OK, let’s talk about fan films. They’ve been around forever. There were folks making movies based around characters from books as early as the 1910s, and the explosion in comic books led to a huge number of fan films based on them. TV and movies inspired even more over the years. Some of these have even had releases in theatres and on home video. It was Ernie Fosselius’ Hardware Wars that really elevated Fan Films, launched the Star Wars fan film movement that would later give us great, widely-seen short films like Troops and George Lucas in Love. Lucas even launched an annual award for Fan Films. Things like Grayson and various other comic book fan films have been huge over the years, and YouTube has only led to an explosion of fan films, some good, many not so much, and some of them have managed to include spectacular graphics. It’s a part of the explosion of cheap and easy CGI programs.
And thus, Judge Minty.
Perhaps the first English comic I ever read was 2000 a.d.. I can remember the first time I bought a copy, Timecon 1990, in a batch of comics in a bag. I read it and the one that caught my attention was Judge Dredd. Of course, I’d heard of Judge Dredd, I’d been reading comics journalism long enough to have heard of it, but until that day, I hadn’t read any myself. I read the issue in the bag (which also included at least one American Flagg comic as well, starting another obsession) and I re-read it, and re-re-read it. It was probably the second most read comic in my collection. Judge Dredd is the ultimate in determined and absolute lawful heroes. He’s also a violent and powerful judge of convicts with absolute… well, conviction. He lives in a dystopian future that is due to wars that have left most of the world a radioactive wasteland. It’s a dark, violent, kinda ugly world. You know, the kind that artists LOVE to draw! Mega-City One is a massive, sprawling megalopolis. It’s what Fritz Lang dreamed of when he first envisioned Metropolis… only crossed with Sam Peckinpah’s sense of violence.
Surrounding Mega-City One is the Cursed Earth. It’s like the badlands that surround every futuristic city, only more so. Actually, when I saw Akira, it was the visual sensations of The Cursed Earth that most ran through my head.
A minor character in Judge Dredd was another of the Judges who applied the law: Judge Minty. He was the focus of a 1980 story called… wait for it… Judge Minty. You see, like the mob, there’s no real retirement plan for the Judges who maintain the law save for what’s called The Long Walk. That’s when a Judge leaves MCO and heads into the Cursed Earth. This is exactly like the old Western theme of the Disgraced Lawman. They can’t hack it in civilization, so they’re sent ever Westward to try and break-up the lawless frontier. It’s a classic story, Tom Mix did them the best I think, and Judge Minty had just gotten to the point where he had to go and bring law to the lawless. At the beginning of The Long Walk, there’s a ceremony, and then you’re on your own, fighting the gangs and monsters and your aging, I guess, in the Cursed Earth.
And that is where we see Judge Minty.
This fan film, and the credits are VERY specific that this is a Not-For-Profit Fan Film. The film gives us Judge Minty’s last law job, and shows that he’s a step or two below where a Judge needs to be. He goes on The Long Walk, and the majority of the film is him making his impression on The Cursed Earth.
The first thing in this one is the professional feel of the production. Looking at a progression of quality, Hardware Wars was made to show-off the fact that you COULD see the wires and recognise the everyday household items as props. Things like Troops were designed to bring another level of professionalism to the presentation. In Judge Minty, it’s hard to say that the graphics aren’t as good as those you’d see in films shown in the theatres. The quality of the graphics is huge. The costumes are perfect.Even when using something as simple as a facescarf to allow for a hole to apparently be blown in someone’s face. That trick is as old as time, and here it blends seamlessly with the presentation.
Graphics aside, it tells a spectacular story in a twenty-seven minutes run-time. We see Judge Minty as the old dog having to learn new tricks in a bad neighborhood. Minty’s played with pinpoint precision by Edmund Dehn. He’s got the look, slightly craggy and determined, coupled with the ability to make everything look like a chore, but a chore he will not slack on because he HAS to do it. There’s a little bit of Tom Mix in Dehn’s performance. He’s great and active and gives that stoicism that you need in a serious film set in the Judge Dredd universe.
And that might be the key. I haven’t seen the recent Dredd film, but the 1995 Stallone vehicle was more camp than serious. This film certainly takes it right, gives it a wonderful sense of weight. A powerful piece of filmmaking done around a simple story. This is almost literally ‘A Man Sent Out To Pasture’ tale, and it makes the most of it. I loved the horde in The Cursed Earth. Yeah, they were straight out of Mad Max, or maybe more accurately, out of 2000 a.d.. They’re wonderful and pretty damned creepy!
So, it’s always good to see a fan film that hits all the right tones, and I’m betting we’re gonna see more of these films with their great graphics and editing, but the acting here is what sets this one apart.
To watch it for yourself, head to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aavS_XUITXU and for more info http://www.judgeminty.com/