Judge Minty: A Judge Dredd Fan Film

Previously, we looked at Judge Dredd: Superfiend, a fan film that had a lot of comic influence, but put a wacky twist on the story and sound design. Inversely, the Judge Minty fan film stays true to the comics, but gives it a realistic twist similar to Dredd 3D. Fitting with The Rad-Land’s theme of post-nuclear fiction, the majority of the film takes place in the radioactive wastelands of the Cursed Earth.

Story: The film concerns Bill Minty, an aging Judge who was severely wounded in the line of duty. Minty rejects a teaching position at the Academy of Law and instead decides to take the Long Walk, exiling himself to the Cursed Earth to bring law to the lawless. What’s interesting about this film is that Judge Minty was actually a character who briefly appeared in Judge Dredd (and was recalled just before Necropolis). The film knows this and mirrors the story exactly as it occurred in the comics. The camera angles and dialogue match up perfectly. The film’s opening act is truly a Judge Dredd comic come to life. Once Minty has entered the Cursed Earth, the story picks up speed as he is hunted by a war party of mutants led by Aquila, an extremely powerful psyker.

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The establishing shots in Judge Minty are great wallpapers!

Establishing Shots: I believe every fan film does at least one thing exceedingly well. For Superfiend it was sound design. For Judge Minty it is establishing shots. Each act of the story opens with an establishing shot: First of Mega-City One, then of the Cursed Earth, and finally the village of Fairville. The film opens with the voice of a lone dispatcher, but quickly builds up to dozens of voices reporting crimes at the same time. Immediately, the audience gets a sense for the chaos of Mega-City One, which juxtaposes well with the lawless Cursed Earth. The wasteland itself is given a lengthy introduction, but one that serves to better the tone, establishing that the Cursed Earth is a nearly lifeless place where only near-human mutants and other monstrosities remain.

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The costumes are exactly as they are in the comics

Characters: Although the set design in Judge Minty is top-notch, the characters themselves are lacking a bit. Judge Dredd characters are generally straight forward lawful neutral archetypes, but after the first act, Judge Minty is essentially one long action scene with less characterization than Dredd 3D. The main villain doesn’t speak. Any change in Minty’s character is internal, without dialogue. Unfortunately, although the film excels in many areas, the acting is the weakest link. Some of Aquila’s soldiers are borderline cringey.

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Aquila the Psyker

Mutant antagonists with visible faces more often look silly than intimidating. Luckily, the mutant leader conceals his face and acts only with body. That having been said, the actor playing Aquila (the mutant leader), does a good job of appearing both intimidating and mysterious as he uses only his hands and a wide eyed expression. The mutant’s costume design is excellent and his war party invokes a variety of Mad Max-esque marauders, each of which has a costume cobbled together from scrap. The antagonists’ costumes look properly wastelandish while the framing and editing creates a tone similar to The Purge.

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Dredd’s brief appearance

The Judge costumes are also true to the source material: black zip-up jumpsuits. green padding, and gold pauldrons. Even the famous Cursed Earth cloak makes an appearance.  The actor playing Minty is effective at being stern and gritty, but I couldn’t help noticing that the Judge helmet flattens his nose. Judge Dredd briefly appears (as he does in the comics), but he doesn’t feel quite right. His gruff voice feels forced and his jaw line doesn’t live up to the nickname of “old stony face”. However, these are nitpicky and ultimately shouldn’t distract from the action scenes and impressive tone setting.

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Attention to Detail: Like Superfiend, Judge Minty’s background static is heavily influenced by comic references. In an interesting story telling decision, Mega-City One’s radio is heard throughout the first act and is shown to be originating from Minty’s helmet. The exposition fades properly when the Judge removes his headgear. Background radio chatter references Otto Sump’s first appearance, the banning of Umpty candy, Robot Wars, skysurfing, and much more. What’s most impressive is that the film is consistent with the comic’s timeline. Minty’s Long Walk was relatively early in the Judge Dredd story line, but the references to the Robot Wars and Otto Sump are well placed within the context of the story. Someone did their homework.

Despite its length, the film is surprisingly dense, full of inside references, good set design, internal consistency, backstories, a fun villain, and a fair amount of set up and pay off. Plus, it explores the often underappreciated Cursed Earth and does so beautifully. Overall, Judge Minty is another half hour fan film that is a must see for any Judge Dredd fan.

