Despite uninspiring box office numbers, the 2012 Judge Dredd franchise reboot from Pete Travis received solid praise from critics and moviegoers alike - washing away the bitter taste of Danny Cannon's 1995 adaptation starring Sylvester Stallone. While comparisons to Gareth Evans' The Raid: Redemption remain an unavoidable talking point for naysayers, even though both films were in production at the same time, Travis and his Dredd star, Karl Urban, ultimately presented an entertaining (and downright brutal) movie experience (read our Dredd 3D review) - one that scored decent returns on retail shelves and continues to spread positive word-of-mouth. The post-release momentum, along with a leading-man that is eager to put on the Judge helmet for another installment, has led many fans to remain hopeful that Travis and Urban, along with producer Adi Shankar, will eventually release Dredd 2.
Nevertheless, poor ticket sales, specifically $35 million worldwide take (from a reported $50 million production budget) has left studio executives hesitant about green-lighting a follow-up. Now, after months of waiting, US fans will finally be able to get their hands on a Dredd sequel story. The good news? In case you haven't heard, Dredd: Underbelly is a real thing and will be released in the US in January 2014. The bad news? It's a comic book, not a new movie.
The sequel story from Arthur Wyatt and Henry Flint was originally published as three serialized installments in the UK-distributed Judge Dredd Megazine, but is now headed for a full release in the US. According to THR, who spoke with 2000AD editor Matt Smith, the choice to bring the comic over to the US was the result of increased interest in the character following the positive buzz from Travis and Urban's feature film adaptation:
"We've noted a real swell of U.S. interest in Dredd off the back of the film. This first foray for 2000AD in producing a U.S.-format book, geared specifically to the [comic book] direct market, and aimed at satisfying those demanding a sequel, is a stumm gas grenade-style lob across the Atlantic to show that you don't have to camp outside your local multiplex to get your next fix of Mega-City One -- the Judge will carry on enforcing the Law through the pages of the comic. Arthur and Henry have created a terrific story, and a powerful follow-up to the film. Dredd fans won't be disappointed."
Check out the cover of Dredd: Underbelly below (click to enlarge):
For anyone who didn't get to check out the Dredd: Underbelly series over the last few months, it debuted back in September and is a direct sequel to the narrative presented in the 2012 film. According to Wyatt, who spoke earlier this year with CBR, the Underbelly story "follows pretty closely from the end of the movie -- the repercussions of the fall of the Ma-Ma are still being felt. Anderson has really come into her own and Dredd will actually be brought into one of her cases in this one." We'll spare our readers the specifics, since many likely will not have read the sequel comic yet, but it's a worthy follow-up for comic book-reading fans eager for more of Urban's take on the Dredd character, while also delivering an equally strong read for longtime 2000AD faithfuls.
As for where the announcement leaves the possibility of a future movie sequel: no official progress has been made but the very fact that 2000AD has recorded a "real swell of U.S. interest in Dredd," certainly indicates that, under the right circumstances, there's interest in putting more Dredd in front of U.S. audiences. Should interest be high enough, years worth of comic book material provide an enticing set of narrative possibilities. Prior to release, Dredd 3D writer Alex Garland had even teased the possibility of a film trilogy, culminating in the inclusion of the fan-favorite Dark Judges. At this point, it's unclear whether or not producers would continue with Garland's planned story arc about the fascist side of Judging, if a sequel is even announced, or simply hire new writers for an entirely fresh take.
Of course, Dredd 2 won't be an easy sell regardless of the direction. After all, fan support only goes so far, especially since a sequel would likely be more expensive, given that audiences expect most follow-up films to be bigger than the original - especially if the filmmakers did want to explore a Dark Judges story. Similarly, a confined plot that primarily took place inside Peach Trees is part of what kept Dredd so exciting at a relatively modest budget. A sequel couldn't simply copy and paste the same interior setting setup with a new villain - meaning that the studio would have to invest heavily in CGI effects, so that Dredd and his audience, could explore more of Mega City One.
Since other beloved projects have found new life via Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites, some viewers might hope that should the studio system fail us, Dredd could be resurrected through a fan-backed initiative. However, there's a big difference between the challenges facing a Veronica Mars follow-up and an R-Rated, future-set, blockbuster comic book adaptation.
We'll update you on any news of a Dredd sequel. In the meantime, let's all keep our fingers crossed that Shankar makes good on his promise of a "dope" short film Judge Dredd sequel, inspired by his low budget approach to the equally gritty Punisher in 2012's "Dirty Laundry." Or you can always listen to an in-depth discussion of the first film by the Screen Rant editors in our Dredd episode of the SR Underground podcast.
Dredd is out now on DVD and Blu-ray. Dredd: Underbelly will be available January 2014 through Kindle Fire, Nook and the 2000AD iPad app, as well as a physical comic book.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for future updates on Dredd as well as movie, TV, and gaming news.