2012’s Dredd is streaming now on Netflix, and it is time to take a look back at this wild action thriller. Starring Karl Urban as the titular Judge Dredd, this bombastic sci-fi tale is a cult classic that excels beyond other films like it, making it more than deserving of a sequel.
Dredd, streaming now on Netflix, should have set off a wave of sequels and further 2000 A.D. adaptations.
Set in 2080, Dredd depicts a dystopian civilization gathered in Mega-City One. The dilapidated metropolis is one of the few safe havens left in a world decimated by nuclear war. Crime runs rampant, with officers called Judges the only semblance of law and order to be found.
As judges, juries, and executioners, the Judges fight crime by whatever means necessary. When a new drug called Slo-Mo, which slows a user’s perception of time, floods the streets, Judge Dredd and trainee Anderson ascend an enormous tower to find the person responsible.
To achieve their mission, they must survive an onslaught of assailants commanded by the drug lord Ma-Ma, played by Game of Thrones actress Lena Headey. The result is a visually dazzling, hyper-violent romp full of insane special effects and epic one-liners, and it beats the competition any day of the week.
Compare Dredd to the Robocop franchise. Judge Dredd and Robocop have more than a little bit in common – they are suped-up cops in dystopian metropolises taking down bad guys with everything covered but their chins.
The difference is that there are four Robocop movies to Dredd’s two, and you would have a pretty hard time arguing that more than one of those movies is any good. Where is the justice in that?
Comparisons between Judge Dredd and Robocop are common, for example, both only have one good movie (sorry Sylvester Stallone!)
Dredd is based on a British comic strip created by John Wagner. The satirical comic was adapted once before into the 1995 feature film Judge Dredd, which starred Sylvester Stallone in the title role. That film was maligned by critics and audiences for being a tonal mess.
Judge Dredd was caught in the middle of parody and earnestness. It could not be laughed at or taken seriously, and it bombed accordingly. Attempts at a Judge Dredd film would lie dormant for more than a decade.
The project was picked up by screenwriter Alex Garland in 2006, with an announcement of his involvement coming in 2008. Garland iterated several versions of the script in search of the right story; a fan of the comic, he explored several avenues before deciding to tell a relatively small-scale story that captured a gory slice of life for Dredd.
Garland produced the project alongside Andrew Macdonald and Allon Reich with the help of DNA Films, IM Global, and Reliance Big Pictures. With $45 million in the bank, the team headed to South Africa in 2010 to shoot Dredd.
Production included 13 weeks of action, slow motion, practical effects, and Karl Urban’s 100 percent understanding of the assignment. The team captured striking slow-motion shots with a Phantom Flex camera, shooting up to 4000 frames per second; for reference, the rest of the movie is shot at 24 frames per second.
Creative friction between producers and the director, Pete Travis, became cause for alarm on set. Karl Urban often turned to Alex Garland for direction; Garland was very involved on set and later took over for Travis in post-production.
Riding the cresting wave of the 3D fad, Dredd earned a meager $40 million box office total, which many have attributed to poor marketing. The film hit with the critics and audiences who did see it, racking up 80 percent and 72 percent Rotten Tomatoes scores, respectively. More than 10 years since its release, Dredd is now considered a cult classic.
Robocop received video games, multiple movies, and a cameo at WCW Capital Combat, while Judge Dredd has been left to languish for decades.
The reboot accomplished the delicate tonal balance that Judge Dredd failed to strike years before. Now, it needs a sequel.
A middling box office return cooled off sequel talk after the film’s release, but since then, those involved have expressed interest in returning to the world of Dredd. Even John Wagner gave his stamp of approval on the film and expressed his hope to see Karl Urban return as Judge Dredd.
Money aside, Dredd crafts a cinematic world full of potential. Its source material is rich, its tone is fun, and it may be just the dystopian joy ride the world needs to cope as it falls apart at the seams. Dredd deserves a sequel more than a lot of franchises that have gotten them. Until that greenlight comes, fans can return to Mega-City One on their own by streaming Dredd on Netflix.