2012’s Dredd was warmly received, but sadly its vocal audience of supporters wasn’t large enough to translate into a box office hit. Online fan campaigns have since been clamouring for a sequel, and Dredd himself, Karl Urban, remains the project’s biggest cheerleader. Back in February he reported to a convention audience that “conversations” had been happening. Now he’s told Chicago Comic-Con that it’s “a definite possibility” but that we’re now talking about a prequel.
“It’s more likely that we’ll do the Origins story, with Dredd trekking through the Cursed Earth to find the first Chief Judge Fargo,” he says.
Origins is 23 instalments from the mid-2000s, going into the back-story business of how the Judges came to be in the first place. It’s also, as Urban says, about Dredd heading out beyond the walls of Mega City One to retrieve Fargo’s stasis pod from the New Mutant Army. And there’s some stuff in there about Dredd and his brother Rico, previously established as Fargo clones. In the 1995 Stallone Judge Dredd, Fargo was played by Max Von Sydow and Rico by Armand Assante.
The idea actually does chime with what screewriter Alex Garland said two years ago, although he wasn’t exactly couching it in prequel terms. At that time, speaking to Empire, Garland said, “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. They weren’t right for the first film, but they might be right for the third, and it all depends on the journey you take in the second narrative.”
Urban, of course, could simply be saying “wouldn’t it be nice if…” rather than indicating any actual development. But it seems that there may be movement, albeit at a somewhat glacial pace at this stage.
We’d also infer – and this is just speculation – that the first Dredd‘s underperformance is being attributed in some part to its lack of world-building for audiences who don’t already know the character and his environment (i.e. audiences outside the UK). The conversation may be that if Dredd is to move forward, it needs to give the non-2000AD literate a much better handle on who the characters are and the society they live in.