Will we ever get a real, not to mention good, Judge Dredd movie? The 1995 Stallone vehicle is renowned for being reviled by fans of the original comic series, as well as being a box office disaster — rightfully fucking so. It was a terrible movie that was woefully miscast on virtually every front, used too much slapstick humor, had pointless and derivative subplotting, abandoned much of the character’s mythology, had some of the most idiotic costume design I’ve ever seen in a comic book movie outside of a Joel Schumacher Batman film, and was just an all around cock-up of epic proportions. Adding Rob fucking Schneider to the cast certainly didn’t help the cause.
As you can perhaps tell, I was not a fan. Judge Dredd is an underground favorite of many, but making a viable film is tricky. It’s not well-known at all, so you can’t count on the geek demographic to fill seats. The story, about a group of “Judges” who enforce the law and are on-the-spot enforcers and executioners in futuristic Mega-City One, is full of hardcore violence, weird technology, the occasional aliens, and even some ghosts. It’s a tough sell, but then again, people once said that about Iron Man too.
News about a remake/reboot/reborquel has been floating around for some time now, and now apparently the project is gaining some traction. They’ve got an excellent writer, Alex Garland, attached. Garland is best known as Danny Boyle’s go-to guy for screenplays, having written The Beach, 28 Days Later and Sunshine, so that’s already promising. Garland is apparently going to bring the story “back to its origins,” which is one of those phrases that’s supposed to make geeks all quivery, except that plenty of comic book movies do that and still suck goat butt. I don’t necessarily need an origin story. The problem with origin stories is that you don’t get to spend enough time with the character as a fully fleshed-out goddamn superhero. It’s one of the rare instances where I’d be OK with just telling the origin via a few carefully placed flashbacks. But start out with him as a Judge, damn it.
Anyway, the rest of the news creates further cautious optimism — there’s a studio, DNA Film. A budget of around $50 million, which is actually pretty good — it’s enough to get some good special effects with the right team, but not so much that it becomes bloated (also, it reduces the chances of a miscasting like Stallone). There’s also a director — Pete Travis. That one creates a wee bit of trepidation on my part. Travis isn’t exactly an established director. His one big release was the middling Vantage Point, which wasn’t well-received critically or commercially. He did direct last years fantastic, underappreciated and largely ignored Endgame — but that’s a far cry from a science fiction comic book action epic. In fact, it’s hard not to draw a bit of a Gavin Hood Tsotsi-to-Wolverine comparison. There are differences, obviously, namely that there will be less studio interference with Judge Dredd and less of the big budget action bloat that contributed to dragging Wolverine into the ground and then pissing on its corpse.
So there you have it. Judge Dredd and Mega City and perhaps even the Cursed Earth are coming back. Hopefully they won’t botch it a second time. Again — cautious optimism, folks.