Well, here we go again: a Judge Dredd movie, but this time in 3-D, featuring a Kiwi actor (Invercargill represent - woo!), and carrying the creator's seal of approval. Here's Dredd.
We've been here before, of course. In 1994 the buzz surrounding Danny Cannon's forthcoming movie grew. A movie was announced, hype was duly spread, and a star was revealed. here, I think, is the issue of 2000AD it started in. I distinctly recall the slump I felt when I picked it up. naturally, being at the other end of the world, the news had already broken in newspapers and more local media, so the frisson of this particular 'prog' was dampened before it even reached these shores, and I wasn't mad on the casting. In combination, my order of DWM arrived on nthe same day at the local comic shop, Bag End Books, so I had the doubled leaden news of the cancellation of the Doctor Who 30th anniversary story to read about, too, three months after the fact, thanks to surface freight. It's hype-timing issues like these and box office bombs like Judge Dredd, Godzilla and Independence Day (not a bomb, of course, but distinctly bobbins) that killed my regular purchases of SFX magazine as well.
On reflection the resulting movie isn't bad. It's not Judge Dredd, of course, and the fact that Robocop so blatantly beat a Dredd movie to the punch in look, mood and black humour still gives me the grumbles. Despite it all Stallone allegedly did get the comic, but the studio steadfastly didn't, and the chapter in David Bishop's Thrillpower Overload tells a sad story of misunderstandings, clashing egoes and creative frustration. In the end, Judge Dredd 1995 is an action movie, a Stallone vehicle, and in places its imagery and attempts to bring Mega City One to life are stunning. And the casting is pretty damned good.
I was a crestfallen fan when it came out though, and elected not to see it on the big screen (shame). The whole thing for me was summed up in the gossip pages of Woman's Day when in a caption under a shot of Stallone opening another of his Planet Hollywood branches, the news was breathlessly reported that he was about to go to London "to shoot his new movie, Judge Threadbare." It must have been a bad phone line. The Dredd hoverbike eventually made its way to the short-lived Planet Hollywood in Auckland, and I got a look at it hanging quietly in the window before the whole thing was closed down. It was a cool model, but again demonstrated to me some of the misunderstanding of some of the movie: Mega City One is a multi-level sprawl of a city - the last thing you want to show is people flying easily through its open spaces.
In the intervening years I think the movie's clawed a little understanding back from fans, if not necessarily respect. On the 2000ADOnline forum you can find a variety of gifs and avatars based on Stallone's various and curious facial tics, and some 'interesting' YouTube clips have surfaced, too, including this video for Manic Street Preachers' unused song for the official soundtrack:
I have medium to high hopes for Urban's Dredd. It seems to have gone out of its way to look different and tell a different story - smaller, more claustrophobic, less futuristic. It's more The Raid, District 9, Die Hard, and less Blade Runner, Demolition Man and the Dredd dynasty. Who knows, we might even get a decent Blu ray of the Stallone version as a result?