Judge Dredd Director Locked Out, Replaced By Writer Alex Garland

To me, Pete Travis immediately seemed like an odd choice to direct Dredd, the new Judge Dredd film, but perhaps an interesting one.

His work on TV once impressed Paul Greengrass enough that they teamed up for the film Omagh, a pretty powerful and certainly promising drama about the Real IRA bombing in the town of the same name. Conversely, his feature debut Vantage Point seemed to indicate how much trouble he had with action film making and big, studio sized business and left me doubting his “exploitation” credentials.

I wasn’t sure he was going to get Dredd right, but I was still rooting for him.

Meanwhile, I read a draft of Alex Garland’s screenplay for the film and found it only intermittently successful. It seemed to lack scope, ambition or much subtext – though in the more interesting scenes, it did really bristle. In particular, there was one plot-twisting sequence with Psi Judge Anderson and a bit-part citizen that really stood out (saying more would spoil it) and showed how rich the material was, and how Garland, at his best, was capable of nailing it.

But most of the script read like an uninspired, and dated, action churner – a terrible shame, actually, after Garland’s last produced screenplay, Never Let Me Go, was so unconventional, brave and rich.

But there we go. I can’t say I’ve been waiting for Dredd to come along and knock me off my seat, as optimistic as I’ve tried to be.

And I can’t say that I’d find it easy to elect either Travis or Garland the more obviously safe and trustworthy guardian of the project. At least not from this… er… vantage point.*

But it looks like, when all is said and done, the film may end up with a credit calling the two of them, Travis and Garland, the film’s co-directors.

Travis has apparently left the project during post-production and, according the The LA Times, Garland has taken charge in the edit room. What’s more, the report is saying there’s a possibility of the picture going back for reshoots, and that Garland could seek a co-director credit on the film.

But that’s all still to come. What’s going on right now sounds confusing enough:

Although the specifics of the disagreement that led to Travis’ dismissal are up for debate, two sources said it arose when Travis and producers and executives in charge of the production did not see eye-to-eye on footage Travis was delivering. A separate person involved in the film maintained that although Travis is no longer involved in postproduction, he is keeping up with progress via the Internet and has not been pushed aside.

Some directors who have left a film during production, or post production, have gone on the leave their names on the film, some even taking to the publicity circuit to promote the film. I’ll be interested to see if Mr. Travis or Mr. Garland, or both, head out as envoys for this picture once we’re closer to release.

Even more, I’ll be intrigued to see what sort of picture we end up with now. It’s always worrying to hear a film had to be stopped in its tracks but, by the same measure, it’s encouraging to know that measures are being taken, especially bold measures, to get things turned around and on target.

*Ouch.