After the disaster that was 1995's Judge Dredd, most fans probably thought they wouldn't ever see the character adapted to screen again. Enter last year's Dredd 3D, produced on a budget much more modest than the average comic book film and starring actors chosen for their screen presence rather than their marquee names. The result, perhaps not unexpectedly in the context of today's blockbuster culture, was that the film didn't make money. Bringing in about $36 million worldwide, the film generated only $13 million or so in the U.S., after its stars and filmmakers said that a $50 million U.S. box office would be enough to greenlight a sequel. Once again, it seemed like that was it.
Then, something strange happened. An active fan community online have been obsessing over a sequel to the film, and DNA, Rebellion Films and Lionsgate, who hold the rights, have consistently expressed an interest in continuing the franchise (the film was originally planned as the first part of a trilogy if enough money was made to justify it). DVD and Blu-Ray sales have been strong, in no small part because the fan community has rallied around that as a way to "save" the film from extinction. And along the way came Veronica Mars, a decade-old TV series rescued by fans on Kickstarter and coming to theaters and home video in earliy 2014. While crowdfunding isn't a real option for a movie that costs more than $10 million to make, it's a sign of the times that fan communities can rally behind a project and generate enough interest and revenue to make it happen. It clearly gave Rebellion pause, as they were caught saying "Kickstarter" out loud in a few interviews, even while saying that's not a direction they would go. They have embraced some of the fan community's other options, though; two high-profile Dredd fan films have been made recently--Judge Minty and Judge Dredd: Cursed Edge. In both cases, Rebellion was aware of and tacitly approved of the productions. The fact that there was no fear of the production being shut down by the rights holders has also meant that the fans at the center of those fan films could spend a little more time and money on them without risk of losing it all for nothing.
Yesterday, the fan-run Make a Dredd Sequel Facebook page issued the following statement: "From an UNCONFIRMED SOURCE, it has come to this page's attention that DNA Films will be reviewing the blu-ray/DVD sales of DREDD in the coming weeks and will be deciding whether or not to make a sequel. If this is true, let's show them how much we want that sequel! If you haven't already, please buy the DVD or blu-ray! More news soon!" They followed up with "DNA will know in the next few weeks whether the important DVD/Blu-ray sales have boosted the overall profits on the movie enough to consider a sequel. Tell everyone to start their letter writing and sharing of the film in earnest as this could be the last chance for a number of years or never!" There's already a sequel coming to the comics, but another film is what fans have been itching for, and the prospect of "now or never" has moved the film, released back in January, up more than 3,000 places on Amazon's overall sales chart since that information got out. In the U.K., the film reached #4 on the Amazon list yesterday, and in the U.S., it's in the top ten or twenty in popular categories like action/adventure. So what's so special about this film?
The cast and crew are fans Karl Urban, who has starred in films like Lord of the Rings and Star Trek, did a major motion picture where he was the lead character and never once took off a helmet that obscured most of his face. That's...not normal behavior...in Hollywood, but Urban is a Dredd fan who understood the importance of keeping the helmet on (as opposed to, say, the Stallone version). The structure of the trilogy as written, according to screenwriter Alex Garland, would have taken the trilogy deep into territory explored by the 2000 AD comics, too. Oh, and about that? The trilogy would be awesome. "If I was involved in a second movie, it would be about origins and subversion, and Chopper would feature. In fact, I think Chopper would start and end the story. Apart from him, my rough plan involves Fargo, Giant, Angel Gang, and a version of Satanus. For a trilogy, add Cal and the dark judges. And Anderson would be in all three. But... just to be clear, this is hugely speculative and also unlikely, for any number of reasons," wrote Garland on the 2000 AD message boards. There are more details out there, but really if you're a Judge Dredd fan, that's probably enough to get you excited for what could come next.
This is the age of sequels Let's just be a bit mercenary for a moment and realize that sequels do better financially than the first installments of the franchises do these days. It's a change from where we were twenty or thirty years ago, but it's well-known at this point and it's part of the appeal of building a franchise. Leaving money aside for a moment, many franchises actually tell a better story once the world-building of the first film is out of the way. The Dark Knight is superior to Batman Begins in most respects for that reason. X2 is better than X-Men. There are others, too, as long as you don't look at the Iron Man franchise. The world of Dredd was pretty small A lot of work clearly went into making a cool and convincing Mega-City One, but for the most part we didn't get much of a look out at the city outside of Peachtree. I want to see more. And I want to see the Cursed Earth.
Karl Urban's Dredd Seriously--Dredd was the best comic book movie of 2012, largely on the strength of Urban's performance. The idea of a short film a la The Punisher: Dirty Laundry would be great if for no reason other than to see Dredd. A full-on sequel? Even better.