• Both the 1995 and 2012 Judge Dredd movies failed at the box office despite their differences in tone and quality, leaving the character’s potential untapped.
  • Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd suffered from a tonally mismatched production, plagued by conflicting visions and poor critical reception, further overshadowed by other releases at the time.
  • The 2012 film Dredd had a loyal fanbase and garnered critical acclaim, but it suffered from poor marketing, unfortunate timing, and limited distribution. However, Dredd‘s potential for a TV show adaptation gives hope for future success.

1995’s Judge Dredd and 2012’s Dredd were both major box office disappointments, but there’s still hope for the comic book character. The two failed attempts to bring the character of Judge Dredd to the screen are a fascinating double bill of Hollywood folly. In one story, a botched and messy production delivered a work of poor quality, which rightfully failed to make its money back. In the other, a team of diligent collaborators delivered a critically acclaimed piece of sci-fi greatness that nonetheless failed to perform.

Judge Dredd and Dredd are both adapted from the 2000 AD comics character of the same name. The character, an authoritarian police officer in a brutalist sci-fi future, acts as judge, jury, and executioner to the criminals of the Judge Dredd Universe’s Mega-City One. It’s a stark, gritty, and often bitingly cynical vision of the future. The character has enjoyed only limited success outside the UK, which might account for the disappointing returns of his screen appearances. Nevertheless, an upcoming Judge Dredd progress in a new medium might be the key to unlocking the franchise’s potential.

Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd Had Bad Reviews & Huge Box Office Competition

Judge Dredd aims his gun in Judge Dredd

1995 saw Hollywood’s first and only attempt at a big-budget Judge Dredd movie, a project that was doomed by conflicting voices within the production process. The screenplay was for a fairly serious PG-13 action movie with vaguely political undertones. However, director Danny Canon, a longtime fan of the series, wanted to make a film that played more heavily into the violence of the comics. Writer Steven E. de Souza told Den of Geek that Cannon radically ramped up the violence and gore of the film. Studio executives, who hadn’t been on set, didn’t realize the change until the film was supposed to be cut.

The final production was a tonally mismatched mess. It took 5 different cuts of Judge Dredd to get it down from an NC-17 rating to an R, a process that required entire action sequences to be cut. The film didn’t have the support of fans, who disliked the many changes from the world of the comics, including Stallone’s Dredd removing his helmet. It also did not appeal to audiences and critics, who bristled against the film’s jumbled tone.

The film currently sits at 22% on Rotten Tomatoes. Contemporary critics were particularly harsh on Stallone, who may have only taken the part because his longtime rival Arnold Schwarzenegger was offered the role first. Commercially, Judge Dredd was overshadowed by other June 1995 releases, including Batman Forever, Apollo 13, and Pocahontas. The film made only $113 million on its $90 million production budget, and that was after a disappointing $34 million domestic release (via Box Office Mojo). Needless to say, it constituted a major flop for the studio.

Dredd 2012 Had Poor Marketing And Distribution Strategies

Olivia Thirlby and Karl Urban in Dredd.

Things looked much brighter for the Judge Dredd character in his second iteration. 2012’s Dredd had a modest $45 million production budget and a script from acclaimed sci-fi filmmaker Alex Garland, though Dredd star Karl Urban maintains that Garland also directed the film. Dredd’s small-scale plot didn’t delve too heavily into the political aspects of the fictional world, but it demonstrated a keen fidelity to the character. Unlike Stallone’s lead, Urban’s Judge Dredd never takes off his helmet. The film was widely praised by critics and fans, but it once again failed to deliver at the box office, managing a paltry $41.5 million (via Box Office Mojo).

There’s no single obvious reason for Dredd’s underperformance. Rather, the film seems to have fallen victim to a plethora of issues. Association with the 1995 film may have hurt Dredd, as did the unfortunate coincidence of its release mere months after The Raid, a legendary action film which touts a very similar premise. For Urban (via Cinemablend), “Dredd represented a failure in marketing […] no one knew it was being released.” In the UK, where the character has the largest fanbase, Dredd was only released in 3D, turning off some moviegoers and limiting the number of theaters that could show the film.

Judge Dredd’s TV Show Can Redeem The Movies’ Failures

Dredd Mega-City One

Despite the failure of the last two Judge Dredd movies, the franchise is still viable. Dredd did extremely well when it came to DVD sales, and the underrated Urban action flick cracked the Netflix top 10 more than a decade after its release. Fortunately, it seems Hollywood isn’t ready give up on the IP. A TV show, Judge Dredd: Mega-City One, has been in development for some time. While it’s unclear if the series, which was first announced in 2017, will ever actually reach screens, TV would be the perfect medium to continue exploring the Judge Dredd universe.

The time and scope that TV offers makes it the ideal format to explore one of the strongest aspects of the long-running Judge Dredd comic book series: its clever and extensive world-building. Since TV budgets have exploded in the last decade, a Judge Dredd TV series could finally have the means to bring the vibrant, satirical world of Mega-City One to life. What’s more, shows like The Boys demonstrate that there is a considerable audience for mature, cynical comic book projects that don’t fit the Marvel or DC mold. A well-marketed and faithful series could finally bring the Judge Dredd franchise the success it deserves.

Source: Den of Geek, Rotten Tomatoes, Box Office Mojo, Box Office Mojo, Cinemablend

By mrtrv