First off let me pin my colours to the mast, I love Judge Dredd. I have done ever since I read the very first story (2000AD Prog #2 if anyone’s wondering) and read him – and the rest of the comic – weekly from 1977 until the late 1980s.
I will further pin my colours to the 1995 Judge Dredd movie staring Sylvester Stallone. Yes it was heavily flawed – drawing from numerous Dredd stories that in the comics spread over a couple of decades, Stallones voice, taking the helmet off – and as a star Stallone was probably the wrong choice. But up until now the 1995 version was the only version to be made, so in some way we should cherish it.
In September, Dredd, the second attempt to get the iconic 2000AD lawman onscreen hits cinemas. This one stars Karl Urban (Lord Of The Rings, Doom, Star Trek) and from the few reports that have been coming out of the production seems to have taken a very different route than the 1995 version.
The script is said to be more adult – one comment I’ve read was along the lines of “think Die Hard crossed with The Gauntlet and you won’t be far away” – and sticks more closely to the graphic violence depicted in the comic strip. I will admit to have read A script that was leaked online last year. I’m not saying it is the actual script, but will say that if it is – or at least shares the same DNA – then the Die Hard/Gauntlet comparison fits.
Product rumbled along with barely a whisper from writers, actors or anyone linked to the production. There have been a few images showing a grumpy looking Karl Urban wearing a very contemporary looking riot uniform.
This look is miles away from the look modelled by Stallone 17 years ago.
Which, despite its other flaws, actually sticks closer to the design of Dredd’s uniform from the comic than the new look. Now I know that the uniform as it is in the comics is wholly impractical, top heavy with a shoulder pad on one side and a Eagle emblem on the other. But then everyone knows Batman‘s costume is impractical, but no one has ever thought to redesign it so the person wearing it can actually function.
Uniforms, leading actors and stories aside there is another major difference that has arisen between the two versions of the film, and the source material itself. In the last 24 hours the image above was released, a screen shot depicting Dredd walking out of a building with the view of Mega City One in front of him.
As it stands it is an impressive view, but anyone who has read 2000AD will know that the city is a crazy place, with mile high buildings, walkways, roads, aerial vehicles (pretty much LA from Blade Runner on acid). It is overpopulated – 800 million people – with everyone living on top of each other. Looking at the view above it doesn’t look that crowded, I know its hard to make a judgement when I don’t know in what context this shot is set – I have read that perhaps Dredd is actually on the top level of a building himself so all we are seeing is the tops of the tallest buildings – but it still looks way to…peaceful.
Strangely – again – the 1995 film depicted the city pretty much the same as the comic’s.
So we have two vastly different takes on an iconic character. One was slated by fans and casual observers alike, the other has fans nervous that if the makers screw it up a second time then that’ll be it. At the end of the day it’ll be down to us – the public – to make our minds up whether Dredd (2012) lives up to the expectations heaped upon it. Or whether Judge Dredd (1995) will be remembered and a valiant if flawed effort and should perhaps be given a second chance.