This is the thirty-second installment in a series of articles tracing the complete history of superheroes in film and television, from the first superhero serial all the way to the current Marvel and DC cinematic universes. For the previous installment click here, for the first installment click here.
The 1995 adaptation of the Judge Dredd character, who first appeared in the pages of the British comic magazine “2000 A.D.,” was spear-headed by producer Edward R. Pressman. Pressman had also been the mastermind behind the big screen adaptation of “The Crow” just two years earlier.
While hopes for the film were most likely really high, it didn’t really pan out the way producers probably hoped. “Judge Dredd” was universally panned by fans and critics alike, currently holding an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. A common fan complaint, apart from the movie just not being that good, was that Dredd takes off his helmet several times during the course of the film. In the comics, artists take great lengths to intentionally never show Dredd without his helmet.
Director Danny Cannon maintains that the final version of the film is radically different from both the original script and his intentions for the film. According to Cannon, Stallone made demands of the studio which resulted in multiple changes being made, making the film unrecognizable from its original concept. Cannon and screenwriter William Wisher, Jr. the film was originally much darker and carried a more satirical tone. Stallone, however, saw the film as a comedy and demanded rewrites to fit that view. Stallone has gone on record as saying he still didn’t think the final film was comedic enough.
Stallone told Uncut Magazine, “It probably should have been much more comic, really humorous, and fun. What I learned out of that experience was that we shouldn’t have tried to make it Hamlet; it’s more Hamlet and Eggs.”
For the role of Fergie – who was significantly altered from the comics for the film version – Stallone originally wanted Joe Pesci. When Pesci turned the part down, Stallone called Saturday Night Live alum and frequent Adam Sandler player Rob Schneider. Schneider took the role. In the comics, Fergie lives in the Undercity – the ruins of the old eastern seaboard on top of which Mega City One was built. He is the leader of a band of societal outcasts, similar to the role played by Dennis Leary in “Demolition Man.” For the film, the character was changed to a petty criminal with a cowardly streak.
“Judge Dredd” was originally intended to be rated PG-13, which is common for films of the genre. However, in its first viewing by the MPAA it was assigned an NC-17 rating. Several cuts and changes were made, but on appeal the film was assigned an R rating. Due to lack of time to make additional changes, it was released as an R-rated film.
“Judge Dredd” was released on June 20, 1995 and made $113 million against a $70 million budget during its theatrical run.
While “Judge Dredd” was in-keeping with the style of superhero movies of the time, its great departure from the source material and Stallone’s insistence on making the film into a comedy and not a serious adaptation of the comics caused fans to dismiss the film. With the direction taken by “Batman Forever” and “Judge Dredd” immediately afterward, while superhero movies remained popular, 1995 definitely marked a decline in quality which would last throughout the rest of the decade.
Sylvester Stallone interviewed in Uncut #131 (April 2008), p.118
“Judge Dredd (1995).” IMDb.
“Judge Dredd“. Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster