A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 462 – Unbreakable

Unbreakable – June 5th, 2011

I’m not sure why I said okay when Andy put this on the pile when we were grabbing stuff on sale at a store that was closing. I have never been at all interested in seeing it. I wasn’t interested when it came out in theaters. I wasn’t interested when it came out on DVD. I wasn’t interested for one moment since. But here I am. Watching it. Do you know how many M. Night Shyamalan movies I’ve seen? None all the way through. Every time I’ve happened upon one I’ve tried and failed to be interested.

Now, theoretically this story should interest me. Its story is based in comic book lore and theory. And I like comic books! It’s got a character who’s obsessed with the idea that comic books are important pieces of our history and culture and say something important about us through the stories we tell in pictures and words. Of course, I’d say that picture books do the same thing but with higher quality paper than your typical pulp comic, meaning they stand a better chance of lasting for a while than any comic not owned by an obsessive collector, but that’s the librarian talking.

But it doesn’t interest me much. I think I can pinpoint it to it being a not so taut psychological thriller. I never really felt much tension in this movie. It’s more depressive than tense and I can’t quite decide on the exact reason but the color palette might do it. The whole thing is in greys and beiges and drab colors meant to reflect the mediocrity that is supposedly the overall mood of the world. This is clearly intentional, since it makes the pops of bright color stand out more, but I have a feeling that if it were to be featured on the Movie Barcode tumblr those colors would not show up. It’s just a very grey movie. Neutral. And as I said, that’s intentional and I get what the intention was. I just don’t think it works quite well enough because it’s not like the world becomes more visually interesting later on. If there is an increase in color it’s not enough. Visually, the movie leaves me sighing. I can see the purpose behind the colors and behind the shot composition but I don’t necessarily enjoy the results. There’s a bit in the beginning where the main character, David, is talking to a woman on a train. The camera pans and scans for us, switching its view from David to the woman and back through the gap between the seats in front of them. After the conversation ends it’s revealed that it’s from the perspective of a little girl sitting in the next row, but why? Just to isolate the characters? It made me mildly nauseous and certainly didn’t do much in the rest of the film. It was a gimmick and one that wasted about two thirds of the screen.

So, visually I don’t find this movie appealing. I’m not saying it’s not well made, just that I personally find it thoroughly uninteresting from a visual standpoint. So it would have had to have one hell of a plot to pull me in. And well, it does and it doesn’t. It’s sort of an origin story for a superhero, but it’s not very super. The main character is David Dunn, a security guard at a university stadium. He lives with his wife and son and goes to work every day and seems to be drifting through life on autopilot. David spends much of the movie deliberately clueless and while I have loved Bruce Willis in many roles, here he just stares at the people talking to him like he can’t hear them or like they’re talking in a foreign language. At one point his boss remarks that it sounds like David’s brain has finally started working again, which made me wonder if the character was supposed to be seen as having sustained some sort of brain injury at some point. He can’t remember a lot of things at first and seems to be waking up out of some sort of fog. But no, it’s nothing biological. It’s just an emotional malaise. How incredibly mundane.

But then mundane is the name of the game here. The thing is, this is a quiet movie. It’s a really quiet movie. It’s a purposefully quiet movie full of character drama that has nothing to do with the comic book and supernatural stuff. It’s an attempt to humanize a hero and I just don’t care. I don’t want to watch a quiet character drama piece about Iron Man. I don’t want to spend a serious time with Wolverine. And when Batman gets moody I want him to hit stuff. It’s a hero movie without being an action movie. And well, I’m just not interested in a “real life hero” story. It’s not enough. On the other hand, this would make a fantastic graphic novel. But it’s not a graphic novel. It’s a movie and it’s a movie full of M. Night Shyamalan believing he’s doing something incredibly clever by introducing a man with super powers as a regular guy who doesn’t really believe he’s different. He’s not just a reluctant hero, he’s a hero in denial and only the insistence of another man wakes him up.

The other main character here is Elijah Price, the aforementioned comic book aficionado who unfortunately has a moderate to severe form of Osteogenesis Imperfecta, causing his bones to break easily. He’s been looking for someone with the opposite of his illness for years and when he finds David he starts to tell him he’s a hero. He has the potential to help people and become the hero the mediocre and dull world needs. Honestly, I found Elijah a far more interesting character than David, but his ending kind of ticks me off for its unfortunate implications about race and disability (warning, that’s a TVTropes link). And again with honesty, while I’m sure Shyamalan thought he was giving a twist ending, I thought it was incredibly obvious. But then, I did just watch X-Men: First Class, so my brain is primed for comic books plots and tropes.

The movie spends a hell of a lot of time on the difficulties David and his wife, Audrey, are having. David’s detached from Audrey and from their son, Joseph, and he’s planning on moving to New York. He’s trying to reconnect with his son. He’s trying to recapture something that will keep him going. And he just can’t seem to manage it. He was a football star in high school, set to really go somewhere. And he lost it all somewhere along the way. And the movie even explains why and tries to merge it all together into the origin story thing and I get it. I really do. I just can’t bring myself to find it interesting (and I think Hancock did the conflict between family and superheroics better). I suppose this is a thriller but I don’t find it thrilling. I find it muted and slow. It’s like if Batman Begins had been all about Bruce Wayne’s inability to have a solid relationship with Rachel Dawes and taken place entirely during his travels through Asia after leaving Gotham and ended with his meeting of Ducard. There’s a reason Christopher Nolan didn’t make that movie. I get why M. Night Shyamalan made this, and I can see why it appeals to some people. I’m just not one of those people.

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June 5, 2011 - Posted by | daily reviews | , ,

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