This weekend sees the release of After Earth, a brand new film from M Night Shyamalan, the director of Signs, The Sixth Sense, The Village and a bunch of other films that aren’t nearly as good as the first three I mentioned. You see, at one point in time, following the massive success of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan’s name was used as a selling point. Now, following the colossal critical and commercial drubbings his subsequent films received, his name is the equivalent to bug repellent.
Of course, it wasn’t like that. In fact, M Night Shymalan is responsible for arguably the greatest origin film in movie history.
Find out more after the jump!
Unbreakable was released in November of 2000, and was the story of David Dunn (Bruce Willis), the sole survivor of a devastating train crash. He soon encounters Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), a rare comic book dealer who also suffers from a disease that makes his bones extremely breakable. Throughout the film, Price helps inspire Dunn to test his potential and his power, during which time Dunn comes to realize that with great power comes…
Well, you know.
Coming off the astounding success of M Night Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable was a definite change of pace. Rather than return to the supernatural, Unbreakable was a super hero tale long before Marvel had broken through to the mass movie going audience. It’s an understated film with a quiet, softspoken performance from Bruce Willis that winds up being the origin story of a brand new hero. Comic book geeks would love it. The masses, not so much.
Unbreakable wound up making $95 million in North America, a far cry from the $293 million The Sixth Sense grossed. The response disappointed Shyamalan, who would go on to direct Signs, itself a huge blockbuster. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the director said that, with Unbreakable, “there was an uncomfortable spot that I kept you in and never let you out of, so it ultimately wasn’t uplifting or satisfying. The wife is burdened. The child is burdened. Bruce is burdened. A movie that lives in a gray place and ends in a gray place will get you a gray response.”
It’s always bothered me that Shyamalan felt the need to make excuses for the success, or lack thereof, for Unbreakable. Box office dollars don’t always have to equal success. Even though in the same article, he calls the film “picture perfect”, I’ve always felt like he’s apologizing for it. M Night, don’t apologize for Unbreakable. Apologize for The Last Airbender. Or The Happening. Or, if reviews are to be believed, After Earth.
In a world now inundated with super hero films, Unbreakable remains one of the best.