2012’s Dredd flopped, but home video sales and fan support could be enough to warrant a sequel.
2012’s Dredd was a masterclass of British cinema, bringing 2000 AD’s most iconic character to life and washing away the travesty of 1995’s Judge Dredd in a gore soaked labour of love, one that screamed Megadeath (and yes that is a word) at the top of its lungs from start to finish. Critics and fans alike have praised it. Its star, Karl Urban, gives a performance that flips from subtle to blunt on the turn of a phrase and would have won him an Oscar if Best Badass were a category. Its villain, MaMa, is Lady Macbeth meets the Red Queen taken to the uber degree and clearly has more balls than any of her male underlings.
Dredd looked destined to become another cult classic commercial failure. Then DVD sales began to pick up, before rocketing
Yet this brilliant gem of film was let down by poor marketing and a badly timed release, to come out trailing the year’s blockbusters and at a time when audiences in the US market, its crucial test, fall by as much as 30%. The result? Dredd didn’t just flop, it belly flopped, and a film which cost nearly £30 million to make took less than £22 million worldwide. Granted, there were other reasons. Ian Terry of WhatCulture! notes that a British vision of a decaying America and the hero’s lack of a reveal didn’t sit too well with US audiences, but principally it comes down to the fact, as reflected by other commentators, such as Simon Brew at Den of Geek, that no one outside of the UK seemed to have much of a clue who Dredd was or what his film was about.
So, having failed to crack that all important American market, Dredd looked destined to become another cult classic, a film that slowly built up a faithful following over the next few years but was still remembered as a commercial failure. Then DVD sales began to pick up, before rocketing. Max Nicholson, writing for IGN, quoted a figure of 650,000 copies of the film being sold by the end of January last year. Maane Khatchatourian over at Variety carried on that theme, speaking of a film that was a consistent bestseller throughout 2013. So why was it suddenly all going right after it had all gone so terribly wrong?
Ian Terry argues there were other factors at work behind Dredd’s abysmal American outing. First, after the summer of The Avengers Assemble as well as the end of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, a little weariness of the superhero/tough guy genre may have set in, proving a stumbling block for Dredd, despite its run-of-the-mill rather than end of the world approach to the film’s plot. Second was Lionsgate’s decision for the film to be 3D. Besides turning that decision into a label for the film (original title: Dredd 3D), it meant that good old fashioned 2D screenings were a rare luxury for fans. So most had to pay the higher prices that come with a 3D showing. For a character you’ve never heard of, the question for going to a more expensive 3D showing is why bother?
A Kickstarter campaign has been mentioned, though Dredd 2 would supposedly need a figure upwards of £24 million
DVD reversed that decision, allowing people to watch a nice 2D showing in their own homes for a drop in cost. As DVD sales began to pick up, so talk of a sequel (that was more than producer Adi Shankar’s short film project) stopped being mere fantasy. While some fans had been campaigning to build up the film’s audience almost from the point where its dreadful American performance began to sink in, the campaign for a sequel has enjoyed a groundswell of support. The official petition on the 2000 AD website has over 120,000 signatures, while star Karl Urban has become a one man campaign for a sequel, tirelessly talking up the prospects for Dredd 2.
A Kickstarter campaign has been mentioned, to fund a sequel in the same way the Veronica Mars movie was funded. That film, however, only needed around three to four million pounds. Dredd 2 would supposedly need about six times that, with Simon Brew describing a figure upwards of £24 million. That sum, ironically smaller than the original Dredd’s cost, is unlikely to be reached by a Kickstarter campaign, but might prompt Lionsgate towards a sequel. Karl Urban has already said that the studio is taking notice of the film’s DVD phenomenon.
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The key point here is that the more money any Kickstarter campaign could raise, and the more signatures are garnered by petitions, the less the commercial risk to Lionsgate or (anyone other studio) making a sequel. True, the first Dredd bombed, but it did so because of poor marketing, not least in establishing who Dredd was. Now, with lots of new fans to the franchise coming on board through the film, there’s a ready market for Dredd 2.
Dredd and films like it are standard bearers for those of us who still want to see the nitty gritty brutalism of the world
As to what would feature in a Dredd sequel? Take your pick. Dredd’s myriad comic book storylines offer extensive choices. Dredd’s pilgrimage into the cursed earth, his disgraced brother Rico, the Dark Judges; momentum towards a sequel is growing. More to the point though is why there should be another Dredd film. In an era where superheroes are expected to kill the bad guys and save the world without any innocents getting killed, Dredd shows the carnage up-close. MaMa has whole floors of people killed off as she tries to stomp on our heroes.
Dredd shows a world where even some Judges, supposedly untouchable, turn out to be as corruptible as the rest of us. Most importantly, though, it shows a hero, Dredd, whose morals and sense of what is right have clearly made him deeply unpopular, yet he upholds them because that’s the right thing to do. That is the definition of a hero. It’s an Adult world with Adult themes and Adult consequences to the actions of its characters. Such a world needs to be shown more and more at a time when cinema is being deluged with 12A films and other adventures meant to be family-friendly. Dredd and films like it are standard bearers for those of us who still want to see the nitty gritty brutalism of the world, beyond the adventures of teenagers and love-struck aliens besotted with Max Irons.
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All images: Entertainment Film Distributors/Lionsgate