Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, Charlayne Woodard
Written by: M Night Shyamalan Directed by: M Night Shyamalan
Doctor - “To answer your question there are two reasons why I am looking at you like this. One, because it seems in a few minutes you will officialy be the only survivor of this train wreck and two because you didn’t break one bone. You don’t have a scratch on you.”
Costumed heroes are ten-a-penny these days and if they're not swinging from New York skyscrapers then they are battling wits with demented clowns and scarred former D.A’s. Instantly recognisable figures they have become as familiar as myths and legends of folk lore and as times and attitudes have changed then so too have the depiction of heroes. Gone is the time when these colourful characters were just accepted for what they appeared to be and instead they must now ground their existence in cold hard reality. When translating Batman to the big screen in recent years there had to be vaild reasons for why Bruce Wayne would wear his batsuit because this a more cynical age where a person has to have a reason for being heroic....as society no longer takes things on faith.
Using that idea as the back drop, the movie Unbreakable saw football security guard David Dunn (Willis) as the sole survivor of a train crash; having escaped without a single injury. Shortly after he was approached by the mysterious Elijah Price, a comic-book art dealer who suffered from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare condition which gave him extremely brittle bones. Elijah proposed a theory that he and David were opposite ends of a linked spectrum. He told David that they balanced one another out, with his body being so weak because David's was so strong. At first David was sceptical, dismissing Elijahs theories as the ravings of a crazy comic art owner (those damn loonies ruining it for everybody), but the more that Elijah pushed the more David began to question who he really was.
What writer/director M Night Shyamalan created with Dunn was a hero formed from the contemporary need for a modern day miracle. During a scene with Elijah and David's wife Audrey (Wright Penn), Elijah told her that they lived in mediocre times where people had started to lose hope. This was Shyamalan's way of asking his audience to keep an open mind as he presented a new superhero to the World. People are often too quick to dismiss anyone with good intentions, so Shyamalan had to present David's journey as an epic tale full of hardship. So rites of passage familiar to fans of comic-books were interspersed throughout the narrative (the birth of the hero after his survial from the derailing of East Rail train 177 and the exploration of his powers which included his strength and his visions) alongside the very human aspect of a failed marriage. Dunn was only human and so he had faults which were just as much a part of his story as the realisation he had to help people. There was also the revelation of his weakness, the one thing that could stand in his way during the vital moments of his mission. For Superman it was Kryptonite, for Green Lantern it was the colour yellow (don't ask) and for Dunn it was water. The idea of a weakness can often be attributed to the need for a plot device or lazy writing, but in the case of Unbreakable Shyamalan attached it more to the character's mythology to give him a comic-book grounding. When David learnt about a pool accident that was involved in as a child he also discovered that the story was one that his school actively encouraged to act as a warning to other children. It became a ghost story; a spooky fable like the Phantom's 'ghost who walks myth', that became a defining characteristic. The execution of his weakness was brilliantly played out so that the moment that it was put into effect it could be justified. When David was thrown into the outdoor pool during his confrontation with the orange-jumpsuited man, he was dragged under by the cover over the pool. So it was as much about him struggling with the cover as it was about him battling deadly H2O; yet it worked and he had his hero weakness! To add to the mythology there was also the inclusion of a young side-kick in his son Joseph (Clark), the revelation of the true villain Mr Glass and the opportunity to complete the heroes quest, which for David was to reconcile with his wife and reunite his family.
Unbreakable was a tense and imaginative thriller, which suffered for being the follow up to Shyamalan's highly regarded break-out hit Sixth Sense, but was clearly far better. In essence it was an origin story that touched upon themes familiar to most people, but always kept its eye firmly on its comic-book inspiration. It respected the source material that inspired it, proved that 'Superhero Cinema' had a lot to offer and most importantly showed that even in a cynical world, everyone needs a hero every once in a while.
PICKING UP THE PIECES: *The story of Unbreakable was told with flash backs that revealed details about David and Elijah prior to their meeting; which acted as interesting snapshots, particularly for Elijah whose fractured physique led him to believe that David's status of guardian and protector made an amends for his dastardly actions.
*David's super hero costume was his green waterproof jacket. It concealed his identity, it was an extension of his job....and it was a pretty straightforward yet simple idea!
*When Marvel Comics were reimagining their Marvel Universe for a younger generation they decided to create the ‘Ultimate’ universe. The Ultimate Marvel Universe took the characters that modern audiences were familiar with but dispatched with years of continuity to streamline their stories. One character that got an overhaul was Nick Fury, the head of secret organization, S.H.I.E.L.D. The character in the Ultimate Universe was drawn in the likeness of Samuel L Jackson, so when it was time for Fury to appear in an after credits sequence of Iron Man (2008), Jackson was called upon to fill the role. He then signed up for a reported nine picture deal with Marvel.
*Samuel L Jackson also dabbled with Superheroes in The Incredibles (2004) and The Spirit (2009). The Incredibles was good. The Spirit was not.
*David Dunn's name followed the alliteration rule of Marvel Comics characters like Peter Parker, Bruce Banner, Scott Summers, Reed Richards, Matt Murdock etc.
*Comic-book characters often have a colour theme that's easily recognisable and familiar to fans. For David it was green and for Elijah it was Purple.
*Elijah informed David that heroes and villians were usually the exact opposite and more often than not they were friends. Reed Richards, the leader of the Fantastic Four was best friends with Victor Von Doom in college and in Smallville Lex Luthor and Clark Kent start off as friends.
*Kindergarten Superheroes The Powerpuff Girls could be seen briefly on a TV that Joseph was watching just before he saw the report of the train accident.
*The 2 disc DVD collectors edition of Unbreakable came with two postcards illustrated by top comic artist Alex Ross. Ross was known for his realistic depictions of Superheroes and also drew the title sequence images for Spider-man 2.