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Judge Dredd: Superfiend Review

2012 saw the release of Dredd, an excellent motion picture version of the comic book series Judge Dredd. Karl Urban took the reigns of the justice dispenser himself, and he fit the role perfectly. The entire film generally felt like it was crafted with love and care, accurately representing what the fans wanted after the disaster of the previous cinematic outing in 1995. The 2012 Dredd made Mega City One feel realistic, gritty and dangerous by concentrating all of the darkness into one confined area, essentially telling one small story in a much wider world. The script, written by Alex Garland, presented a slice of everyday life for the futuristic law men and women of Mega City One. It was a perfect reintroduction to the character of Judge Dredd, bringing a much better interpretation of the comic to the movie screen.

Unfortunately, when it came to box office results, the movie failed to pull people into theatres despite the rave reviews and praise. However, upon release to DVD and Blu-ray, the film has gathered momentum and has seen the success it deserves. Growing from general word of mouth and people curiously watching to see why it is so popular, Dredd has become somewhat of a cult movie and sequel rumours have sparked amid its growth in popularity. Dredd’s producer Adi Shankar (producer of such films as The Grey and Lone Survivor) has a real passion for this franchise, and it’s nice to see that his work on the film has renewed interest in the Judge Dredd universe. Recently, he set out to give the fans a special thank you, and the result is a cartoon called Superfiend.

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Judge Dredd: Superfiend is a series of seven short animated pieces that make up a (roughly) 27 minute cartoon when watched in sequence. This project officially has nothing to do with the companies involved in the comic and recent film, as it was produced independently and released for free by Shankar via his Youtube channel. Taking cues from the story line of the Young Death: Boyhood of a Superfiend comics, the animated short spins its own take on the story, hitting all the key elements throughout. The series starts with the early life of Sidney, the son of a sadistic murdering travelling dentist. Eventually, Sidney decides to become a crooked Judge so he can continue his murderous ways, manipulating the law to his own sadistic nature. Unfortunately, he becomes corrupted as the evil transformation that is Judge Death. Judge Dredd appears about half way through, very much making this series Death’s own story. When Dredd does appear, he is grizzled and hardened and very much the feared Judge of Mega City One that appears in the comics. Judge Death is Dredd’s nemesis and one of hardest battles the law man has to face. There are cameos from other prominent Judge Dredd characters in the series as well, such as The Angel Gang, Rico and even a very brief Hershey appearance. Superfiend will make any Judge Dredd fan have a little squeal of delight.

The style of animation is very much akin to early to mid 1990’s Nicktoons and Cartoon Network originals, such as Cow and Chicken or Ren and Stimpy. The intention of Adi Shankar and Angry Metal/The Junquera Brothers (the production team), was to capture that 1990’s Saturday morning cartoon feeling. However, the universe that Judge Dredd lives in is anything but geared towards Saturday morning television as Superfiend delivers violence and gore from the outset. By mixing in the dark humour from the comic, it’s as if the cartoons you watched as a kid have grown up and matured alongside you, turning into something that more mature audiences can enjoy. The animation work is brilliantly simplistic in some areas and fantastically overblown in others; it could have easily been pushed forward as a pilot for a series and may leave you wishing that it was just that. It really teases at how well other stories from the Dredd universe could be easily adapted to this format.

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The voice cast is superb, especially when it comes to the grizzled tones of Dredd (played by Darin De Paul) and the evil gleeful menace of Judge Death (Marc Graue), both of whom sound great in their roles. In fact all the characters have well written and performed dialogue. The shorts have excellent use of music too, with some portions grabbing that MTV music video feeling and the overall score feeling very dramatic.

In conclusion, the project is a real love letter to the fans of the comics and the 2012 film. It’s like a golden nugget for fans by fellow fans. Adi Shankar is no stranger to producing shorts based on comics, as he previously produced the Punisher short Dirty Laundry and the Venom short Truth in Journalism, both of which can also be watched over on his Youtube channel. It’s a pleasure to have a producer who isn’t just invested in a project for a return on the profits and who is truly a fan, believing in the franchise and giving so much back to the fan base.

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It is one of the best animated shorts I have watched in a while and highly recommended if you need another Dredd fix.

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