The Judge Dredd Storylines Karl Urban Wants To See On The Big Screen

In comic book form, Judge Dredd — created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra — made his debut in a 1977 issue of the British comic book "2000 A.D." In the future world of Judge Dredd, set in Mega-City One (a satire of the United States), crime has become so bad that street cops have also been given the clout of court officials, arresting suspects and putting them on trial right on the spot. The Judges, as they are called, have every right to execute suspects on a whim, which they do often. Judge Dredd himself is an antihero, serving as a parody of authoritarianism. 

In the 1995 film "Judge Dredd," directed by Danny Cannon, the character was given the blockbuster treatment, with the film sporting a hefty budget of $85 million and Dredd played by Sylvester Stallone. Despite impressive design and makeup effects, "Judge Dredd" was very poorly received, and the character was put on cinematic ice for nearly 20 years. It wouldn't be until 2012 that Pete Travis' "Dredd" would hit theaters, now starring Karl Urban and possessed of less than half the budget.

Urban is on record for how much he enjoyed playing the role, as well as the acting challenges of having only his mouth and chin to perform; Judge Dredd never takes off his signature helmet. While "Dredd" was acclaimed, there will likely be no sequel for a variety of reasons, a fact that leaves Urban a little miffed, and not just because he won't get to play the role again. In a 2022 career rundown with GQ, Urban said that whoever takes up the mantle, there is a great idea for a Dredd movie sequel just waiting to be written: Bring in Judge Death. 

Judge Death

Judge Death first appeared in the 149th issue of "2000 A.D." (January, 1980) as, essentially, an "evil twin" for Judge Dredd. The back story for Judge Death is deliciously twisted: Born in an alternate universe, Sidney De'Ath was raised by a malicious, masochistic dentist father who would torture and mutilate his patients (think of a less amusing version of Dr. Orin Scrivello from "Little Shop of Horrors"). Sidney was so keen to continue his father's work that he would seek out some mystical witches to transform him into a death-obsessed, tooth-forward supernatural ghoul. He also became his dimension's version of a Judge — Judge Death — in a dimension where, in his mind, life itself was a crime. He ended up eradicating everyone on his home planet before skipping over to Judge Dredd's and continuing his work there. 

Judge Death, along with Judge Fire, Judge Fear, and Judge Mortis, were some of Judge Dredd's more notorious nemeses. 

Urban would be keen to see him on screen. He said: 

"I certainly would be interested to revisit the character. There's just such a great depth of material there that was written by John Wagner, and various writers over the years. Particularly stories revolving around Judge Death. And a lot of great stories. To me, it doesn't bother me if I get the opportunity to play Dredd again, or if it's someone else. I would just love to see those stories ... That'd be incredible."

The Alex Garland script

Urban nearly got his wish. 

The 2012 "Dredd" was penned by Alex Garland, the filmmaker behind "Ex Machina," "Annihilation," and the recent "Men." It's also been said in interviews that Garland also might have done a great deal of directing on "Dredd." The entire experience was shabby, and Garland wouldn't want to go back, but that wasn't always the case. According to an interview with Screen Geek with Judge Dredd co-creator John Wagner, Garland once pitched a Judge Death script to the people at Fox. The script was turned down because it was a little too wild. Perhaps wisely, the execs wanted a movie about the actual, physical world of Judge Dredd before the movies went traipsing off to other dimensions. As Wagner put it: 

"That was actually the first script that Alex Garland did was a Judge Death script. But Fox, who they were dealing with at the time, turned it down. They wanted more nuts and bolts before they went into the [metaphysical]."

So there was talk of a Judge Death script. It may still happen, although it seems that Judge Dredd may be currently back on ice. It took 18 years to make the first Dredd film after his creation. It took another 17 to make a second film.  If that timeline holds, audiences may see an additional Judge Dredd film by 2028. So, not too far off in the broad scheme.