," said Jackson. "I'm still around." Now that two of the three have been united, why not bring back Jackson's frighteningly driven, mass-murdering villain?

It's not like the character is completely incapacitated; the original film merely ended in his arrest. And while it's a mystery how much power Jackson's intelligent but frail character could wield behind bars, his knowledge of comic books could come in handy versus the otherworldly personage called the Beast that James McAvoy's Kevin develops into by Split's end. (We're sure he'd also have some topical things to say about all of these comic book movies.) Even if only in a cameo, it'd be great to see Mr. Glass as an imprisoned counselor, like Dr. Lecter with a little dab of Dr. Doom.

A sense of wonder

No one drew comparisons to Spielberg like Shyamalan did after The Sixth Sense. People thought they had a true auteur on their hands here, with Spielberg comparisons abundant. Which is not to bash Shyamalan's reputation any more than he's already has himself, with a run of terrible movies that blew away all the goodwill he fostered in the first years of the millennium. But if he can truly recapture the tone of his greatest work—the sense of human wonder against the immensity of the unknown—then he can give people back a little bit of what they've been looking for in his films for this whole time.

Keep it personal—no CGI slugfest

One of the most delightful things about the Unbreakable/Split connection is just how well the movies fit together as a double feature. (And after finding the films were connected, reviewers have had fun noticing the little hints about it hiding in plain sight in the movie's marketing and title.) There's a pretty cool reason why the concept works so well: originally, Unbreakable and Split were the same movie. Shyamalan casually dropped the long-secret bombshell in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. "Kevin Wendle Crumb was a part of the original, original script for Unbreakable," he explained. "I pulled him out because it just wasn't balancing right. But a bunch of the scenes that are in this movie, I wrote 15 years ago."

So if Shyamalan does truly intend to make a "final Unbreakable movie" as his next project, our fingers are crossed that he maintains the grounded tone that people praised about the first two instead of making it a more genre-conventional special-effects driven slugfest. We already know what happens when he goes that way: it sucks. If someone offers him $120 million to make this thing, he should say no. Hang a sequel if you have to, but don't bring in a Justice League. It's important to feel of a piece with the original movie, and not "Die Hard Except I'm Weak to Water."

Speaking of that, be careful about that "weak to water" thing

If there's any knock against Unbreakable that any moviegoer would admit stretches benefit of the doubt, it's the implausibility of an effectively invincible man being weakened, in a Kryptonite-esque sense, by contact with... water. Aqua pura—H20. While we understand the idea of a superhero classically needing a weakness of some sort, making his weakness as readily-available and widespread as water is just an absolute headache. No matter how you slice it or try and logic it out—he's a bad swimmer! His bone structure makes him heavy!—it's just a dramatic dead end that toes the line of camp. (Unbreakable's follow-up, Signs, doubled down on the weak-to-water concept with its hydrophobic alien invaders, in retrospect heralding a quick descent for the director into "the trees are killing people" territory that turned Shyamalan's name into a minor laughingstock.)

No twist

Jerking the rug out from under people is one of the things that gave audiences such Shyamalan fatigue back when his movies stopped getting such magnificent reviews. If he returns to the same tropes, he risks making the same mistakes, and it can't be easy trying to outsmart your audience all the time. He pulled it off again with the Split ending reveal, but now audiences are going to be coming back with something to expect. It'll serve him (and us) better if he builds something solid to stand on instead of focusing on how he's going to trip us up.

Screw it—more crossover

It seems like only days ago that the idea of a Shyamalan-centric cinematic universe felt an unlikely proposition, but now that the ball is rolling, let's get weird with it. Shyamalan has always loved playing weird meta games with the audience, from a puzzling 2004 faux-documentary about his life to the consistent Hitchcock-esque cameo spots. No one saw this latest move coming, so how else might he be willing to fold his work over on itself?

Let's bring everybody back. Bring back Joaquin Phoenix as his Signs character in full I'm Still Here regalia and have him go to town on Professor X with a Louisville Slugger at the climax of the movie. As the villain falls, our heroes look up—the aliens are landing. As the light shines brightly in their eyes, the screen goes full white. Smash cut to a grown-up Haley Joel Osment waking up from a fever dream in an apocalyptic Earth after Earth. Maybe it wouldn't be good, but it would certainly be more entertaining than Lady in the Water.

Don't call it a comeback... yet

Honestly, we're impressed with M. Night. Pop culture commentators have had him at a critical flatline for what feels like an entire career now, and the fact that he's able to drum up real excitement at this stage in the game is an encouraging sign of his enduring vitality. Failing that, it's an object lesson in the audience's short memory. It doesn't take a lot to win us back—all we want is to be entertained. And from the encouraging reviews and above-average audience reaction—not to mention the box office takeSplit is entertaining audiences in ways dreck like After Earth actively wasn't. It's thrilling to look forward to an M. Night Shyamalan film in 2017, and even better that it's something people have been clamoring for—but not expecting to see—for years. Here's hoping that he sticks the landing—a happy ending here would be the most fulfilling twist of all.