It’s hard to believe that fifteen years have passed since Unbreakable, M Night. Shyamalan’s sophomore release after his breakthrough hit The Sixth Sense. Hard to believe in this current age, but the film was one of a few who explored comic superhero themes. In it Bruce Willis played a man who slowly discovered he may be an indestructible superhero, with Samuel L. Jackson as his fragile arch nemesis.
The movie is definitely one of the more thoughtful and inward-looking superhero films made and retains a solid fan base. Sadly its performance underwhelmed, squeaking just over $90 million domestically (US) from a $75 million budget. You may read elsewhere that Unbreakable was a smash hit in its day thanks to a global $248 million take, but that was not the case. Sony considered the movie a bomb, particularly after the runaway success of The Sixth Sense’s near $300 million domestic plunder.
Sony as a result balked on the idea of a sequel, but the flame of it has been kept alive over the years: both Shyamalan and Willis have spoken about wanting a sequel, the latter doing so again in 2010. Now the infamous director has also again raised this particular spectre during his tour promoting his new show, Wayward Pines. Collider asked if he still holds out hope for a sequel:
Yeah, I do sometimes. I love those characters and I love that world. Of course, the whole world makes comic book movies now. At the time, it was completely novel. I remember when I made it, Disney was literally like, “Comic books?! There’s no market for comic books!” That’s all they make now! It was a hilarious conversation. I remember it. I was like, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe nobody will come see comic book movies.” They were like, “Those are people in little conventions who like comic books.” And I was like, “But, I like comic books!”
He also correctly points out what made Unbreakable so special:
The beauty of the world of Unbreakable is that you’re playing it for reality. It should never feel like a comic book movie. It feels like a straight-up drama. It’s real. You’re confronting the possibility that comic book characters were based on people that were real. That’s the premise, so the tone has to be super grounded. It would be cool.
Considering how popular comic book movies are today, it would be a good time to expand the genre more laterally. Christopher Nolan’s gritty Batman movies showed that appetite, even though all comic book movies since then have quickly moved to lighter territory to mimic the Marvel films. So there is scope, just not enough guts from the studios. Well, you can’t blame them: DC is still catching up to Marvel and Marvel is many things, but ‘risk taker’ won’t count among those. Guardians of the Galaxy, its boldest experiment to date, was great fun but didn’t really break any genre molds. Nothing like Unbreakable, at least.
Shyamalan (or M Night Shamoo the killer whale, M Night Shampoo, M Night Cha’mone, M Night Shania Twain and M. Night Shama-lama-ding-dong, as he’s been called) himself has a bit of a credibility problem. He has been suffering from a range of poorly received films, some deserving, other not. I might as well come out and say I thought he did a pretty decent job with The Last Airbender and that the film’s problems had more to do with the show’s lopsided development. After all, Avatar started as a show for little kids and by book 3 courted women in their twenties. It was bound to be a developmental time bomb for a movie (and for all of its flaws remains head and shoulders above stuff like Dragonball Z).
I also enjoyed controversial films like Signs, The Happening and his produced Devil. But on the other hand, there is no excusing The Village, After Earth or Lady in the Water. Yet even those have their fans, making Shyamalan perhaps the most divisive director of our generation. Nonetheless, after After Earth‘s catastrophic bomb – one that even hurt the once-unbreakable reputation of Will Smith – will anyone agree to an Unbreakable sequel? Bruce Willis said in 2010 that he’s all for it if Samuel L. Jackson joins in.
But will Marvel let Jackson play in another comic book movie while he is also Nicky Fury? And can we trust Bruce Willis about anything anymore, given his current ‘showed up for the paycheque’ mentality? Go watch Vice or The Prince to see how little he cares about his career. And what if Shyamalan just outright screws it up with his growing habit for pretension and navel-gazing?
Who cares? Just greenlight this damn sequel already!
Last Updated: January 30, 2015