David Twohy has carved out a very specific place for himself in the world of genre movies, and I think it’s amazing he’s been able to pull it off considering how sincerely he treats it.
Sincerity is not a virtue in modern pop culture, or at least it’s not treated as one. Everything in pop culture seems to be winking at you all the time these days, and the more post-modern something is, the more it feels like it fits into the current landscape. I don’t mind some of that, and done right, like in this summer’s “This Is The End,” it can pay off surprising dividends. Done wrong, though, and it highlights the artificial nature of film in a way that kills it for me.
I would much rather see someone do something they mean sincerely, even if it is just a crazy action film or a weird science-fiction flick. Twohy started out plugging away in the low-budget genre world in the late ’80s as a writer on “Critters 2” and “Warlock,” making his debut as a filmmaker with 1992’s “Timescape.” He had his first big mainstream success the following year as the screenwriter of “The Fugitive,” and then as one of the many writers who had their hands on “Waterworld.”
He wrote and directed “The Arrival,” a Charlie Sheen alien invasion movie that was a sleeper when it came out, a solid little word of mouth film. He had his script for “G.I. Jane” produced a year later, and then he disappeared for three years, finally returning with “Pitch Black.” For the most part, he’s been both writer and director on everything since “Pitch Black,” and he seems to have really fought to keep the “Riddick” series alive. He wasn’t the first writer on “Pitch Black,” but it’s safe to say that by the time the film was done, he felt a certain amount of ownership over the version that was released to theaters. “The Chronicles Of Riddick” was his attempt to do a big budget expansion of the mythology, and while I dig the movie, I think it’s safe to say that it was not universally liked. It’s taken him almost a decade to get the much-smaller “Riddick” made, and it feels like he’s intentionally tied this new one to both of the earlier films, making sure he keeps any of his storytelling options open while also making something much more like the first film.
When we spoke at Comic-Con, we were at Zachary Levi’s Nerd HQ, which basically took over Petco Park and which felt like a smaller Comic-Con taking place next door to the bigger Comic-Con. Twohy had been doing press since the panel I moderated for him in Hall H earlier in the day, and I’m going to guess that the beer he’s working on during our interview was not his only adult beverage of the day. The result is a very loose and relaxed conversation, and I’m really glad we got the chance to catch up during the chaos of San Diego.
“Riddick” arrives in theaters September 6, 2013.