Thinking back on the 2000 release of M. Night Shyamalan‘s ‘Unbreakable’ it is hard to imagine that it was never advertised as a comic book movie when it was released. Of course, not actually being based on a comic is one reason for that but another was that 19 years ago was a completely different era for audiences. The film may have given us both Bruce Willis‘ David Dunn who has since been seen in ‘Split’ and Samuel L. Jackson‘s Mr. Glass who will be reunited with Dunn in the upcoming film ‘Glass‘ but when the movie was released, comic films weren’t all the rage.
With the purchase of Marvel and by extension Marvel Studios, Disney has become the king of the box office thanks to the high-quality comic movies being pumped out, but at the time Shyamalan was told by Disney that marketing ‘Unbreakable as a comic film would be a bad move:
“Being totally honest. At that time, Disney felt that we couldn’t sell it as a comic-book movie because they felt that nobody would come to a comic book film.”
Today is a completely different playing field as we all know. But this was before the X-Men, Spider-Man, and Marvel Cinematic Universe really changed the landscape of filmmaking as we know it.
“They felt that this is not a subject matter that you would get a wide audience for. This (comic book films) is for weird people at conventions and things like that. After the success of The Sixth Sense, they wanted to just sell it (Unbreakable) as a thriller. I was like ‘Ok, but I think this is a cool idea that would really ground it.’ It might be a dismissible subject, but treating it as an embellished version of the truth is where the real appeal for it lies.”
To be fair, even in a world full of comic movies these days this isn’t your stereotypical film. We’re not going to see the type of movie that Marvel or DC would have put out. Shyamalan adds that while Marvel is “much more character driven than the DC films. We’re going even further than that and saying ‘this is primarily a character-driven movie that happens to be about comic books.” This includes things such as “an eleven-minute dialogue scene in the middle of the film” that he feels is more reminiscent to ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ than a comic movie.
Does M. Night Shyamalan’s description of why Disney didn’t bill ‘Unbreakable’ as a comic movie at all surprise you? Share your thoughts in the comments below!