How Dredd Laid Down What SHOULD be the New Blueprints for at least Half of all Comic Book Movie Adaptations
This is something I wouldn't have expected to write at all, for a few different reasons. First, and let me just get this out of the way right now: I was never a big fan of Judge Dredd. He was always one of those characters I knew of on the periphery, but growing up going to comic book shops in small town, Canada, 2000 A.D. was a rare find, and simultaneously still something barely anyone knew of here before the Stallone movie, so you'd have to spend as much as it would cost for two or three Batmans to instead gamble on 2000 A.D., with Judge Dredd in his oddly colourful costume considering how violent the rest of the cover would be. (If I'm entirely honest, I was originally under the impression that this new Dredd still starred Stallone, that's how out-of-touch with Dredd I am. It made sense in my head at first, y'know, Stallone just did a new Rocky, a new Rambo, I figured he could've just done a new Dredd, too, right? Yeah, I know, I know.)
Albie analyzes how and why the new Dredd, intentionally or not, laid down what should (but won't) be the new blueprints for the vast majority of superhero movies.
And second, let's skip straight to why Dredd won't be seen as the nearly-Mad-Libs-level-efficient blueprints that they are: Dredd was a financial turd in theaters. Can't do anything about it now, but with a total production cost of $45 million, but a profit of $36 million from both North America and internationally combined, if there's going to be any continuing of this Dredd franchise, it'll either have to be backed by a really long-odds gambler, or it'll have to be a way indie-er production that can only really, really hope to get investors to pool together at least $2 million for a tiny crew, some lights, and about two weeks of time on a lot. And it certainly won't be used as blueprints by anyone else, simply because who hires a screenwriter that, in the job interview/first meeting, starts off with, "You know what I was thinking? We should use this movie that lost $10 million as a framework for our movie!" Nobody, that's who. Does how much a movie profits ever really indicate the quality of the movie itself, though? Wait, why am I asking that kind of bullshit question here?
Now let's get to the meat of it: Coming from a script writer, this is how Dredd lays down what should be the new blueprints for almost every comic book movie adaptation.
What's the first thing that happens in Dredd? Do we meet Dredd as a kid and watch him grow into Judge Dredd, do we start with him as a teenager in the judge academy, what's the origin story we start with to develop the character? I'll tell you what, it's non-existent, Dredd cuts you straight into the action. Through voice-over, it vaguely touches on really more of his own internal hatred than his origin, but it's somewhere in between the two, and it gets two things done straight away: Number one, it doesn't even let you take time to wonder if Dredd is gonna be fun to watch with a twenty minute or longer first act origin story before we really get to the movie, we go straight to Dredd and get just as much of his origin as we need while we go along; and number two, it lets people who aren't already into Dredd get the good stuff right away and get his origins as almost more of a reward for going along for the ride.
Think about it this way: When you meet someone who's never heard of Batman (well, if is probably more accurate than when, but go along with me here), do you start introducing him by going, "Okay, so there's this rich family in Gotham City, and they have a butler named Alfred. The rich family, the Waynes, right, the dad is Thomas, huge businessman and founder/owner/CEO of Wayne Enterprises, then his mom, I always forget her name, then their son, Bruce Wayne, who later becomes Batman, but hold on! First the family goes to the theater, and then when they're leaving, a mugger stops them..." Of course not! You go, "You don't know Batman?! Batman is the shit, he dresses like a bat, has both ninja and detective training, awesome gadgets, he's self-loathing and self-destructive..." and you give them the whole origin later! There's a big lesson a lot of comic book movie adaptations and superhero movies in general need to learn, especially now with all the pushes for movies featuring characters with really a barely-existent mainstream fanbase (a Guardians of the Galaxy movie before bothering to make a decent Punisher movie, Marvel? Really?)
What else does Dredd do that needs to be taken as a lesson? Keeps the characters to a minimum. There's Dredd, the psychic, Mama, Dredd's temporary hostage, kind of, and that's about it. There's other judges and shit on the periphery, but we never get sidetracked or wrapped up in unnecessary exposure to characters there isn't time to develop anyway. Dredd makes its choices early and sticks the hell by them.
And those two lessons, hero first, boring origin later, and stick the hell by the choices you make early in the script, somehow still don't seem to have been learned by most comic book movie adaptations; the new Spiderman movie leaps to mind, as well as the slightly older Spiderman movies, for that matter.
(Post-Script: Okay, but what's my full opinion of Dredd, right? Are you kidding? It's basically just The Raid: Redemption, but starring Dredd, a dead sexy psychic judge, and a way bigger budget, what's not to love? It could still benefit from being tightened up time-wise due to the minimal story, but it works plenty fine as it is, and the third bonus lesson it kind of teaches is more a reminder that simple stand-alone stories still work best on-screen as opposed to long-winded franchises like Terminator that burn out over time and being in so many different hands each time. And the franchise route is where all these comic book movies are heading--why not a franchise where every movie is a stand-alone adventure? You wouldn't have nearly the same pressure of needing to keep juggling all the same characters/storylines/misc. details established in the first movie while switching writers and directors from movie to movie, and nowhere even close to the same risk of alienating or driving away the audience when they're not expecting to have to see all the movies in a franchise in order to enjoy just one. Look at James Bond--you think that's the only serial character who could pull off that kind of a franchise of all stand-alone movies? C'mon.)
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