Filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan’s career has taken a lot of interesting turns, with a few ups and quite a lot of downs. Among his better-remembered movies is Unbreakable, a superhero movie that was released just before superhero movies became cool. Starring Bruce Willis as a man who mysteriously survives a devastating trainwreck, Unbreakable is a thoughtful take on the idea of what would happen if an ordinary person discovered that they had a superpower – in this case, invincibility.
Speaking to Screen Rant at San Diego Comic-Con 2015, Shyamalan made it clear that most of his films are intensely personal and represent his identity at particular times of his life, making it difficult to predict exactly what he’ll make next. His latest film, The Visit, was shot more or less in secret with a small crew and budget, and tells an ostensibly simple story about two kids spending a week with their estranged grandparents.
For years there has been talk of making a sequel to Unbreakable – from Shyamalan himself, from star Samuel L. Jackson, and even from celebrity fans like Patton Oswalt. When we asked Shyamalan if the current popularity of superhero movies has spurred him to think seriously about making Unbreakable 2, however, he said that box office potential isn’t a good enough reason for him to make a movie.
“The idea of making something because of an opportunity has no interest at all for me. Zero. In fact, it’s very off-putting to me. You know, ‘Oh, we can make a lot of money’… That’s so off-putting as a motivating factor. I’d have to be a f—ing w—e to do that. For me. ‘Unbreakable’ is what I felt like in the year 2000. That’s who I was in the year 2000.
“Now, there’s something that’s percolating in me of an approach that is maybe something of interest to me. That’s the best I can say. Something is happening. I can feel it. Something is happening. It would have to be so different than ‘Unbreakable’… a studio would lose their minds because it doesn’t feel at all like a sequel of any kind. It’s just a whole new movie. It would be a wonderful thing. But anyway, I’m thinking about something.”
If Shyamalan does decide to make a sequel to Unbreakable, it probably won’t happen for a while. Now that The Visit is ready for release his next intention is to make another “small movie,” though he wouldn’t offer any plot details (other than the fact that it involves an older female character) or even say what the title is. He also admitted to constantly having several different ideas on the boil, and gave the impression that he doesn’t like to plan too far ahead.
Refusing to bend to the whims of Hollywood and the promise of profit seems to be a point of pride for Shyamalan, but unfortunately placing ultimate value on his own artistic vision doesn’t seem to have led to better movies. More recent releases like The Last Airbender and After Earth have been critically panned, and the promise of Unbreakable 2 doesn’t excite moviegoers like it once might have done.
We can say, however, that The Visit is great fun and a return to form for Shyamalan, and hopefully marks the start of an upward trend for the director. Perhaps what he needs is to do is make a few small, low budget movies before tackling something bigger like Unbreakable 2. Or perhaps Unbreakable is one of those movies that doesn’t really need a sequel.
The Visit releases in theaters on September 11, 2015.