We talked to the director of the upcoming Judge Minty and get the inside scoop on what sounds like an epic fan film.
Fans of Judge Dredd generally try to forget the 1995 movie starring Sylvester Stallone for a number of reasons, the highlights being a terrible plot, clunky acting, and generally un-Dredd-like behavior from the film's main character. For me, the movie falls under the "so bad it's good" category, but a lot of die-hard fans of the comic really loathe it. While a new Dredd film starring Karl Urban is currently in the works, a recently-released teaser trailer for a fan film set in the same comic universe is gaining a lot of attention because it looks so good.
The film, Judge Minty, is set within the Dredd universe, but doesn't actually star everyone's favorite Street Judge from Mega-City One. Instead, according to the summary on the movie's website, it tells the story of Judge Minty, a lesser-known character from the comics:
"The film will be based on Judge Minty, a character created by John Wagner and Mick McMahon. An aging Judge who is forced to 'retire' from the streets, mainly it seems because he has become too compassionate.
"He chooses to take 'The Long Walk' into the Cursed Earth, there 'to take law to the lawless'. The film will be based around his first experiences in the radioactive wastes."
Steven Sterlacchini, Judge Minty's director, took some time out of his busy schedule to talk to The Escapist about his movie. He explained that Minty was chosen as the starring character because, "I've always loved the character. His story stood out at the time because it showed a Judge with feelings. I think the main reason [I like him so much] is that a number of issues are touched upon in Minty's story, which will be mirrored in Judge Dredd's life much later on: namely doubts about the 'justice' system and 'The Long Walk.' It's also interesting to see the contrast between the tough Clint Eastwood style of Dredd (at the time) and the more Henry Fonda style of Minty."
Fans of Judge Dredd himself are also in for a treat: A young Joe Dredd will make an appearance in the film, played by comic artist Greg Staples.
The movie began production in 2008, and principal filming started last December. According to Sterlacchini, he's hoping to have the final 20-minute film ready for release (and, thus, convention appearances) by the end of this year or, "early 2011."
That said, the trailer looks great in spite of the fact that it's largely composed of "unfinished" (meaning it hasn't been properly graded with the correct effects, CGI, or cuts) footage. I asked Sterlacchini about how he was able to achieve such a high-quality look when this is a self-funded, non-profit project. "The high standards are achieved because many of the key team members are professionals giving their time for free," he said. "We can't really have 'investors', because there would be no direct financial return for their money. 'Supporters' would - of course - be very welcome.
"We're all 2000 A.D. fans and it's a real team effort. Daniel Carey-George has created the props and costumes, Stephen Green has produced all the digital imagery and effects (as well as filming the live footage), Barry Renshaw has illustrated the story boards and numerous concept boards, and Michael Carroll has worked with me on adapting the John Wagner story to the screen. We've all had creative input in the story and direction of the project.
"[I can't forget to mention] Edmund Dehn, who is perfect for the main roll of Judge Minty and has agreed to play the part at a reduced rate, as long as we can fit around his numerous other acting commitments. His presence on set has helped everyone raise their game to match his performance."
Sterlacchini even admitted to liking some parts of the 1995 movie, mainly tied to production work like the CGI for the city blocks, the ABC Warrior that Rico used, and Mean Angel's character design. Not only that, but, "Steve Green has even given a nod to the 'Hall of Justice' from the Stallone film in our project."
When asked about the upcoming Dredd movie, Sterlacchini was pretty enthusiastic, too. "As fans," he said, "we're all looking forward to the new official Dredd film. I think the fact that Judge Minty is likely to be a more direct comic book translation that focuses on a minor character instead of Dredd - and is mainly set in an alternative location - will allow us to produce something different.
"So hopefully we won't be completely overshadowed by what promises to be an excellent official film. Hopefully the increased Dredd interest will help us, and perhaps in our own little way we can add to that interest."
Based on Sterlacchini's responses, it feels like Judge Minty is meant to be both a film and a love letter to a subject that its production crew adores. Even though the imagery in the trailer isn't finished work, it looks great, and I personally can't wait to see the final product.