Thursday, December 9, 2010

Here comes the judge...

And so they're makin' another Judge Dredd fillum.

In South Africa of all places; and, there's a few pictures out; and, the script has been released; and, grown men of a certain age are all over th'interweb trying to decide amongst themselves: will it be any good?- or to put it another way, 'will they do the Judge Justice'?. 

 Movie creators can never really fully satisfy the expectations of Comic fans.
This is because the act of reading comics requires that each individual reader becomes the 'director' of their own movie; 'inside their head'.

When an audience is: either reading the plain text of a novel;
or following images and angles in comics to discern pacing, sound, and rhythm of the action;
or when they are being forced to estimate the size and weight of an approaching monster only by sound and the ripples of a glass of water,- it's always at these times, when people are forced to use their own imagination to fill in the gaps, that great stories become vivid and involving. Comic readers have all already experienced the characters and environment through a more engaging process than simple passive veiwing.

So, in a sense, a true aficionado of a comic script can never be happy with any filmed adaptation: the directors vision will always differ from the vision that the comic reader has been forced ,( by the absence of sound and movement,) to invent for themselves, &
each comic reader has been through a 'personal' storyboarding and visualisation process. So, the sense of satisfaction that they gain,( from any film that has been made from the same material,) will depend entirely on how well the end product fits with whatever they have already envisioned in their heads. These visions will differ from head to head.
I don't know, but I definitely suspect that even when the director themselves see the final product, that end product will always contain some (and perhaps even many) deviations from their own original vision: so,- how on earth are they supposed to provide the comic readers with any satisfaction?

They can't. And it's not their job anyway. Their job is to take whatever key elements (that existed in the original that made it special and resonant) and make it work for a cinema audience who will be mostly unfamiliar with it.

It could be argued, that when we see the successes of 'Road to Perdition', 'Sin City', or '300' that all a director has to do, to please both film audience and comic fan, is to follow the comics as story boards and follow them faithfully.

This is not an option for the 'Judge Dredd adaptor' because Dredd existed as a six-page weekly, not a graphic novel. Dredd has never really been one self-contained story and the style of writing him varied as almost as much as much as the artwork from week to week, and from year to year. It continued over such a long period of time that there is no single Judge Dredd or Mega City One: part of it's appeal was that it was evolving constantly.
And, unlike American equivalents, the writers were able to dispense with popular characters(in a 'hurt locker' stylee) and each artist was allowed to exhibit their own style.

Creatively, Dredd was the ultimate paradox. The Dredd story champions a fascist, but what made it stand out was that, among English language comics of the 80's, it was completely anarchic and non-conformist in it's execution.( Especially in comparison to American stories that conversely depicted 'champions of freedom' in an extremely conformist conveyor-belt style; Experts can tell Luke Kirby from A.N. other marvel artist, but the system in use was designed to hide that original hand as much as possible).

The original Dredd was ridiculously childish. Bit by bit, an adult sense of satire crept in, and then he was a joke, and then he was a beast, and then he was a beast to admire, and then he was a beast to pity and now he is a beast who commands respect because, to the reader, he is an old man who has been through so much and has never compromised (Despite being set in the future, Judge Dredd ages yearly with his audience). 

So the attitude and understanding of a stalwart Dredd-comic-reader is absolutely impossible to impart to an unfamiliar audience.

So now we have another Dredd film coming down the line. It looks cheap as chips, and the plot is just blood and snot but, in many ways, I think it's the ideal Dredd film for it's time. Because , after all, the comics actually were a bit pathetic and ridiculous to begin with, and only over time matured and made more sense, (as the the readers matured and got more sense).

The 1995 film was a pathetic cliche ridden pile of nonsense that got everything wrong but still would've been entertaining for a ten-year old: if we remember that that same ten year old is 25 today, we realise that maybe now they are just about ready for the the Dredd that Dredd turned into; a brutal gory fucked up Nazi; that unlike Dirty Harry or Batman isn't 'doing what he must do' because the system has failed: he's doing it because violent crime has theoretically met a critical point where battlefield ethics are the only practical ones.

From the photos here you can tell, that so far, it looks probably even cheaper than chips,(more Soylent-feckin-Green than Bladerunner) but let's remember that the last one looked great: and style is mere skin, and substance is flesh. Any reader of Dredd who expects their internal visions to be finally realised by this new film will be disappointed. But I reckon that there's every opportunity for a good 90 minutes entertainment here.

Any speculation is only so much faff anyway, whether you like the script or not: They're filming now and Judgement day is coming...

Also there's rumours of a Judge Anderson nude scene.
How bad?

All photos courtesy of 'animal' a spy on the set in Capetown, or 'kiwiurban'. Anderson by Bolland, and hilarious wanderly wagon mock up all me own work courtesy of microsoft paint.

John Wagner interveiw: LA times


  1. You speak great sense. But come on it is fun hearing all those psychotic fanboys getting there nickers in a twist.
    I think the Dredd film is going to rock by the way.

  2. I'm a psychotic fanboy myself; what's written above are some conclusions that came about through a personal process of knicker-untwisting!
    I hope you're right about the film. like a lot of fans; I feel that a half-decent flick would go some way towards justifying my life-long obsession with the character.
    But, good or bad, no film is going to impart the experience of growing up in the eighties and reading that comic every week.
    Great days.

  3. I cant say I agree with you completely Darren (surprise surprise :). If you were to take the LOTR ( I know not a comic book) but a lot of people would have imagined that book in their minds and yet the consensus on the film was huge.

    The reason why I think the film could be dodgy is that it will be about Dredd, and less face it Dredd is shite. All the best Dredd stories is where he is technically the minor character and the various citizens of mega city 1 and 2 are the stars of the show. Which goes back to your point on not being able to storyboard like Road. Surely Supersurf 11 with chopper as the main character would be long enough and is by far one of the best Dredd, another that springs to mind is Full Mental Jacket, detailing the block wars.

  4. Tsk!Tsk! Paulie my fiend:Full Mental Jacket had nought to do with the Block War... but nerdy nit-picking pedantry aside, while I do concede your point about LOTR,I reckon your claim that "Dredd is shite" is missing the point a little: Dredd is more of an idea to project on, rather than a human character to be developed( which is why it's so important he remain faceless) he represents the daydream you have in the park with your kids which was a perfectly enjoyable day until a scumbag arrived with his unleashed pit-bull. Dredd represents the ideas that flow through your mind about obeying park bye-laws and the way that you'd love to enforce them(or see them enforced) at that particular moment.
    It is often claimed that the best 'Dredd' stories involve other characters and the city 'Chopper'/'America' /'The league of fatties' e.t.c. but I disagree: The main focus of an origin story has to be the man himself. Had they started the comic with one of the rich but peripheral side stories mentioned above, then I reckon nobody would have read past issue 3.

  5. No doubt this will be returned to post film release Mr. Maher.