Summary: An M. Night Shyamalan film about girls abducted by a man with 23 personalities, the girls must try to make an escape before horror is visited upon them by the emergence of a 24th.
Like most of Shyamalan’s plots, this story is very interesting on paper. I for one was intrigued, and admittedly a little skeptical based on his previous works but was willing to give the film a chance. Like many I am sure, I heard all kinds of things about the plot, the special reveal at the end and the awe-inspiring acting of James McAvoy. After viewing it I realized those around me had either lied or been shocked by the film’s competency relative to other M. Night works that they mistook barely average for good.
The first point that must be addressed is James McAvoy’s acting. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t particularly notable, it’s sort of like mechanic fixing a car and doing a good job, I mean I am happy the car is fixed, but I’m not impressed, that’s what he was supposed to do. I feel like the man is getting praise for being able to do what actors are simply expected to do. Now here I hear others say, “But he had to play so many characters!”. He played four. Yes three more than the average actor, but can we really break down what he is being praised for?
He is an actor that can play more than one character. Isn’t that just about every actor that isn’t cast in bit parts? And the characters he plays are so fundamentally different in age, sex, and mannerisms I think it would be more difficult to mess up than getting right. There were twenty-three personalities in the plot and you do see a glimpse of the others from time to time, but don’t get it twisted, you will not see some sort of supernatural metamorphosis between one personality and another. The other personalities you see would be just as easy to recognize in the script as they were through acting since it was more what they talked about as opposed to how that differentiated them. Simply put the praise put to McAvoy is overblown.
The second, and probably minor point to most, is that the movie deals with D.I.D. (Dissociative Identity Disorder a.k.a split personalities) a disease that most psychologists argue does not even exist, and the movie does a decent job of highlighting this. Unfortunately, like most Shyamalan movies he seems to have read a Wikipedia article on the subject and moved on, meaning that he takes the facts and mix it with pure fiction. That would be fine in most cases, that’s usually how fantasy works, however, he seems to have researched just enough to know how little respect this disease gets then makes it even harder for anyone to see the truth of the situation by making it seem purely magical in nature.
Lastly is the problem with most horror/suspense movies which is the lack of empathy the audience feels for characters in danger. Failing to answer questions like ‘Why are they staying in a clearly haunted house?’ or ‘Why not call the police?’ in the script can make even the least savvy moviegoer check out emotionally to the point of even rooting for the killer, no matter how dastardly their motives. Though Split does not embody the worst examples of this problem it may hold the world record for having it happen the fastest. Within ten minutes I was blown away time and time again with how little sense the characters have. They have the unfortunate combination of being stupid on top of being unlikable as people, and I’m sure in some part of Shyamalan’s mind he thought he was clever in how he pointed out why they weren’t fighting for freedom immediately, but it wasn’t a good reason. It wasn’t at all. In response to a clear outline of why they should escape and how they would the response to it all is, “That’s a stupid idea.” No equally sensible explanation of why just ‘that’s dumb’ and worse yet they all simply accept this. If I ask why the eagles can’t fly Frodo to Mt. Doom and the script tell me it’s because Sam has gum in his pocket, that doesn’t help anything, the plot still has holes. I saw clear attempts to make me sympathize with the girls and their plight throughout the film, but since the basic question of ‘Why would you do that?’ came up over and over so I simply refused.
All in all, it wasn’t a total dumpster fire but still:
Spoilers past this point, if you haven’t seen the movie
then now would be the time to move on.
The real problem with this movie that will haunt me in my sleep is the fact that this film is supposed to tie in with Unbreakable. That means that Black Betty Shyamalan intends to make a cinematic universe surrounding his trashy movies. Which… like… it hurts my feelings. I barely want to watch his movies normally, each one is an exercise in patience that I rarely pass, the benchmark for them seems to consistently be ‘I’d be so happy if it was at least mediocre.’ Yet this meandering ogre thinks that if he puts out a film that requires me to watch some garbage like The Village and The Happening before I can buy a ticket, that this Fool of a Took thinks I am willing to jump even the lowest hurdle in addition to having to sit and subjugate my brain and my time to his will… madness.
You see the key point of most kidnappers is to insinuate that if you escape, or even try to, something worse will happen to you, or if they are obviously going to kill you they will make it fast if you cooperate and slow if you don’t. That is the type of fear I will not criticize, but these three jokers were only told that they were going to be eaten by the beast. That’s it. Regardless of whether they knew that was Kevin or not is irrelevant, he made it clear that they were going to die in a very specific way, so if anything it should have encouraged them since he seemed to not want to kill them before the appointed time. He stated that he wanted to kill them in a pretty gruesome way, the options were to escape or die and these fuckle chucks didn’t even attempt an escape until the stupidest possible times. Why not jump him while he’s a kid? Why not when he is a woman and NOT holding a knife? (which was every moment except the one where Casey tried to run) Why not bang through the ceiling at any moment except the one where you KNEW Kevin was returning very soon.
I can’t even.