Judge Dredd was one of the first characters created for British comic 2000AD back in the late 1970s by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, and has been its most popular character ever since. Based on an extreme version of Dirty Harry, Dredd is the ultimate no-nonsense street cop who lives and breathes every aspect of the law, every second of the day — apart from his 15 minutes of hypersleep.
The basic background for those of you who aren’t familiar with the character goes a little something like this: After a nuclear war sometime in the near-ish future, Earth’s remaining inhabitants live in gigantic ‘Mega Cities‘, surround by walls to keep them safe from the mutants in the ‘Cursed Earth‘. Crime is rife in these state-spanning cities, and they’re policed by ‘Judges‘ — who actually have the powers of Judge, Jury and Executioner, all rolled into one, mean, tough package. And Joseph Dredd is the toughest of them all.
I’ve been waiting for this for a long time, especially after the disappointment that was 1995′s Stallone-powered Judge Dredd movie. It wasn’t a bad movie per se, but it just didn’t live up to the hopes and expectations coming from having been a fan of Judge Dredd and 2000AD since I was a very young kid, when I was given an ‘Annual’ for Christmas one year. I read that book so many times I wore the pages out. I tried desperately to copy the pictures and I made up my own stories. It was the first comic I actively followed, racing to the newsagents on release day to grab the latest copy, many of which I still have now.
The trailer looks pretty amazing: They’ve really toned down the ‘Bruckheimer’ effect that plagued Stallone’s version; the Lawmasters (motorbikes) and Lawgivers (guns) are much subtler; the costumes and sets are much grittier; and the advancements in digital effects have given them more scope to show the vastness of Mega-City One. Karl Urban’s Dredd is menacing and delivers his few lines – including Dredd’s catchphrase, “I’m The Law” – with a gravely voice exactly as it should be. (Although he should technically say “I Am The Law”, but I guess we’ll have to see about that later on.) Lena Headey has taken her bad-ass personas from The Sarah Connor Chronicles and Game of Thrones to new levels of toughness and evil, and Olivia Thirlby seems like a good fit for rookie PSI Judge Anderson.
The story centers around Headey’s ‘Ma-Ma’ character, a drug lord pushing a new drug called ‘Slo-mo,’ which allows the citizens of Mega-City One to experience life at a fraction of normal speed — cue lots of cool ‘bullet-time’ shots which should look amazing if the 3D is up to scratch. A lot of the action takes place in the ‘Block’ controlled by Ma-Ma, which gives us great potential to see a famous ‘Block War’ just like in the comics, with all the obligatory explosions and rapid gunfire. The only thing it seems to be lacking is a decent soundtrack!
The movie opens in September, so you’ve got plenty of time to catch up with Dredd’s world. There are many graphic novels collecting stories from the ‘Progs’ and I can heartily recommend the following if you can pick them up:
Judge Death: Death Lives! – Dredd battles his greatest foe, Judge Death – an alien who considers all life to be a crime.
Judgment on Gotham – A Batman crossover with stunning artwork by Simon Bisley.
Judge Dredd in Oz – Dredd follows a graffiti artist/Skysurfer called Chopper to Australia where he competes in a deadly race.
The Cursed Earth – where Dredd goes on a mission outside the walls of Mega-City One.
Judge Dredd Case Files – Collections of the best of the strips.
UPDATE: 2000AD have just announced that they’re reprinting one of defining Dredd stories, “America“, in July which should serve as a perfect introduction to the world of Judge Dredd.