Good news! It wasn’t Dreddful!
In the run up to the film, like any other 2000AD fan I was worried. I was worried in the same way that a comic book/video game fan would be when there’s a movie adaptation of their favourite, yet not as worried as I am concerning the next Dragonball Evolution movie. I fear that film more than death.
So how was it? I know. This review is dragging already. Let me get some tea and I’ll be with you.
There we go. No more procrastination.
The cult legend Judge Dredd, in his latest movie rendition, takes on the examiner capacity as he takes fellow comic-book character Andersonout on a parole patrol to assess her abilities as a potential Judge recruit. The patrol quickly turns sour and the two, the seasoned veteran of the law and the rookie law enforcer, are trapped in a fight to bring down a block filled with notorious gang members who harbour a secret that affects the whole of Mega City One.
Within minutes of the start of this movie I was drawn in to the world of Mega City One. What I saw in the trailers that gave me pause for concern was the modern style of the film. Watching the film itself brushed that away. For one reason, 2000AD was always quite modern in its sci-fi styling. It was always some kind of futuristic edge on the grim and grungy side of urban life in the seventies/eighties – way back when the comic started. The beginning introduced us to the wasteland of America, to the walls and then to Mega City One itself. The view wasn’t immediately of the run down streets but of the city from above. It’s hugely important to emphasise just how big mega City One was without just restricting it to the following scenes of poverty, petty violence and heavy urbanisation on the street level. The lighting gave it a tired dirty look which emphasised the (almost) lawlessness of the city. The city didn’t look as futuristic as Blade Runner, but more like the Warriors or Fort Apache.
What Judge Dredd did that I haven’t seen in a science fiction movie for some time was to reflect and showcase a portion of a futuristic landscape. I LOVE sci-fi and one of the major influences of my glorious intellectual hard ons for it is the culture of humanity and how it’s progressed, how it’s become stifled, sub-cultures, how much life has changed and the influences upon the environment/background that came from nineteen seventies/eighties society.
The makers of Dredd got it correct. They captured the feel of a 2000AD comic.
I felt that Dredd’s actor (Karl Urban) was Dredd. He captured Dredd. Although Sylvester Stallone played an excellent Dredd, I feel that the emotional breadth he portrayed wasn’t the Jedge’s idiom.
Yes, I’m comparing the two movies. It’s inevitable really, almost purely because everybody who had an interest in Judge Dredd had qualms about that one and I think that most of us had, as I said, worries with this one too. To that extent, everyone who’s everyone who loves Judge Dredd will complain about the face of Stallone. Yes, I’m going to talk about the helm of Dredd too. Urban didn’t take off the helm, Stallone did. I won’t go into why this happens but I will say that fans everywhere will be very pleased that he didn’t. They want Dredd. Not Judge Demolition Man.
Another item of this film that I enjoyed was the plot concerning the weapon of choice for Judges. Its capabilities were explained to the audiences not through dialogue but through actions. It didn’t explain all that it could do in a contrived and obvious set up and then rely on that one capability later on in the film in a dramatically plot-important twist that saves everyone in the world. It was just there. It did its jobs and nothing more.
I loved Anderson. Olivia Thirlby did extremely well as her. It was accurate and well played. Clearly she was cast because of her skill and similarity to the character and not as some petty eye candy for cinema goers. What I particularly loved was that her background wasn’t played upon to a degree that you became sick of it. In fact it wasn’t even a plot point. Her abilities were used to just the right amount and in the right way. Although her femininity was brought up – it was used to create the threat of violence towards a woman. it’s possible that it’s just my chivalry acting up but the tension was there – I never felt that she was underplayed to the cliché of a damsel in distress who got fethed up because she was a female. There was enough foundation work in this film to portray her as a capable person.
SPOILER ALERT: there was the one part when she was taken hostage and abducted, but she saved herself and saved Dredd’s life when she returned. Having said that, it wasn’t taken too far as to be outwardly clichéd feminism like Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Between Anderson and Dredd, the two characters were clearly paired to both please fans AND to create buffers for each other. The script between the two allowed each other to talk, ask and answer questions and showcase the others personality and feelings on particular or hypothetical subjects. This was done very well.
The main villain, purpose made for the film, Ma-ma, was superb as an antagonist. She reigned by influence and power through cash and violent power. She was portrayed to be violent and assertive enough for you to know that she was in power, that she was the villain and that she could rip out eyeballs and cut someone open without flinching and was intelligent enough to make tactical decisions concerning the law and in firefight conditions.
SPOILER ALERT: She wasn’t all too powerful though. She was human. Ma-ma wasn’t so overpowered and that a single bullet put her down quickly, she retreated to a safe house and even hired help from a group of dirty Judges. Which I thought was going to cause the obvious action hero problems but that suspicion was put down very very quickly.
When the tower block closed up I couldn’t help but think that this restricted the plot and characters to the one area of the vast expanse of Mega City One that was available to them. Maybe it was down to budget? It gave the film one direction to what was going to happen and narrowed the scope of possibilities that might occur.
Another issue that I want to address is Dredd’s character. Although night conclusive, there were two moments where I felt that Dredd wasn’t completely Dredd. Dredd let one perpetrator off on a warning for vagrancy. Very un-Dredd, yes, but on his return he did decide to take him in. Another moment saw him kill out of vengeance than by the justice that he is sworn to uphold.
There was one piece of attention to detail that made me grin. One character has eye augmentations. As anybody who looks at the basic biology of such things would tell you, there’s always the chance of irritation of the skin or rejection of bionics from the body. Indeed it was so, this charming little techie (who looks like somebody I know) had puffy red eyelids – a sure sign of the irritation that comes from poor treatment. *Squee*
Dredd says at one point ‘I am the law’. Any fan will tell you that that makes them gooey. This particular moment wasn’t overdone, but was enough to make a few nerds in the audience squirm in their seats. I think I saw one forty year old man squeakily slide off his seat from how wet he was.
To conclude, I was greatly surprised by Dredd. I would go as far as to say that it’s superior to the 1995 rendition but I still don’t think it’s as good as it could have been. If it was given more of a budget I think that so much more fun could have been had, but that again is a double edged sword; if there’s too much budget to play with, you run the risk of making a terrible movie because you’re just throwing money at special effects and possibly ruining the factor of ignoring plot and character.
[The original article can be found here: http://www.nerdsraging.com/2012/09/24/dredd-movie-review%5D