Sunday, March 3, 2013
Top 100 #58: Unbreakable
“You know what the scariest thing is? To not know your place in this world. To not know why you’re here…That’s… That’s just an awful feeling.” Elijah Price
The core idea that propagates the mythology of the superhero boils down to this- without evil, there can truly be no good. This is a founding principle on which most major stories are based. Since their inception, comic books have become the creative fuel that propelled the minds of . These storytellers, many of whom were immigrants that grew up in New York, decided to craft worlds whose only boundaries were the panels they were drawn in. Comic books would thrive throughout the 40s and 50s, giving us Superman, Batman, and several others. All who would sooner or later find themselves on the silver screen in adaptations ranging from superb (The Dark Knight) to downright headache inducing (The Green Hornet). Many people immediately point their finger to either Superman or the Dark Knight as the superior superhero film. Truth be told, we were given the superhero film we deserved. One that wasn't restricted to retelling a comic book story handed down to us by generations previous. It was fresh, invigorating, and above all else, a true look into what brought us to the dance in the first place.
M. Night Shyamalan originally envisioned the film as a three act story: origin story, discover superpowers, confrontation with nemesis. He then decided during the writing process that the origin story in this case was the most interesting story to tell and deserved to be expanded into the full length of the feature. Hard core comic book fans will tell this decision ruined the movie, and although Shyamalan usually makes bad choices when he decides to change something, this one I could appreciate. We don’t need to see guys in tights fighting unbelievable bad guys all the time. It is a retelling of the cliché hero origin story with every genre element stripped out. It is as clear as it can be, as pure as it can be and as realistic as a superhero film will ever be.
The biggest leap in terms of style from Sixth Sense to Unbreakable are of course the choices of switching the editor and cinematographer. Dylan Tichenor (coming off his work on Magnolia) and DP Eduardo Serra took to light the ideas the director tossed them and used them to create a dramatically paced narrative that unfolds as if we were pulled into the pages of a real life comic book. Boasted by what is hands down James Newton Howard's finest score, the collaboration on this film is one that found the production team firing on all cylinders. It is widely known that M. Night used a limited number of takes on the picture. 30 to be exact. In order to maintain a symbiotic relationship between the character and audience, he decided this stylistic choice would best suit the project.
Quentin said that Unbreakable is the story of Superman not knowing that he is Superman. Not only is this a fascinating concept, it also happens to be wrapped up in a film that saw M. Night hone his Spielberg meets Hitchcock style into something he still hasn't topped.