10 years later, we’re still waiting on Dredd 2

Cameron Frew
The Boys star Karl Urban in Dredd, who's long supported Dredd 2.Entertainment Film Distributors

After 10 years, this irradiated cinematic wasteland of tired blockbusters is still crying out for Dredd 2. 

2012: the year the world was supposed to end; the year we defied fate; the year which yielded some of the most notable movies of the past 10 years. The MCU’s plan came together in The Avengers. Christian Bale’s Batman bid farewell in The Dark Knight Rises. A contagion of parties blighted the US after Project X.

None are remembered with the same fervor and bitterness as Dredd, the second live-action adaptation of the 2000 AD judge, jury, and executioner.

Surely the thriving legacy of an R-rated, ultraviolent comic book adaptation is a solid foundation for a sequel, especially in today’s age of The Boys and Invincible. Money talks, but the negotiations are over: the sentence is Dredd.

Dredd was first screened 10 years ago

Dredd first screened at San Diego Comic-Con on July 11, 2012. Directed by Pete Travis with a script from 28 Days Later and Ex Machina scribe Alex Garland, it pitted the helmeted law enforcer against a tower block of drug dealers and corrupt judges in the dystopic Mega-City One, a metropolis caked in smog, grime, and poverty.

While its likeness to The Raid in terms of plot was inconvenient – the filmmakers vowed there was no plagiarism – Dredd is equipped with wrier style and bloodshed. Brains splurt onto stone walls, “incendiary” ammunition lights up fusty interiors like the fourth of July, the titular hero makes quips like, “Choke on that” after rupturing a man’s windpipe, and declares “I am the law.”

Unlike Sylvester Stallone’s glorified toy soldier in the 1995 version, Karl Urban manages formidable charm through just his chin, speaking with an Eastwoodian grit and sincerity that’s more badass than corny. Olivia Thirlby finds more soul as a rookie judge with psychic abilities, though not cast aside when it comes to action.

The movie was met with positive reviews, sitting at 79% on Rotten Tomatoes and considered a prominent cult film of the 2010s. Sadly, the praise didn’t quite translate to widespread word-of-mouth, generating just $41.5 million at the box office against a budget anywhere between $30-45 million.

Were there any plans for Dredd 2?

Speaking at London Film and Comic Con in October 2012, Garland said there’d likely be a sequel if the first film made enough money.

“We’ll see a sequel if the gross is above $50 million. It’s a simple financial equation. We’re an independent movie,” he said, as per Digital Spy.

Briefly touching on plans for a trilogy with the character’s most famous foe, Judge Death, he continued: “I needed to have set up the city and Dredd first before taking on what is essentially a riff on the Judges. You need to know what the Judges are before you can subvert them.

“I wrote a second script which was about Dredd going out to the Cursed Earth. That was rejected for similar reasons. If they want to make sequels, I’ve got a story that goes from this one into the origins of Dredd and the city. Then the third one would have a strange, existential attack from the Dark Judges.”

Alex Garland considered adapting Judge Death

In an interview with Empire Magazine alongside Dredd’s creator John Wagner, Garland explained his interest in adapting Judge Death in a follow-up. “I think there would be a way to do it,” he said.

Judge Death in the Judge Dredd comics.Rebellion Developments
Dredd sequels may have adapted Judge Death for the big screen.

“I think you could do a second film which is all about the city and the law and where it comes from, and Judge Fargo and the pro-democracy terrorists, and Dredd’s struggle with the state that he’s part of. And then in a third story you could bring in this crazy existential force that attacks the city in the form of the Dark Judges.

“It wasn’t right for the first film, but it might be right for the third, and it all depends on the journey you take in the second narrative. I think that could be interesting, but I have to say, we’ve really got our work cut out to get into a position where that’s a realistic possibility.”

What about the Dredd TV show?

While clearly keen on returning to Dredd on the big screen, Garland also proposed a move to television for the character amid the success of other prestige shows.

Speaking to SciFiNow, he said: “Just so it has been said. I actually think that maybe the best way forward for Dredd is television. American TV has completely rewritten the rulebook where filmed drama is concerned. Game Of Thrones, The Wire, Breaking Bad… an equivalent version of Dredd would be f**king great.”

Garland also highlighted Dredd’s 18 age rating in the UK, itself a hurdle in generating a large box office haul. “In order to generate the kind of money that would justify a sequel is a tall order,” he told WhatCulture.

