We’ve all grown up one way or another aware of comic book superheroes. A millionaire caped crusader, an invincible Kryptonian, a super soldier and a billionaire playboy turned hero who all fight for the safety of mankind. We all know these type of heroes do not truly exist in our modern world. There is no such thing as being bit by a radioactive spider and obtaining inhuman super abilities. No matter how much we wish it were true. But, what if I told you that maybe it can be a possibility just not in the way we see illustrated in comic books. There’s no flashy suits or new world technology, but everyday medical marvels that are somehow extraordinary. A realistic modern telling of the superhero and villain.
In 2000, M. Night Shyamalan wrote, produced and directed the film Unbreakable. David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is a run of the mill security guard—or so we think. On an ordinary day, something horrific happens. On the way to New York, train Eastrail 77 crashed causing the deaths of 131 people. Dunn is the only survivor—uscathed and unharmed. On the other end of the scope, we have Elijah Price ( Samuel L. Jackson) who is born with Type I osteogenesis imperfecta, a disease that causes fragile bones, but has the IQ of a genius. Price is consumed with the theory that comic book hero truly exists. If he is rendered in life being fragile then there must be an individual who is unbreakable. Dunn is invited by Price to test his theory and it proves to be true. He has the modern day strength of Superman. But, he also has the ability to sense evil in people with a touch and sees a person’s evil actions. Upon touching Price, he sees images of Price causing hundreds of deaths and the train crash just to prove his hero theory. Price becomes the villain and Dunn the hero.
Years pass and in 2016 M. Night Shyamalan comes to directs the film Split. To many, this film is its own entity and a new project for us to delve into. You go through the film completely unaware of what its real purpose is. Casey Cooke and two other female teenagers are kidnapped by Kevin Wendell Crumb (James McAvoy), a man who suffers from the modern day dissociative identity disorder. He’s believed to have multiple personalities living in his mind. His psychologist identifies 23 separate identities. Of these personalities only four regularly come forth. Dennis, Patricia, Barry and Hedwig. All come to fear a 24th unseen identity named “The Beast.” “The Beast” is something entirely different. When he takes control, Crumb’s body takes on a superhuman body and a persona of a merciless sociopath. Over time The Beast’s true plan comes to light. He wishes to rid the world of the ‘untouched,’ individuals who are impure because they have not suffered. We are introduced to a heinous villain. Once seeing the end of the film, we come to realize that the film is actually the sequel to Unbreakable. We see David Dunn sitting in a diner watching the news of “The Beast.”
It was announced on January 18, 2019 that M. Night Shyamalan’s third installment Glass brings together all three characters. The Beast is being hunted by David Dunn while Mr. Glass (Elijah Price) acts as the orchestrative brains behind the madness.
These films are not what is expected from what we see on the big screen regarding superheroes. Instead, they are modern individuals with extraordinary gifts disguised as our everyday physical psychology and delusions. Price suffers from fragile bones and a high IQ making him an adequate mind for villainy. We have Kevin Wendell Crumb who has split personalities that all fear one dominant character who wishes to inflict pain and chaos. Finally, we have the hero, David Dunn, whose body is impervious to common methods of pain and destruction. These films don’t play upon other dimensions, alien races or fancy magical artifacts that can obliterate the earth. Instead, it’s a modern telling of what a villain and hero would be if they were walking among us unknown. The idea that not everyone is simply human.
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M. Night Shyamalan’s modern heroes and villains: Image Credit: Universal