A new Judge Dredd film has been given the go-ahead. The potentially good news is that it is to be produced by DNA Films, the UK outfit behind 28 Weeks Later and Sunshine. io9.com have seen fit to justfy an entirely unsubstantiated rumour that Danny Boyle will direct. Harry Knowles wants Judge Death in it. Personally, I’m still waiting to see if these rumours prove more substantive than the ones about 6 years ago about two Dredd films being filmed back-to-back.
Do I actually want another Judge Dredd film? The first one was a pretty good example of the 90s mindset of taking a comic, ramming it into a Hollywood-approved mould and throwing it back into our faces. It is one of a handful of comic book films that weren’t merely lame, not merely critical and audience flops but seemed calculated to annoy fans of the original works (the other two standout examples being From Hell and LXG).
Since then of course, a whole new generation of comic adaptations have arisen which have, to greater or lesser degrees of success, have been directed by quality film makers who loved – but were not slaves to – the source material. Sam Raimi on the first two Spider-Man films, Brian Singer on the first two X-Men films, Chris Nolan on Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. The outlook looks a lot better than it did in 1995, at the very least.
But Dredd isn’t your average comic strip. It isn’t a superhero comic and the main character doesn’t have much in the way of introspective, cinegenic angst. He isn’t just “dark” – he spends much of the time being the bad guy (a fact which the 1995 film completely ignored). And it is a satire which takes no prisoners. Turning all that into a film will be a big task.
I’m not sure they can pull it off, but for what it’s worth, here are my tips for making a good Dredd film:
1. Cast Ron Perlman in the lead. He’s the right age, has the right demeanour and – crucially – has the right chin. To say that he risks typecasting after Hellboy is redundant: Perlman was typecast 20 years ago. You won’t find a better Dredd, period. Don’t bother making it unless he’s doing it.
2. Don’t have Judge Death in it. Sorry Harry, but you are wrong. Judge Dredd is, at its heart, a comic strip about future crime. Death would make it into a horror film. Now, a Judge Death film might be good (just think: Hellraiser-meets-Terminator – with jokes!), but it wouldn’t be a Judge Dredd film.
3. Have a strong sympathetic character in conflict with Dredd. Or, to stop beating around the bush, do a Chopper film. Chopper was one of the most popular characters in the first decade of Dredd for a good reason: the audience could identify with him. Making the film about, say, a Supersurf-style illegal race would not only make for some great action scenes, but it would perfectly capture what the Dredd strip is about.
4. Don’t make it about The Judges – this was what I hated the most about the 1995 film: the way they turned the Judges into a quasi-religious order with only the best of intentions. The fallible humans presented in Origins were a vast improvement, but even that sort of strip would be extranneous. We want a film about a future cop, not another political space opera.
5. Other things to avoid: space, other Mega Cities, the Cursed Earth… in short, anything that takes the film away from the essence of the Dredd strip. It is too much detail that will turn it into a soggy mess (like the last film in fact).
6. Two fingers to Rob Schneider! In order to exorcise the demons of the last film, there needs to be some of reference to Rob Schneider and his lamentable film career. How about having a block in his name flattened at some point. Or maybe at some point Dredd could arrest a male prostitute called R. Schneider. The possibilities are endless… the more offensive the better.