They said it’ll happen. In a press release tailored more towards generating investment interest than actually sharing any details, Rebellion and IM Global announced a big budget adaptation of 2000AD’s comic storyworld Mega City One - home of, amongst others, one Judge Joe Dredd. That was May. Fans buzzed - then, in August, speculation made the rounds that Dredd star Karl Urban was in talks to reprise the role of Ol’ Stoney Face, and the buzz began to swell into genuine excitement and belief - they said it was going to happen, and it actually is. Or so you’d think. So they’d hope you’d believe. And even if we get so lucky, can it possibly live up to the hype?
I’m a lifelong 2000AD fan, and would love to see Mega City’s finest make the successful transition to live action. But that day feels a way away and even if it does I have to wonder if there’s any scenario where ‘justice’ could be done to the source material. In its fortieth year of publication 2000AD continues to tell and launch excellent stories. For the uninitiated; it’s an anthology of science fiction stories usually told in parts over multiple weeks. Central characters include dystopian future cop Judge Dredd, Celtic warrior Slaine and mutant bounty hunter Johnny Alpha aka Strontium Dog - all three of which have been running for over thirty years in themselves. This year has seen a raft of great additions and half a century of storytelling seems likely - a successful series adaptation could only help ensure that.
Yet I’m pessimistic for a plethora of reasons. Firstly, there’s the logistical challenges of creating Mega City One on the screen. Dredd largely took place in one of the hundreds of tower blocks that dominate the city. With a population of 72million - most of whom are either morbidly obese, part artificial and ethnically diverse, the extras casting alone is a mammoth task. Secondly, there’s the moral complexities of the story. There’re many great supporting characters populating Meg-1, but the star of the show is undoubtedly Judge Dredd; a fascist police officer, who alone has a kill count in the millions (he’s committed multiple mass killing events in service of the law). Jack Bauer has nothing on this guy, and a mature audience rating will cripple the viewership. Furthermore, there’s the ‘weirdness’ of 2000AD wherein lies its identity. To lose it would be a great disservice to the material, but to keep it would jar the casual viewer. Case in point; the Fatties. A subculture of bored citizens who turn to competitive weight gain to pass the time. Satire is at the heart of Mega City storytelling, and that is a tough sell to sceptical audiences.
So don’t hold your breath. Mega City One will be a huge investment to anyone willing to roll the dice, and even if it sees the light of day there’s a real chance it will be reshaped into something far from the material. Network executives will chomp at the bit to cancel the series and save money, collecting their dollars retrospectively through DVD sales and hardcore fandom ala Firefly. Here’s hoping they find a way to make it and make it right; in the era of storyworlds and interconnected storytelling, Dredd and his Mega City is rich in potential.