In the world of big-budget franchise management, the stakes are very high.
When your job is managing an intellectual property, you aren't just telling a story or making a movie… you're creating something that is meant to service something larger. In the case of the "Judge Dredd" property, this is the second time filmmakers are taking a shot at bringing the character to the screen, and they've got the advantage of having seen it done absolutely wrong by Hollywood the first time.
Based on reports that have started to trickle out over the last week, it sounds like they're making all new mistakes this time, and I'm curious to see what happens with the film now that Pete Travis, the director on the film, has been shut out of the process.
It's a big choice to take a director off of a film, and aside from the creative issues, it can be a legal issue as well, especially when talking about replacing the director with someone else involved in the film. Alex Garland, the writer of the film, is also a producer, and reports indicate that Garland is the one now supervising the post-production process on the film. If Garland actually seeks a co-directing credit on the film, as the LA Times suggests he might, it could be disastrous for Travis. Since this is a UK production, the DGA isn't involved at all, which is a shame. They have pretty strong rules about credits and replacing directors on a film, and it is unlikely this would be playing out the same way if it were happening here.
Travis, who made the thriller "Vantage Point," was the director for the entire shoot, and it's only now, as they work to edit and finish the picture, that he's been sidelined. This is a tough point in the process to decide that someone isn't working out, because whatever footage you have now is your movie. There is some tackle of reshoots, and if Garland handles those, then the issue of a co-directing credit starts to make more sense. But if this is a case of editing room battles, I think it would wildly inappropriate to bump Travis or to force him to split credit.
"Dredd" is a major property in the UK, where the comic has a long and storied history. Here in the US, the character is primarily known because of the Sylvester Stallone movie that threw out much of the character's trademarks. In some ways, you could argue that the perfect "Judge Dredd" movie already exists and is called "Robocop," and it's going to be hard for an independent SF film made in today's market to compete with giant budget fare, even with Indian superfinancier Reliance Entertainment backing the picture. If they get it right, the benefits for the rights holders are huge, and it could help revive the publishing side of things as well. Get it wrong, and this is probably the last time we see "Dredd" onscreen.
Like I said… high stakes. Karl Urban, who will return for the "Star Trek" sequel when it shoots next year, is probably the person who will be able to rebound the best from this mess, and who knows? Maybe the producers find a cut of the film that works and all of this becomes a speed bump on the way to a successful release. But if they were worried enough to remove Travis from his film, then chances are something's wrong, and it makes me wonder if there's ever going to be a "Dredd" film that works.
We'll find out when Lionsgate releases the film in the US on September 21, 2012.
UPDATE: The original story in the Times has now been updated with a statement from Alex Garland and Pete Travis saying that everything's just ducky, and this entire thing has been misinterpreted. I'm curious to see how this plays out, but it sounds like they're not going to play this thing out in the media, whatever's going on.