Dredd is the epitome of a modern cult hit. The reboot of the 2000 A.D. comic property (which was already a 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone) lost money at that the box office ($35 million on a $50 million budget), but has since gained notoriety thanks to strong word-of-mouth and home video viewing. While not many people saw it, those that did see it generally had high praise for h0w director Pete Travis and star Karl Urban course-corrected the mistakes of the Stallone film, and really honored the character and his source material.
Talk of Dredd 2 has been consistent since the first film hit the home video market; but for every enthusiastic (albeit late-coming) word of praise, there are two more pundits ready to point out why the sequel will likely never happen. Today continues that strange oscillation, as Karl Urban is once again talking Dredd 2 - this time focusing on the storyline that the filmmakers would pursue, given a chance for another installment.
Writer of the website Shallow Graves were attending Chicago Comic-Con 2014 and had a chance to interview Urban. Being geeky Dredd-heads, they had to take opportunity to ask the Star Trek/Dredd star about some of the ideas that the Dredd filmmakers have previously floated for a sequel - including the famous "Dark Judges" storyline. In a bit of a twist, Urban went beyond his usual "It's up to fans/producers" passing of the buck, and gave something a little more concrete in terms of where a sequel could go:
“Why yes, there is a definite possibility [of Dark Judges]. But, it is more likely that we will do the origins story with Dredd trekking through the cursed earth to find the first Chief Judge Fargo.”
(Artwork by m1llgato5@DeviantArt)
For those who don't know the history of the character, Chief Judge Fargo (played by Max von Sydow in the 1995 film) is one of the pillars of law and order in the future. He created the Judge system, and was the first chief judge in Mega-City One. He also happens to be the genetic source of the DNA used to create Judge Dredd and his nefarious brother, Rico (a plot point of the '95 movie). In the comics, Fargo was placed in suspended animation later in life, until his body wound up in the possession of the New Mutant Army, forcing Dredd to venture out into the Cursed Earth wastelands to recover Fargo. When he does, the Judge's last breath is spent telling Dredd that the system of judging he created is fundamentally wrong.
That's a pretty good foundation for sequel film, if we're being honest - and one that could be done for a modest budget. A comparable example is Riddick, a film set on a desert wasteland planet, featuring a mix of tough-n-gun types and monsters, to the cost of $38 million. Riddick made $45 million at the domestic box office - and with international gross, nearly cracked $100 million. It also reestablished the Riddick character and brand so that more films are a viable option for the future; which is exactly what the Dredd franchise needs right about now.
...But it's still not a lock that Dredd 2 will ever happen. While Karl Urban and producer Adi Shankar want it to happen, the issue is not just Lionsgate's trepidation about making back money on another installment. The Dredd international distribution rights were spread out over many companies, making it hard to re-consolidate things for a sequel launch.
Basically, a lot of deals gotta get made - and numbers crunched - before production on Dredd 2 would even be able to move forward. And since there is only lukewarm motivation on the studio's part to even pursue a sequel, you see why untangling the Dredd knot is not high up on their list of priorities. Kickstarter or crowd funding may seem like a good idea, but $40 million is a huge goal to reach - and even then, there is still that distributor problem. Regardless the fact that there IS a solid story plan in place will keep the embers of sequel hopes alive for the time being.
As far as the story idea itself: We saw Mega-City One and its criminals in the first film; the mutants and Cursed Earth would be a nice change for the sequel. The Judge Fargo search would also give Urban a chance to show off Dredd's investigative prowess, in addition to his badassery in law enforcement.
As always, we'll keep you updated on the status of Dredd 2.
Source: Shallow Graves