Let’s be fair. We all know the biggest question facing humanity in this modern age.
Who can we get to present Top Gear in the wake of Jeremy Clarkson’s latest buffoonery? Nope.
How do we get rid of the Kardashians in a brutally effective, yet humane manner? Good question but – nope.
Will they make a Dredd sequel? Yeah. That’s the one.
You’re asking it. Your neighbors and work colleagues are asking it. There are salmon fishermen in the Yemen asking it. But the recent frenzy of online activity and speculation has produced little other than misery and denial. But fear not, fellow Dredd fans. I tell you now, that we haven’t seen the last onscreen portrayal of Mega-City One’s top lawman.
And I’ll tell you for why…
“Calm down, dear. These things take a little time…”
The 1995 version was an inescapable disaster. Sylvester Stallone either mumbled or roared his way through his lines, seemingly incapable of anything in between. Armand Assante practically chewed the scenery as he spat his dialogue back in reply, and Rob Schneider burned away in between them, producing facial contortions worthy of a toddler with a nasty case of diarrhea. Was it a serious analysis on the breakdown of civil society and an observance on the ethics of genetic cloning? Was it some form of dark satirical comedy? Neither. It was a mess. Plain and simple.
Nobody wanted a sequel. Not the fans, the studio. Nobody. It took 17 long years of hard work and graft from people who genuinely loved the character to bring the sequel to fruition. And this isn’t to be underestimated. Our kids are now being raised in a cinematic age where the big studios are green lighting sequels before the first films are released. It summer blockbusters have even been released, and we’re now completely at ease with the Marvel blueprint on how to map out, produce and release material, years in advance. Tinkering and adapting as they go. Maybe this explains the sudden uproar that no sequel is currently in the works. We’ve forgotten that a sequel isn’t automatically a given. Just go back a decade to Hellboy and Pitch Black. There were lengthy gaps between their entries, again with outright declarations that sequels would not happen based on their performances at the time, so the fact there’s already a strong demand for a Dredd sequel is a good indicator that some form of follow-up will happen.
“The wrong guy, in the wrong place, at the wrong time…”
Fan demand and petitioning to get a sequel up and running is essential, but ultimately, the idea needs the right people, with the right skills, to pitch it and persuade a studio to buy into it. Having already established that the Stallone film adaptation couldn’t have had less appropriate staff attached to it, and that the survival of any project depends on key timing and people, we should now recognize that the most recent Dredd outing was stacked full of people with a unique skill set that would make Liam Neeson jealous.
Producer Adi Shankar comes across as some kind of cinematic misfit, and has made a name for himself producing unauthorized YouTube films for The Punisher (Dirty Laundry) and recently, a gritty Power Rangers adaptation. These achieved cult status almost overnight, and are still around, as studios have chosen to leave them be, rather than challenge and remove them. No doubt reasoning that anything that makes people talk about their property can be no mean thing. This is the kind of man you want to bully a studio into agreement.
Karl Urban has spent most of his film career in sci-fi and fantasy adapts, including LOTR. Star Trek, Doom and Riddick, and has continued this trend with the recent TV series Almost hum. He’s an actor not only comfortable in, but who clearly has a genuine affection for the genre, and has shown no signs of wanting to walk away from the project. If it does take some time to revisit, he’s not the kind of man to leave it unfinished.
Having already achieved success writing the script for 28 Weeks Later, Writer Alex Garland has followed up his work on Dredd by making his directorial debut with the critically acclaimed Ex Machina. The more currency and acclaim his work finds in the industry, the more likely it is he would be able to revisit and resurrect Dredd.
“It’s a brave new world…”
The way in which material is created and presented to an audience is changing on a yearly basis, along with the technology we use to view it. It’s no longer a case of a cinema release, followed by a short wait and then a release on DVD/Blu-Ray. Take the case of ‘A field in England’, released digitally, on home media and at the cinema simultaneously.
Following on from its great success as a video game, a Halo movie was initially touted, and then immediately stuck in development hell. It’s since managed to evolve and expand through the use of animated shorts (Legends), and webisodes which have been released as feature film DVDs (Forward Unto Dawn and Nightfall) . Battlestar Galactica (Blood and Chrome, Razor) has followed a similar trend.
In addition to web-based work, the appetite for adult animation (no, not that kind…) seems to be increasing. DC in particular (Under the Red Hood, Assault on Arkham) is producing a steady output of material that would be nigh on impossible to produce in straightforward cinema, and uses this as a tester to see what audiences react well to. It’s also the route that both Riddick and Hellboy used to find their way back into mainstream cinema. Some material is just a little too fantastic for the big screen, but works well in an animated format, with the vocal talents of the original cast. So just because we don’t have a title and date for a straightforward Dredd cinema sequel, doesn’t mean he won’t be back sooner than you might think.
Much as Britain can no longer claim to rule the empire, American control of the global film industry is no longer a given. The growth of the Chinese and European markets have meant that U.S. domestic performance and projected profits are now no longer the benchmark for a project to be considered a success. Take the case of Pacific Rim. Initially hailed as a domestic flop, and only earning a quarter of its revenue from the U.S. market, it went on to make 400 million dollars worldwide, and a sequel is in the works. So there’s no saying that any refusal to make a sequel at this point would be irreversible, or wouldn’t be picked up by someone else taking control of the rights.
And when you trace Judge Dredd back to it’s origins, it’s not American, it’s British, and it was created in no small way as a satirical sideswipe at US culture. Mega City One was designed to highlight what the writers saw as the flaws and failures of American life. Subjects such as racism, gun culture, drugs, politics and national aggression were all taken, and then written into the storylines in an exaggerated and distorted manner. A lot of these are still very relevant, and there is great potential for film makers to use Dredd material as a mirror on where the U.S. finds itself today. And there’s no shortage of material. 28 years worth, to be exact.
“What goes around, comes around…”
Now add to that, if you will, the current fetish for cinema to revisit and tinker with it’s old material. Reboots. Re-imaginings. Homages, sequels, prequels, sidequals. You name it. Who would have predicted a Godzilla reboot after the Roland Emmerich version? Or a Star Trek sidequal after the failure of the Next Generation films? And this process has now become so rapid, that studios are rumored to be re-casting Spider-Man within days and weeks of his latest film, which made 700 million dollars. Nothing, alas, seems to be sacred or protected from revision, so no film project can ever really be written off any more.
Put all of the above together, and they demonstrate that traditional preconceptions and procedures behind the film industry are constantly evolving and changing. Dredd was a positively received film, with a deep and interesting bank of material to work from. There is cast-iron reasoning to promise a future for Karl Urban as Dredd, but there’s no reason for it not to. We’ve already had a fan-made YouTube adap, and an officially sanctioned sequel (Underbelly) in Dredd’s home comic of 2000AD. The recent rerelease of the Dredd back-catalogue in the quite brilliant Mega Collection in the UK Is drawing old fans back to the material, and drawing new ones back in.
What do you think? Do you see a Dredd sequel happening? Let us know below!