“That said, if I was able to work on a sequel, the second film would broadly involve characters like Chopper, storylines like Origins, and it would be about Dredd’s history and the history of the city. It would involve the weird deal that Dredd’s a fascist, an anti-hero, and the terrorists are pro-democrats. I’d love to try that.

“But if it went further than that into maybe a third film it’d feature the crazier stuff, like Chief Judge Cal and the Dark Judges. It’s basically about a Chief Judge who’s gone insane and the city gets invaded by completely malevolent riffs of the Judge system.”

Where is Dredd 2, and why has it never been released?

Doubts over the likelihood of a sequel were first raised in 2013, when producer Adi Shankar wrote on Reddit: “It’s because the movie totally bombed and R-rated movies are a tough sell to begin with.

“If Dredd becomes a cult hit it will be awesome. Last September was a terrible month: Dredd bombed and then Looper became a massive hit a week later!”

In an interview with Collider around the release of Star Trek: Into Darkness, Urban said a sequel wasn’t “off the agenda… clearly everyone has woken up to the fact that an audience has found this movie and loves it.

“It’s entirely possible, and if people want to see another installment then they should be vocal about that, because, it can happen. The power of fandom can resurrect projects. In fact, that’s what happened with Star Trek. They weren’t going to do a third season until fans did a letter-writing campaign and they continued that series.”

Dredd 2 petition gained traction, but not enough

A petition endorsed by 2000 AD amassed more than 80,000 signatures, paving the way for a comic book continuation, Dredd: Underbelly, and Judge Dredd: Superfiend, an animated miniseries released on YouTube in 2014. Unfortunately, these are all in lieu of a proper sequel.

In 2015, as per Collider, Garland said the fan demand probably wouldn’t be met with a green light for Dredd 2. “The Dredd thing is a surprise. It’s a really complicated set of emotions. I have a lot of regret about how things worked out with Dredd, but it’s very gratifying,” he said.

“The regret is – you do a kind of transaction, particularly with the creators of it, which is that we want to do this thing and honor what you did, and try to do it properly, and then the film will reward that trust. That act of faith and trust and decency. And I think that the film rewarded them in one sense, but not in another.

“I do believe it rewarded them creatively, unless they’re lying to me about that. But I think it has created this thing of this movie that fails. The story of Dredd is that of a failed movie. Both times, for f**k’s sake. And to be party to that, when that was exactly the intention – to not do that – is kind of difficult.”

Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby in DreddEntertainment Film Distributors
Karl Urban and Olivia Thirlby would both return for Dredd 2.

Karl Urban is the biggest supporter of Dredd 2

Urban has been fairly vocal about his interest in reprising his role as Judge Dredd, while also criticizing the release of the first film. In an interview with Den of Geek, he said its release in cinemas was “unfortunate” and it was “mishandled… [making it] problematic for Dredd 2 to be immediately funded and produced in the same fashion.”

He continued: “But the success it has achieved in all post-theatrical mediums has definitely strengthened the argument in favor of a sequel. But it’s not an easy sell. I’m constantly blown away by the fan support and love for Dredd. I get stopped and asked about Dredd most days, I find it strangely ironic to get recognized and associated with a character whose face is largely obscured behind a helmet.

“Dredd has definitely achieved a cult-like status, I believe, like Blade Runner. It was ahead of its time, but not by much. The recent success of Deadpool has demonstrated a strong audience demand for R-rated graphic novel films.”

The Boys star said he’d be “amenable to being involved in any legitimate and worthy follow up to Dredd, whether it be another theatrical release or a Netflix/Amazon targeted production” and asked fans to be more vocal.

“I would be blessed and it would be a privilege to make another Dredd. I feel so incredibly grateful to the fans of this movie.”

Karl Urban is attached to the Dredd series, but it’s been quiet for a while

Little has changed since then. In 2017, news broke of a Judge Dredd: Mega-City One series in development from IM Global Television and Rebellion, set to follow a group of Judges who “encounter the myriad challenges of a world in which east-coast cities have merged into a giant megalopolis,” as per IGN.

At a Star Trek event later that year, Urban confirmed he was in talks to star in the series, although there’s been no word on the show since.

Last month, Urban briefly touched on the planned Dredd series in an interview with The Guardian. “Regardless of whether or not I’m involved with it, I think it’s such a wonderful property,” he said.

“John Wagner and his entire staff of writers and illustrators have created so many wonderful stories that I, personally, as a fan of Dredd, would love to see. I can’t wait to see what they do with it.”

For now, we wait. There’s only one thing that could fight for order in all this chaos: Dredd 2.