When Lionsgate revealed their plans to reboot the Judge Dredd property, a plan that included sticking to the basic elements that made the comic book appealing, it created an enthusiasm from fans that many thought died when the Stallone film released. The casting of Karl Urban as Dredd, and the decision to never remove his iconic helmet all fell in line with what fans believed was needed to make a successful Dredd film.
Still, Dredd is a film adaptation and as such, it takes a few liberties in its storytelling, along with introducing characters not featured in the IPC Media series. Writer Alex Garland has already shown himself to be a huge fan of the Dredd property, but this first film needed to set up a world audiences could easily digest and characters that they could discover more about right alongside Judge Dredd.
Yes, the character of Dredd's psychic partner Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) and various elements like the design of the Judges borrow heavily from the comic's lead, but there are several new characters and pieces of information fans are going to want to be familiar with going in. Lionsgate has released a Dredd prologue comic that introduces the film's main villain, Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), which you can read online right now.
In the comic, readers are not only given some backstory on Ma-Ma (full name Marlene Madrigal) but learn how she came into contact with the drug slo-mo, Mega-City One's narcotic of choice. Along with being a major story point for Dredd, the slo-mo drug provides for some spectacular visuals, as evidenced by the film's trailer. The prologue comic only briefly touches on the experience of being on the drug, whereas the film revels in its time-altering affects.
In addition to the development of slo-mo, the comic briefly explains the origins of Ma-Ma's scar, which in the film is a symbol of her mercilessness. It might have been more appropriate to see the scar as it's created rather than mentioned only in a brief aside, but it's another important detail that will help inform the audience prior to sitting down for Dredd.
When the comic concludes there are still several events that need to play out before the scene is properly set for Dredd – namely Ma-Ma setting up shop in the 200-story residence featured as the film's centerpiece -- but as a prologue it sufficiently develops the character of Ma-Ma from a cowardly prostitute into the woman who will become a ruthless drug peddler.
As the film's name suggests, it's Judge Dredd that the audiences want to see, and the decision to relegate him to a secondary role in the prologue is a bold one. Yes, readers can ascertain some sense of Dredd the character, but the film might be better served if the comic also showcased his story alongside Ma-Ma's.
Curious moviegoers can find out how Ma-Ma and Judge Dredd cross paths when Dredd releases in theaters on September 21, 2012.