The wait is nearly over for the arrival of Dredd, and audiences overseas are already singing the film's praises. While this reboot of IPC Media's embodiment of law and order (not to mention capital punishment) is pitting Joseph Dredd against an apartment block full of deviants, the difference between good and evil in the source material isn't always so clear-cut.
The film's writer, Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine), recently talked about the direction he'd like to see Dredd 2 (and subsequent sequels) go in the event that Dredd performs well in theaters. Apparently, a much closer look at Judge Dredd's fascist side might be in store.
So far, the main selling points for Dredd have revolved around its action, violence, and the stunning high-speed visual effects used to...depict that violence. Even the plot of the film seems designed specifically to bring Judge Dredd into a situation where taking out hundreds upon hundreds of criminals is the only course of action. Given that body count, it's no surprise Garland has shown interest in taking things even more over the top with potential sequels. How a bloodthirsty dinosaur and undead Judges would make sense in the far more grounded world being established in the reboot is anyone's guess, but it seems that Garland's plans may not rest solely in spectacle.
In an interview with io9, Garland explained that Dredd touches upon several themes from the comic book relating to the dystopian government the Judges represent. It's these themes (possibly in addition to zombie Judges) that he hopes to explore further if given the chance:
"If I got a chance to work on the sequel, and if there was a sequel (and there are a lot of variables in that). But, from my point of view, the politics is a lot of what I want to get into. There's a lot of stuff that's implied in the first film that you could really explore a lot more of in the second. Dredd is part of a police state, he's a fascist. The subversives are sometimes the enemy in the comic books - there's something really interesting about pro-democracy terrorists. Where the bad guys are the people fighting for democracy. Of course they're not the bad guys, because you should be fighting for democracy. I would like to explore that."
It's unlikely that this depth of philosophy will appear in the film, with so much emphasis being placed on entertainment and attitude. But what Garland refers to is the basic fact that can become somewhat lost in all the badass guns and leather - that Judge Dredd is the future equivalent of a police officer, lawyer, and judge. And he is killing people en masse.
That's all fine and dandy if the people he's facing are drug dealers and killers out for his head, but not every situation is that black and white. The assumption that Judges actually know better who deserves to live or die has been a serious question in the comic book over the years, and it's that "big lie" that star Karl Urban hopes to see explored if the film earns a sequel. Garland seems intent on doing the same, and despite the story taking place in a future of nuclear fallout, he believes it is more than just fiction:
"Because at the heart, what you have [in this] story is a very, very ****ed up urban environment. In which the law and order is struggling to keep a cap on it. It's over-stretching itself and over reaching it's own boundaries in order to try and stay ahead of things. And that, to me, doesn't seem to be very different to a lot of what's happening in the here and now. I felt that it was perfectly current and the irradiated wasteland beyond the city becomes sci-fi texture rather than the heart of it."
All these high hopes of following a 'hero' who believes that due process isn't worth the time, and suspicion alone might constitute a crime (if the Judge is having a bad day) depends on Dredd being a success. So those looking forward to a darker, more contemplative treatment will have to wait for the box office reports.
What direction would you like to see the films take, provided they get a green light? Should Garland and Urban continue their deep dive into Dredd's psyche or stick with mostly action? Sound off in the comments.
Dredd releases in theaters on September 21, 2012.
Follow me on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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