As fans of comic book properties bristle at the notion of any change, updating, reimagining, or reinterpretation without studios seeming to hear, the makers of Dredd did things differently. In short, they took the "Judge Dredd" comic book and adapted it as faithfully as any fan could hope, with over the top violence, a colossal body count, and an unchanging hero without a face.
The end result was considered by many to be one of the more cohesive comic book films of the past ten years (read our review), and thanks to a tragically mismanaged marketing campaign, a financial flop. It seemed that despite the stage being set for a story-driven franchise, the chance of a sequel was all but dead. Now, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) himself claims the studio has yet to kill the project, with its cult following a major influence in keeping hope alive.
At the Destination Star Trek event held in in Frankfurt, Germany (hat tip to WhatCulture), Karl Urban was on hand to field questions for his part in J.J. Abrams' rebooted science fiction franchise. As testament to just how much of a cult film Dredd has already become, one of the first questions posed to him was not about Trek, but about whether there had been any progress on the notion of a Dredd sequel. Urban stopped short of saying that the odds were better or worse than when he last claimed he'd made his enthusiasm to Lionsgate clear, and would rely on fans to make their desires known as well.
However, Urban did explain that "conversations" were taking place - language he hasn't used in the past - but the actor's offhand comments surrounding that update are more telling. For starters, Urban said what we've been saying since the film first released: that the studio completely fumbled its marketing and theatrical arrival. Urban went on to say that despite an underwhelming box office take that had seemed to kill any chance of a sequel, the DVD sales have continued to impress - and Lionsgate has taken notice.
Urban's comments are well short of the encouragement that fans no doubt hope for, but his vocal support of the claim that Lionsgate's marketing is to blame for the film's struggle (producer Adi Shankar admitted its title of Dredd 3D made it sound like a gimmick) is a good sign. Until now, fans of the film could only hope that Dredd's home video sales would send a message to the studio, and Urban implies they've heard it loud and clear.
There's no question that the person most likely talking off ears at Lionsgate is writer/producer Alex Garland, the main creative force behind Dredd and the loudest supporter of a sequel. Garland has gone on record stating that he already has a story idea for a trilogy in place, hoping to delve into the fact that the titular Judge is a supremely fascist figure, yet a hero all the same. Take a quick look at armed revolutions around the world, and Dredd offers a commentary few comics attempt - even if it is shrouded in a storm of lead and gore.
No matter how long Lionsgate takes to realize that they're sitting on a movie franchise all but destined for cult status (Urban stated before release that it would be a cult classic "instantly"), the success of Dredd is good for comic fans everywhere. It remains one of the few films adapted from the medium that wasn't watered-down to appeal to a young audience, instead courting fans of adult action - an audience it has since found.
If Lionsgate shows that they can make that approach work in an increasingly kid-friendly genre, could the chances of seeing a truly R-rated Deadpool or Daredevil rise? Forgive us for our optimism, but with Urban's star continuing to rise, a Dredd sequel isn't out of the question just yet.
What do you think of Dredd 2's chances? Is the R-rated comic book space one that you feel could truly succeed, or will comic book movies only appeal to studios if they can appeal to every age? Share your thoughts in the comments.
We'll keep you up to date on any Dredd 2 news as it arrives.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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