The film is set in the futurist version of New York City (Mega City 1), a place overloaded with crime and disorder. Based around a ‘super-cop’ called Judge Dredd, the film sees Dredd - along with the other judges – try to restore and maintain peace in a seemingly un-rescuable section of ‘Mega City 1’, otherwise known as the Peach Trees tower block. The Ma Ma clan, who are the known distributors of a new hallucinogenic, control this tower block and give the Judges a real run for their money when they try and enter the Ma Ma’s territory.
The film was written and produced by Alex Garland, a producer who has worked on films such as ‘Never Let Me Go (2010)’ and ’28 Days Later (2002)’. This brings me to my first point regarding how and why ‘Dredd’ flopped, which is, the fact that the director was very inexperienced. As I researched these other films which Alex had directed, I saw that the films he had previously had directed had very low budgets compared to that of ‘Dredd’. ‘Never Let me Go’ had a budget of $15 million, and ’28 Days Later’ had a budget of only $8 million. Comparing these, with the likes of ‘Dredd’s’ $45 million budget spells disaster for me. Giving a ‘low budget director’ a much higher budget does not necessarily mean that a higher quality film is going to be produced, and that is certainly the case with this film. A lot of the films money was spent on the film’s star actor Carl Urban, which was a huge waste of money in my opinion, as you never actually get to see his face. Unless you are a huge comic book fan, and went to the Comic Con festival in 2010 (this was where Carl announced his role as Dredd) then you wouldn’t actually be aware that he starred in the film. This means that you are immediately narrowing your market to ‘film nerds’ as it were. Most people only want to watch films with big Hollywood stars in, look at the Iron man franchise for example. These films are probably not as mentally involving as Dredd, but because of the fact that it had Robert Downey Jr in it, it was a huge success, taking over $1.2 billion worldwide at the box office.
I think that the whole ‘Film Nerd’ stereotype also ties in with another reason as to why the film failed, and that’s because of its very high expectations. The ‘Judge Dredd’ franchise originates from the comic book strip, which first appeared in 1977 and was later turned into a film in 1995, which stared Sylvester Stallone as Dredd. The history behind Dredd clearly means that people will expect a high standard from the much newer and technologically advanced remake of the film, and I feel as though it did not meet its expectations. Going from an actor like Stallone, to Karl Urban (who’s face you never actually see) is a very big step down, and for this reason along with others regarding the films expectations, and the fact that it did not meet these expectations is another reason as to why the film flopped. If you were to compare this once again to the Iron man franchise, it is clear to see why it didn’t fail like Dredd did. This is because although Iron Man is an iconic comic series, there was not previously a dedicated Iron Man film (although he does appear in the 1978 version of ‘The Avengers). This therefore meant there was nothing to look at to compare it to, so there could be no kind of expectations.
Although this was a high budget for Alex Garland, compared to other films of the same category it was very, very low. They attempted however, to reduce the films production costs by filming in South Africa where the cost of employing crew is much lower in comparison to those in the USA and Europe, but nevertheless the films budget did not allow the same facilities and opportunities that much larger budgets do. It also spent lots of its budget on cameras such as the RED MX’s and also paying to create new rigs made specifically for Dredd. The idea behind these rigs was to be able to bring the audience much closer to the action, without losing any slo-mo features or the high quality picture that the cameras produce. It is also common knowledge that a film which is given a low budget is most likely to produce a lower profit and this rule does apply to Dredd which had a $45 million budget and only turned over $41 million at the box office. If you were to compare this with the Iron Man once again, the difference between both budget and profit are clear to see. The film had a much higher budget of $140 million, but this allowed for better special effects, and better actors therefore resulting in a better profit, which was in fact $585.1 million.
One of the final reasons as to why ‘Dredd’ failed at the box office was down to the distributors of the film which was ‘Lionsgate’. They rejected almost every screen that wanted to show the film in 2D, leaving 2,200 of the 2,506 locations with access only to the 3D version to the film. They did this, as they wanted to make money off of the higher prices that the cinemas charge customers for tickets to see the 3D version on the film. This plan backfired however, as it just resulted in people not watching the film all together due to many peoples dislike towards watching 3D. This resulted in a lot less people going to see the film and therefore resulting in gaining less money at the box office. Iron Man however was not available in this obviously less desirable 3D option, meaning that anyone who had wanted to see the film was able to watch it comfortably in the traditional and more comfortable 2D.
Another marketing error that ‘Dredd’ made was making it an 18 rated film. This narrowed down the audience significantly, and also gave the film a bad image, as most people rightfully associate the 18 rating with edgy or adult subject matter, meaning that many people did not feel comfortable going to watch it. Iron Man however, was rated only a 12a. This meant that younger people were attracted to, and could independently watch it, which is important and the main group of people who watch films at the cinema are aged 16 or under.
In conclusion, financially ‘Dredd’ flopped majorly, and this was mainly down to the poor choices which were made in terms of production and marketing/distribution. This does not reflect peoples reviews on the film however, as many people who have actually watched the film very much enjoy it, so, maybe it wasn’t such a failure after all?
By Tom Brown
Word Count: 1155