Readers, this is new. You’re familiar with me writing solely spiritual-related material. Though I will most heavily continue to focus my articles on faith, purpose, and our journey of life, I will start sporadically including movie reviews in the mix. Here is the first—my review for M. Night Shyamalan’s “Split”. If you’re interested in seeing it, I provide a spoiler-free review below to aide in your decision-making.
Undoubtedly, this is on par with my second favorite film by M. Night Shyamalan, The Visit, right after The Sixth Sense (everyone has their favorites—). The Village is quite easily my least favorite (I’m sorry to The Village lovers!) of his past films.
While there are the strengths, there are also the weaknesses. I would say there is a fair ratio of pros than cons, but we’ll start with the cons and end on a good note.
My first problem with Split was the humor. This may just be an opinion of my own so take it as you will, but I feel Shyamalan’s use of humor was underdeveloped and a bit distracting from the overall tone of the film. In Split, we come to enjoy watching (through genuine intrigue of the talents of James McAvoy) the main “antagonist” (Or protagonist? You decide) and his multiple identities, therefore the humor here is nearly required to provide balance and interject some humanity to the incredulousness. The problem here, however, is matching the humor of the story with the humor of the audience, and I get the impression Shyamalan has trouble understanding how to connect the two; he seems to either provoke humor for the actors on-screen to enjoy themselves, or the characters’ dialogue is so forcefully intended to make us laugh that it undermines the humor altogether; like a comedian telling a joke and pausing to wait for the crowd to start laughing. It is this forced intentionality that ultimately spoils the end result, making the humor feel more embarrassing than befitting.
Another example of the humor gone wrong is the unbalanced proportions. For example, there is a brief moment in the opening scene when a main character so blatantly jokes about her dad’s driving skills that it’s hard not to assume we’re “supposed” to laugh, immediately ruining the humor with a wince of awkwardness—like saying “Ha ha, funny,” just to say it. After this moment, the only evident humor occurs during some later moments with McAvoy’s multiple personalities—but clearly the humor in these scenes is intended to be our reaction to examining his extremely unusual character, not so much any humor related to the story the character is a part of. In other words, the humor and the story seem separate, therefore the humor is distracting rather than complementary. Lastly, the humor isn’t dispersed evenly throughout, making the few and far in-between moments seem unnatural.
Secondly, the nature of this movie primarily revolves around the idea that a man with 23 identities can morph into something inhuman and monstrous. That alone would cause anyone’s eyebrow to raise superstitiously. Easily, this is just Hollywood bait posing as a reason to see the movie (And guess what? It worked!). The trailers all made it obvious that the selling point of the film was “the beast”—not even so much the multiple personalities. The movie slowly narrows its attention from the various characters embodied within “Kevin” (McAvoy’s main self), skinning the fat away until all that’s really emphasized is that a beast is coming. As much as this builds suspense, it also feels a bit cartoony since it is not relatable to the majority of viewers. Tied to point number two of the cons is that this movie ultimately has no underlying message. There is nothing remotely challenging about this story; nothing for anyone to take home with them; there isn’t any psychologically soluble about viewing Split; as soon as the credits starting rolling during my screening, everyone immediately stood up and walked out. Ultimately, Split is a fun pop-corn flick with a great actor in the lead role. Which leads me to my third and final main con.
The one thing that stood out most as a letdown about Split is the number of identities we actually get to see. We are manipulated in the trailers, led to believe there are 23 different identities within one man who we will get to see. Wrong. Of the 23, we get to personally watch about 8, 4 more heavily for the first 3/4 of the movie. 4 out of 23. As much as watching McAvoy portray 4-7 different people is, others may enter the theater expecting to be amazed with 15 more, and they will be sorely disappointed. All that said, McAvoy does a phenomenal job in this role, truly nailing every facet of each character portrayed in the man named “Kevin”. In fact, that is my first choice for pro number one.
In the lead role, James does an impressive job juggling not just 7 names, but seven diverse personalities, each replete with unique accents, body language, facial expressions—the whole nine yards. Very impressive. At almost 38 years of age (looking quite young still), James certainly has tricks up his sleeve and flawlessly implements them without so much as a second out of character. In every moment his eyes are 100% committed to story-telling, wrapping the audience around the horrifying reality of a man stuck with 23 different minds.
Second to note is the story-telling itself. Shymalan does a fine job swiftly implementing the story beginning with a birthday party, and transitioning into the horrors of Kevin’s multiple personalities as they undulate through him, carefully unwrapping each scene by scene until the drum roll is over and and we’re eagerly awaiting what will be revealed after the clash of cymbals. There are twists, and though they are not draw-dropping or truly mind-boggling, they are interesting enough to leave us feeling as though the story of Chapter 1 has been efficiently unraveled without forcing the viewer to watch the paint dry.
Finally, for anyone, like me, who believes in shielding certain content from children of the appropriate age, I want to provide precautions for the parents out there who need to know whether or not to take their children with them.
Parental Advice: This film is rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic content and behavior, violence and some language. Without spoiling the movie, let me warn you that this film is not for children under 13. Understandably, there are many movies with a PG-13 rating only for a few F-bombs (if you’re complacent with your child being exposed to vulgarity), but this isn’t one of those. The theme of pedophilia is used quite heavily, teenage girls are shown in their underwear for large portions of the film, and cannibalism is also implied more than once. The film grows more violent in the third act, and I would say this is disturbing enough for the film’s rating on its own. Though the scenes referred to here are not extremely graphic (much is implied off-screen), thematically, this material is quite heavy and not suitable for young children. For the theme of pedophilia alone, I would strongly urge caution.
Altogether, I would give this film a 3/5. The acting is impressive, the story is satisfactory, even if the humor is entirely off-beat and there is some disappointment in the paucity of personalities than was advertised in the trailers. The ending alone is quite a nice surprise for some of you who are a fan of Shymalan’s earlier works, and here is where I will stop.
To read more, please follow this blog. You may also find me my Facebook page at Lance Price Blog, Twitter at LPBlog2017, or on Tumblr at lancepriceblog2017. Please feel free to share this and write in the comments below–I would love to hear from you! God bless you!!