Save Us From Superheroes—Because They Can't Save Us


Superheroes are over, done with, dead. There, I said it. If I see one more lustrous cape, magic doodad, or chiseled hunk of a Chris, I’m gonna beg Thanos to keep snapping. Look, I love Black Panther, and Captain Marvel totally deserves her own movie. But, man, the story is played out. Some misunderstood dweeb realizes he’s special; an extraterrestrial plunks down on Earth to solve our problems. Enough!

Of all people, M. Night Shyam­alan realized the need to break form years ago when he made Unbreakable . Bruce Willis played an average dad with an above-average ability to withstand a beating. He wasn’t a Batmanesque vigilante or otherworldly avenger. He wasn’t an antihero. He wasn’t even that great of a person. He was real. Back in 2000, the movie bombed. Would it in 2019? Audiences seem more suspicious of traditional saviors these days. (One reason: ­people in real life using their great power with great irresponsibility.) Shyamalan followed Unbreakable with 2016’s Split , featuring a bald James McAvoy with 20-odd personalities that semi-cohere into a frightening super-crazy. Now the director is attempting his most ambitious feat yet, merging those two movies with a third, Glass , that adds Samuel L. Jackson’s titular villain to the mix.

The premise is that all three of these dude-lusions of grandeur are institutionalized in a mental hospital, much as anyone claiming to be a superhero (or supervillain) in the modern era would be. Do they really have powers? Maybe. In Shyamalan’s universe, abilities are self-manifested. Perhaps that’s his message: No one will rescue this godforsaken planet except our deranged, unheroic selves.

This article appears in the January issue. Subscribe now.

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