Just over 18 months ago, a film that remains very dear to the hearts of many readers of this site got its UK release. Launching on 7th September 2012, Dredd opened against films such as Lawless, Anna Karenina and the Adam Sandler vehicle, That’s My Boy. Whilst, deservedly, the Sandler movie wouldn’t even crack the top ten in the UK, it was Dredd that prevailed, off the back of encouraging reviews. The memory of the infamous (although not universally hated) 1995 Sylvester Stallone/Danny Cannon attempt to bring Judge Dredd to the screen had apparently been laid to rest.
Dredd opened to £1.05m of business, with its distributor choosing to play it pretty much exclusively in 3D. At the time, that had some initial upside, with the film being the first 18 certificate movie to top the British box office in two years (Saw 3D being the last), although many protested that they’ve had caught the film at the movies had a 2D option been available.
Sadly, Dredd was hampered by a different problem in the shape of uncharacteristically sunny weather on the weekend it came out. But it still went on to do good business in Britain. It ended its run with nearly £4m banked from its UK cinema release (it was promptly knocked off the top by The Sweeney), a total that got the film off to a good start.
You know the next bit. In pretty much every other territory Dredd opened up, it struggled. The US take of $13m dominated the headlines, but around the world, it was a similar story. Dredd rustled up business in Australia, China and Russia. But these were the exception, as the film struggled pretty much everywhere else. Even though Dredd cost an economical $45m to make, its worldwide box office receipts would amount to just over $40m. Any hope of the mooted Dredd sequels had been dashed.
But then this is when two factors came into play. Factor one: the Dredd movie was and is good to very good, depending on who you talk to. And factor two: a groundswell of fans, led by the excellent Dredd Sequel campaign, was not giving this one up. 18 months later, said campaign is arguably stronger than ever.
As such, Dredd got off to a far stronger start on its DVD and Blu-ray debut. Posting substantive sales in both the US and the UK (it’s done nearly $20m in disc sales in the US alone), the Dredd Sequel campaign subsequently co-ordinated a successful day of action almost a year after the film’s original cinematic debut. Thus, on September 18th last year, the campaign encouraged people to buy a copy of the film, whether for themselves or for someone else, to try and drive Dredd back up the charts. Up the charts again it promptly went, and even as we write this article, Dredd sits in the top 100 chart at Amazon. Its DVD, Blu-ray, Netflix, in-flight movie and streaming performance might just have got the movie into profit. If that’s the case, it’s only just.
With all that said, you may be forgiven for thinking, looking back as we are in April 2014, that Judge Dredd’s big screen journey is done. 2000AD has now published a sequel to the film in comic book form, and there’s no sign whatsoever of a Dredd 2 even at the scripting stage (although just yesterday, a story broke that Alex Garland was set to turn his attention to the project once he’s done with his directorial debut, Ex-Machine). Furthermore, there’s no evidence either of an R-rated or 18 certificate comic book adaptation heading for a mainstream release anytime soon, with the one olive branch there being a potential low budget take on Deadpool, that Ryan Reynolds remains interested in. As far as we know, no green light has been given there either.
So why write this piece? Is Dredd 2 a dead project? Well, by nearly all logical measures, probably. But unlike many films that fail to recoup their money at the box office, and that bomb on their opening weekend in the States, Dredd still has factors in its corner. The fan campaign for a start has seen 100,000 online signatures amassed for a Dredd 2. And whilst that doesn’t get you the $40-odd million you need to make the film, it’s a step in the right direction. At least it proves there’s support out there, even in the days where an online petition is apparently of limited use.
There’s a further advocate for the project too though, in Karl Urban. Urban’s performance as Dredd was as selfless as it needed to be, capturing the cold steel of the character in a way that, it would be fair to say, Sylvester Stallone didn’t. In fact, just yesterday, Urban recorded a special message acknowledging the fan campaign, and declaring that “on behalf of everybody involved with the film Dredd, from Alex Garland to the DNA boys to myself, we really appreciate it and we’re working hard to bring you Dredd 2”. That in itself is something: the creative team are still – despite many setbacks – keen to get a new Dredd moving. Here’s Urban’s video…
So how will they do it? Not easily, and this is the stumbling block. Attracting new or existing investors off the back of the performance of the last film – no matter how impressive the DVD numbers – is a major challenge. Furthermore, whilst the budget could be kept low for Dredd by confining it mainly to one location, that surely couldn’t be the plan for Dredd 2. Something more expansive, and inevitably more expansive, is likely to be required.
Crowdfunding has all but been dismissed as an option for Dredd 2 already. The wildly successful crowdfunding campaign for the Veronica Mars movie still garnered just under $6m, and that’s a fraction of what’d be required for a new Dredd movie. On the surface too, it’s hard to see Lionsgate having appetite to buy rights to or invest too much in a new movie. That said, rumours now suggest that the studio hasn’t ruled it out. It’s also worth noting that with Dredd performing in just a handful of territories, pre-sales aren’t likely to be too clever.
What Dredd 2 needs is what Dredd really needed. On the one hand, a bunch of passionate people, keen to make the film. That much it has. On the other, it needs a fanbase that’ll continue to make noise about Dredd 2. It has that too, although more recruits are very much still needed. A lot more recruits, in truth. And then crucially, it also needs enough investors for DNA Films to press ahead with the movie. That remains the huge, huge stumbling block, and only prolonged noise from fans seems likely to affect that in any way. The quest for Dredd 2 may take many years.
All this said, we’re still realistic: it seems more likely that Dredd 2 won’t happen, and the odds are considerably stacked against it. And yet, 18 months after the film apparently flopped without trace, here we are still talking about it. Karl Urban is still fighting for it, a growing fanbase is still pushing for it, and one of the best organised fan campaigns in recent times is refusing to throw in the towel. If the Dredd movie saga is going to go down, it very much won’t be for the want of trying…