Judge Minty is the long-awaited ‘fan film’ from director Steven Sterlacchini, co-written with Michael Carroll. Before the film was released the team shared images and videos to show that they were going for a look very similar to the comic. From the uniforms and weapons designed by Prop and Costume Creator Daniel Carey-George has come the licensed products from Planet Replicas
I first saw the film on Monday, 12th November 2012 as part of Leeds International Film Festival 2012 as the Hi-Fi Club in Leeds. There is a spoiler free review that I wrote after that screening, if you do not want to read any spoilers I’d suggest you stop reading this and visit – here. There is more preamble and further warnings to turn back if you want to avoid spoilers.
I saw the film a second time on Sunday, 18th November 2012 as part of Thought Bubble 2012 at the Alea Casino, Leeds.
The film is currently only available at Film Festivals and Comic Conventions so fans of 2000AD are having to be patient as they wait for the film to get to a venue near them. When I now more venues I will publicise them. I must say though, the wait will be worthwhile.
Again, there are spoilers in this review. I will try to keep this ‘spoiler light’ but how much spoilery is too much varies from person to person. The whole script for Dredd (3D) was leaked and I know that many people read it before seeing the film. I didn’t, I don’t like spoilers. So as I don’t like spoilers I think my judgement of when I’m saying too much should hopefully be a good guide. I have also checked with Steven Sterlacchini for anything he would prefer I do not mention, I am going to honour his wishes and keep quiet about certain things.
Before reviewing the film I’ll look at the source material and give a synopsis of the story that inspired the film. The film goes further than the comic strip, following Judge Minty beyond the source story.
The character Judge Minty was created by John Wagner and Mike McMahon; the story featured in Prog 147 (issue 147) of 2000AD , a British anthology comic and was credited to John Howard, a pseudonym of John Wagner. This story is famous for introducing the Long Walk, a form of retirement for Judges past their prime, they leave Mega City One to take law to the lawless in the Cursed Earth, a wasteland outside the city’s walls.
The strip starts with a raid on a citizen’s home by Judges Minty and Dredd. Minty is seen being lenient on the citizen and when challenged on this by Dredd he says that as he has aged he has started to think people will see sense and co-operate. The two Judges follow up a lead from the citizen and confront a crime gang Minty has been investigating for three months. The criminals are holed up in a removals company, Minty’s plan is to sit and wait for them to surrender. Dredd prefers to take the initiative and raid the building. In a hail of bullets Minty is unseated from his Lawmaster, Dredd instructs him to wait and take care of survivors. Dredd kills most of the gang , one injured man falls from a window. Minty gives him the chance to surrender and is shot at point-blank range before Dredd kills him. Minty recovers in hospital but following a negative report from Dredd he is told he is no longer suitable for street duty. Offered a position in the Academy of Law by Chief Judge Griffen, he refuses and opts for the Long Walk.
You will see that there are differences in the film but the themes explored in the strip are the core of the film.
The film opens with a sound track sampling items being reported by Justice Department Control and snippets from the media of Mega City One. CGI views of the city are the first pictures and they are very much what the city looks like in the average Judge Dredd strip. As well as the famous multi-level roadways we are given a close-up of a beautifully rendered Grand Hall of Justice.
Reaching street level we see Minty watching a group of citizens that are distributing weapons. He advances on them, is spotted and a gunfight ensues. The special effects are very nice, tight angles are used on the live action to give a very good impression of the Lawmaster. The uniform doesn’t look as awkward as many people expected it might in live action.
Minty is unseated and injured, the action then sees Judge Dredd, portrayed by 2000AD artist Greg Staples and voiced by Jared Butler, arrive to assist the injured Minty and a lovely shot of a H-Wagon dropping sown over Dredd’s shoulder to med-evac Minty.
Dredd visits Minty in hospital to inform him of his negative report and that he is no longer fit for street service. Dredd offers him a place on the faculty at the Academy of Law. Minty declines the offer and opts for the Long Walk. The Cursed Earth is given the official 2000AD pronunciation, as used in Dredd (3D), not ‘Cur-Said’ as in the 1995 Stallone movie.
An honour guard sees Minty out of the city, this was a re-shoot of the original. There were only two Judges in the original scene but with the advent of Planet Replicas and the sale of their replica uniform this was increased to eight.
Clearly a lot of thought was put in to the Cursed Earth by the filmmakers. We aren’t simply in sand dunes or a disused quarry. The outdoor scenes have an almost black and white feel to them, though instead of grey-scale it is ochre-brown grey. The red, green and gold on Minty’s uniform help these scenes look very much like comic pages.
Minty is tracked by a group of Cursed Earth denizens, Mutants and crazed Radlanders. They have an ape like creature that is apparently used as a tracker. The group is a wonderful example of the kind of gang we have seen over the years in 2000AD and the Megazine. A General, a Clown, a Gas-mask, etc.
While evading the gang Minty passes a crashed vehicle, nothing is said about it but long-term fans will recognise it in a glance.
The leader of the gang, Aquila has telekinetic powers, again a nice use of special effects, including comic effect. The death of one of the gang, using one of the six types of round from a lawgiver, met with more of a reaction in the Film Festival screening than this one, I think most viewers will enjoy how this is handled.
A strange rock layout tips off Minty that some other denizens of the Cursed Earth have made home nearby. He switches his helmet to infra-red and makes out a number of mutants. Finding a disused underground township, Fairville, he leads his pursuers into a trap. The town is deserted but public announcement audio still runs, giving dark humour to the setting. The near invisible mutants inspect the Judge and then turn on the motley rabble entering their lair. Minty lets the two groups fight it out.
The ending of the film is poetic, we see a full circle that connects us to the beginning and it all works well together.
This is a very different film to the major release earlier this year. Yet to me both equally captured the feel of Judge Dredd. There are dozens of ways to tell a Judge Dredd story and keep it close to panel, these are just two. Judge Minty has gone for a look much closer to the comic, something Steven Sterlacchini discusses on his blog in detail.
I can’t praise this film highly enough for its dedication to the source material and the quality of how it carries out bringing a believable Cursed Earth to us. It is hard to imagine that this has been put together by such a small team, there are far more actors than crew. The dedication of Stephen Green should not be under-rated, the rendering and special effects all his work.