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Mad Minty: Beyond Cursed Earth

Judge Dredd: Superfiend

Judge Dredd: Superfiend is an online mini-series made for Judge Dredd fans by Judge Dredd fans. The project was produced by Adi Shankar (executive producer of Dredd) as a passion project. In his introduction, Shankar says that Superfiend was made as a callback to Saturday morning cartoons or 90s MTV. Superfiend takes place in the “bootleg universe” a world similar to the Judge Dredd comics, but with some added silliness and character relationships.

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Story: Superfiend loosely follows the story of Young Death – Boyhood of a Superfiend before portraying Death in Mega-City One. Superfiend does a great job showing a young Sidney De’ath (later Judge Death) and his journey to becoming Judge Dredd’s greatest enemy, but Death is lacking when it comes to the third act.

Thankfully, Superfiend is more comedic and far less dark than the original Young Death. Judge Death kills a lot of people, but there’s no incident where he murders a crying child. Superfiend is fun and tame throughout, fitting with the often silly tone of the Judge Dredd Case Files.

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Superfiend portrays a very different Judge Death.

Despite its relatively short length, the series has everything: exciting chase scenes (synced with a great soundtrack), developed character relationships, and over the top action.  Superfiend is short, punchy, and funny.

Sound Design: The sound design alone makes Superfiend worth talking about. Judge Death’s mouth always makes a rubbery noise when he smiles.  Mean machine’s metal arm squeaks as it moves. Every tiny movement has a distinctive sound, better connecting the audience to the action. There’s never a quiet moment in Superfiend and it works to the show’s advantage. In a streak of dark humor, one of the best examples is a disembodied head spinning on a record that is stuck repeating “I’m in heaven.”

What’s more impressive is that an original soundtrack was made for and synced to each scene.

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 Bootleg Universe: The “bootleg universe” is meant to be a fun and light-hearted parody. The rising action to the climax involves Judge Death doing things that his comic counterpart would never think of, but because everything in the series is overextended and caricatured, it’s played as comedic. Does a fan project need to stay true to the source material? I’ll leave that one up to you.

The environments are a lot of fun. Mega-highways are portrayed as winding roads that lead to nowhere. The Disco Crater has the same 80’s punk vibe as Warhammer 40k’s Necromunda. McFatty’s was never seen in the comics, but is a great excuse to put the fatties in the show.

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My one gripe would be that Judge Death’s creators, Nausea and Phobia are handled awkwardly. It was likely a matter of pacing, but they appear from nowhere just to move the story forward or to have an interesting action scene. Phobia and Nausea are important to the Judge Death story line (particularly Necropolis), but it’s never explained where the sisters came from. It would have been interesting to see Superfiend expand on the two, but it likely would have ruined the pacing.

References for comic fans: Superfiend is surprisingly dense. There are a lot of sight gags for fans of the comics, but these don’t disrupt the story. Strange items that appear in the comics are briefly explained in a way that is informative for new audience members, but doesn’t break the flow for Judge Dredd veterans. I recommend going to watch Superfiend first, but here are all the references I was able to find. To normal viewers, they’re just background characters, but to Judge Dredd readers, they’re nice little winks.

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Fink Angel without his poison

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Father Earth makes a brief appearance

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Fergee (no not that one)

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Tony Tubbs sitting in McFattys

Edit: It seems that I missed a few obvious references at McFattys!

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The Abdominal Arnie Stodgman! Hiding in plain sight.

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Dick Porker, leader of the fatties.

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Even the framing of the image is the same…

I realize now that almost every character in Superfiend was lovingly pulled directly from the comics. Each of these referential characters is extremely detailed, making it all the more clear that the creators and artists did their homework and really care about the series. With all these references, I’m surprised they couldn’t find a place for an Otto Sump advertisement.

Overall, Judge Dredd: Superfiend is a fan project with high production value that diverts from the source material and has a lot of fun doing it. From the story to the sound design, every part of this series feels like it was made with love and attention to detail. If you have time, give this one a watch, the whole series is only 30 minutes.

Did you see any other comic references? If so, share them in the comments!