Last week, I finally finished watching the first season of Daredevil. I know, I know, I am way behind everyone else, but I usually like to stretch out my quality viewing as much as possible…which is why I watched half the show over two days. Naturally.
After watching it, a lot of things stuck out for me. First, Netflix and Marvel gave us a very dark and very adult take on a universe that had been, up to that point, pretty much family friendly. What I was incredibly impressed with in particular wasn’t how far it took the universe in a darker direction, complete with strong, brutal violence; a grittier, overall look and some complex moral themes as well.
No, what really impressed me was that it did a darker, mature take on a popular universe so well, particularly in its very first season. Usually, it takes a while for an adult spin-off as it were to find its feet and perhaps even over-compensate.
For example, I’m a big fan of Torchwood, but even I think that, for its first season, at least, it tried almost far too hard at trying to say, “Yes, we’re in the same universe as Doctor Who, but this show is way more adult! Look, it has sex! And violence! And swearing!” (Admittedly, one small complaint I had with Daredevil was that it had plenty of violence but no one apparently could say “fuck!” even once, but that’s more of a problem I have with what’s acceptable on American television than anything else.) Torchwood eventually became a really great, genuinely mature show, but it certainly took a while to find its feet. To see an “adult take” like Daredevil get everything so right from its first season is, for me, incredibly impressive.
However, the more I watched of Daredevil, the more I realized something. Not with the show itself, but the reaction to it. Daredevil has proved to be a very well-received show, with a ton of critical reviews praising the show and giving it a rating of 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and almost everyone I know telling me, “What, you haven’t seen it, yet? Seriously, fucking watch it already, mate!” and so on.
It made me realize that not only could people be receptive to an adult comic book adaptation that still featured a man in a costume, but, compared to releasing an R-rated movie, there was potentially less risk for a great comic book adaptation not getting widely recognized.
When Dredd was released in 2012, it received shockingly low box-office revenue. Reasons for this are numerous. The R-rating might not have helped it to become a blockbuster, but it still had potential to earn a profit, at least. However, other factors, including a poor marketing campaign (only one trailer a couple of months before release, and not even a red-band trailer to showcase the high level of violence the film had), plus the shadow of the 1995 Stallone Judge Dredd movie probably didn’t help.
However, word of mouth did begin to spread regarding how surprisingly good the film was. And while it was slow to begin with, the film gradually grew to have more and more of a cult following. The Facebook page ‘Make a Dredd Sequel’ currently has over 100,000 likes, and its petition, which originally started out as entirely fan-made, eventually became officially endorsed by 2000AD, the anthology comic that Judge Dredd runs in.
Plenty of fans have begged for a sequel (including myself), but everyone has made it clear, particularly Alex Garland, that while virtually everyone would be on board for a sequel, no one wants to fund a sequel to a film that bombed in a massive way at the box office.
But I realized that there might be another option. Potentially, an even better option. What if Netflix made a series that continued from where Dredd left off?
Daredevil showed, in many ways, that a high quality Judge Dredd series could be done. A comic book show could have some well shot and well directed action sequences. It could be violent as fuck. And it could have a lot of depth to its characters, its story and its setting. (It might not have strong language, but who knows, maybe it could use words like “Drokk!”like in the comic.) Most importantly, it could be very, very well received by its audience.
If Dredd was to get a continuation, how could a Netflix series work, and how would it benefit from it instead of an actual movie sequel?
For one thing, arcs like “Democracy in Mega-City 1”, “Origins”, and Dredd’s doubts of the system could be given a lot more time and more depth than a two-hour sequel could. Dredd could focus on crimes while dealing with a subtly but steadily growing problem of protestors wanting the Judges removed from power.
It could potentially work even better if it mixed in “Origins” and allowed the occasional flashback to how the Judges rose to power and how most of America became a nuclear wasteland, partly due to the insane ambition and corruption of President Trump Booth. The democracy and the origins arcs are not only two of my favourites but are arguably very complimentary, so it would be perfect to be explored across a whole season, especially if the finale lead to the creation/emergence of extremist group “Total War”.
Alex Garland mentioned that he wanted to explore themes and issues like the idea of democracy in a fascist society like the one seen in Judge Dredd in a sequel. I’m sure that, given the opportunity, we would have been given a potentially great sequel that took what was established in the first film and built upon it. But I can’t help but feel that it could be even better explored across more than ten hours instead of just two.
That’s assuming of course that Karl Urban could commit to an entire series. I’m sure he’d be up for it, but even if he was unavailable for an entire series, Mega-City 1 is a big, crazy place. There are a ton of stories that could be told with its Judges, its criminals and its citizens. A series that focused primarily on Dredd himself would be my ideal option, but a Mega-City 1 series, with enough direction and decent storytelling, plus some influence from the best spin-off comic series, including Anderson, Low Life and The Simping Detective, could be equally interesting.
I’m sure that a Dredd series for Netflix could still be a big risk. Who knows, it could even be a bigger risk than a sequel for some TV studios to finance. And if released, it could potentially take a while to gain interest…but I think not. Netflix knows how to advertise its TV shows and draw in interest. Either way, word of mouth would spread, and so long as the show was great and made with the same level of quality as the 2012 Dredd movie (especially if it had involvement by Alex Garland), I see no reason why it wouldn’t be another great success for Netflix.