Where 'Split' fits in the Shyamalaniverse (spoilers!)
M. Night Shyamalan serves up another twist ending in "Split" -- and it's going to change movies forever. Or not. Spoilers abound, so proceed with caution.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Ever since "The Sixth Sense", filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan has been synonymous with mind-blowing twist endings. His new film "Split" may just boast his best twist yet. Or worst. We can't decide.
Spoilers abound, obviously, so read on with caution.
Audiences familiar with Shyamalan's climactic contrivances will be waiting for the final moments of "Split" to see what the director delivers. The film ends with a couple of twists, as the terrifying "Beast" recognises a kinship in trauma with our heroine, Casey, and we learn Casey lives with her abusive uncle.
If this were any other director we might accept these moments and be on our way, but this is M. Night Shyamalan we're talking about. We won't be satisfied until the rug is well and truly yanked from under us and we're left flat on our backs, mouths agape amid the spilled popcorn and suspiciously sticky carpeting.
But wait, what's this? As the titles roll, we suddenly find ourselves in a diner. Aha. The twist is that this takes place in a world where people actually watch TV news in a diner!
No, that's not it either. A lady is wondering aloud, "Isn't this just like that other M. Night Shyamalan movie from 16 years ago that wasn't as good as 'The Sixth Sense'?" And then Bruce Willis, actual Bruce Willis, appears and informs exposition lady that yes, this is exactly like that other M. Night Shyamalan movie from 16 years ago that wasn't 'The Sixth Sense".
Yes, the big twist is that "Split" is set in the same story world as Shyamalan's 2000 flick "Unbreakable". Even down to the exact same twist that you were watching a superhero movie and you didn't know it.
Specifically, you were watching a superhero movie set in the Shyamalaniverse.
Hollywood is obsessed with building "shared universes". These involve films that expand sideways from the traditional linear progression of sequels and prequels, with individual franchises shooting off in different directions while anchored in a common fictional world. Comics have been doing it for years and Star Wars already had an expanded universe of its own, but the wildly successful Marvel Cinematic Universe is the template for the current craze.
Rival comic brand DC is rushing out as many movies as it can to establish its own cinematic universe -- with, shall we say, mixed results, while desperate movie studios are looking to buy anything with so much as a hint of shared universe potential.
And we do mean anything. Some producers just gave "Deadpool" co-creator Rob Liefeld a bucket of money for the rights to his Extreme Universe, home of such compelling creations as Bloodstrike, Bloodwulf and, er, Bloodpool (that sounds like a joke, but it's not).
You had a good run, Marvel, but your time is over. "Split" is just the start -- well, technically "Unbreakable" was the start, but you know what we mean. All M. Night Shyamalan's movies from now on will be in the Shyamalaniverse. In fact, all the past ones were in the Shyamalaniverse too.
And not only are all future movies going to be in the Shyamalaniverse, but to really fire up the shared universe money-printing machine, all the Shyamalaniverse characters are going to team up. Bruce Willis from "The Sixth Sense", James McAvoy from "Split", the mermaid from "Lady In The Water", Rosie O'Donnell as the nun from M. Night's first film no one's ever seen, and, er, Bruce Willis from "Unbreakable" will finally come together. Together they are...the Unbreakables.
No, wait -- the Shyamalavengers!
How's that for a twist ending...
Watch this: A 'Split' second with M. Night Shyamalan
"Split" is in movie theatres in the US and UK now, and in Australia on 26 January.