Judge Minty: the ultimate 2000 AD fan film?
While fans continue to clamour for a Dredd sequel, Seb takes a look at the best unofficial 2000 AD adaptation yet: Judge Minty...
As we reported recently, there's a growing groundswell of support for a campaign to try and convince studio chiefs to get work moving on a sequel to Alex Garland and Pete Travis' excellent Dredd film, which stands as easily one of the most faithful and engaging comic book adaptations of recent years. The publishers of 2000 AD themselves have thrown their weight behind the campaign, and whether or not it's successful, its very existence does show the appetite that's out there for such a strong and well-grounded take on the comic's long-running and beloved stable of characters.
While it would be fantastic to see another Dredd film from the same group of people, however, it's also worth noting that there has been another recent film adaptation based around the Mega City One judges. This isn't a big-budget cinematic release, however: rather, it's Judge Minty, a fan film of remarkable quality and production values for its type, but a fan film nevertheless.
Judge Minty was actually in development long before the Karl Urban film, a labour of love by director Steven Sterlacchini – along with co-writer Michael Carroll and DP Stephen Green – that took nearly five years to produce and release. It's based on a one-off short story of the same name from a 1980 issue of 2000 AD – prog 147, to be precise – in which writer John Wagner and artist Mike McMahon introduced the concept of "The Long Walk", the harsh and yet strangely noble retirement option offered to outgoing judges.
The original story ended with Minty, an old and somewhat respected judge shown to have close ties with series star Joe Dredd, retiring and taking the walk out of the gates of Mega City One and into his post-retirement life trying to bring justice to the wilderness of the Cursed Earth. It's here that – after a short preamble sequence that follows the original strip note for note and features a good, although not quite Urban-level, take on Dredd – the film picks up, spending the rest of its running time telling the story of Minty's confrontation with the violent, lawless gangs who roam the wilderness.
What's immediately striking about the film is just how faithfully it's able to replicate the look of the comics on a relatively low budget. For all of the Urban film's many strengths, the toned-down feel of the city, Judges' uniforms and even the Lawmaster bikes were somewhat at odds with the more over-the-top manner in which they're presented in the comics. Judge Minty goes a different way, from a highly impressive CGI opening pass over the city to outfits that put any convention-going cosplayer to shame. Okay, so Dredd was wise in opting for a uniform that was more out-and-out practical, but Minty shows that actually, the classic Carlos Ezquerra design can translate to live action without looking inherently silly.
The impressive visuals extend to the sequences in the Cursed Earth, too. It could be argued that a desolate, wind-swept landscape isn't the hardest location to visualise – the faithful quarry being a classic staple of British sci-fi in particular – but nevertheless there's a strong feel to the way the land outside Mega City One is presented here. If Garland and co ever get to make their Dredd sequel and opt to set it in the Cursed Earth, they'll no doubt be able to present it on a much grander scale – but they'll have their work cut out capturing the hopeless, gritty feel of the comics the way this film does.
Being a fan film rather than a full-time professional production, it does want for tightness at times, in some of the action direction and performances. What does anchor it, however, is a strong performance by Edmund Dehn in the title role – sympathetic yet hard-as-nails, he's a compelling enough character that he makes it a shame that the film only allows 20-odd minutes of time spent following him.
The film was screened at various festivals and comics conventions before finally making its online debut in May this year – with the approval of 2000 AD publishers Rebellion, no less, despite its unofficial, unlicensed status. Dredd director Alex Garland has also expressed his admiration for it, comparing the more comics-faithful look to his own film.
Available to view on the Judge Minty website, it's highly worth checking out whether you're a fan of Judge Dredd, or just of impressive UK-based independent productions in general.
And while we wait for news on whether Karl Urban will get to don the helmet again, Sterlacchini has already admitted that his next project – which will also hopefully take less than five years to gestate – may be based on another 2000 AD property instead. Is it too much to hope for that he might turn his attention to the so-far neglected-by-Hollywood Strontium Dog…?
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.