A contrasting pair of superhero movies this week.
This was my first viewing of Unbreakable, which I knew nothing about except that it was a superhero movie. Indeed, this was my first complete viewing of any film by M. Night Shyamalan, so I wasn't sure what to expect. What I saw surprised me: it is indeed a superhero movie, but of a most unusual kind.
Bruce Willis plays David Dunn, a security guard, who survives uninjured a train wreck which kills everyone else on board. He is approached by Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson) who has a genetic brittle bone disorder, and whose passion for superhero comics leads him to believe that Dunn is his opposite - someone who cannot be injured. Dunn refuses to believe this but as he thinks back through his life he realises that he cannot recall ever being injured or even sick. Furthermore, Price forces him to confront the fact that he appears to have an instinct in his work for spotting people who are carrying weapons or otherwise likely to make trouble.
Dunn's life is complicated by his crumbling relationship with his wife (Robin Wright Penn) and the passionate belief of his young son, who is aware of Price's theory. Eventually, he puts the theory to the test, leading to a climax with a dramatic and unexpected twist.
The film is slow-paced, reflective, and notably lacking in the usual chases, explosions, violence (except for one brief scene) and CGI spectaculars. The director's focus is on how an ordinary man copes with the notion of being a superhero, making it a far more adult and thoughtful production than the other superhero movies I've reviewed. The acting throughout is good; even the seemingly obligatory family-problems-with-appealing-kid fit in well and are not objectionable. The ending seemed tailor-made for a sequel, but none has emerged. Recommended.
X-Men: The Last Stand is the third of the franchise. I reviewed its two predecessors here and here .
The new plot element this time is the discovery of a treatment for mutants which permanently suppresses their powers, and the conflicts this re-starts both within the mutant community (which seems to have multiplied dramatically) and between the mutants and humanity. Sadly, this one isn't up to the same standard as the others (I gather that the director changed) with the focus very much on the action rather than the more thoughtful aspects of the earlier films. The whole film basically leads up to the final climactic battle which seems to settle everything, but there was a teaser at the end to suggest that maybe, it might not…