Reboots and remakes have become common ground in Hollywood, with 2012 being one of the biggest examples as we revisited the worlds of Spider-Man, Total Recall, 21 Jump Street, Dark Shadows, and now we return to the world of Judge Dredd. Dredd is the product of a British comic series known ad 2000 AD which started in 1977, and our first taste of it in mainstream USA was the 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone. The film was incredibly cheesey, awful writing, boring action, but at least it had Rob Schneider. With that first effort people thought we may never see the Judge appear in film again, but they were wrong.
Dredd has been in the works since 2006 being constructed as a film to separate the character from the 95 film as much as possible. It came in with a $45 Million dollar budget and is one of the few 3D films to actually film is 3D cameras and now suffer post conversion. The film itself is one of the rare occurances where a reboot works so well that is can be used as an example on how the process should be done. The plot’s primary focus is on a slum mega building known as Peach Trees where Dredd and a rookie judge by the name of Anderson are there to investigate a triple homicide. Before that portion is reached however, there is a nice opening chase scene involving Dredd to give you an idea just how the character is and how he performs his duty. Just like the comic Karl Urban plays Dredd 100% straight laced, stating the obvious, following the letter of the law, and being an unbending dick of a cop. There are certainly one liners and not all of them are great, but Urban shows off just how good of a character actor he is bringing the most recognizable traits of Judge Dredd to life.
On the other hand his rookie that he must evaluate is a mutant who possesses psychic powers and is seen by the Hall of Justice as a possible asset, so she is given to Dredd to evaluate and grade to see if she is worthy. Anderson is essentially the moral compass of the film, she isn’t cold hearted like Dredd as she displays emotions based on the events around her whether it be interrogation, her first kill, or any of the other events in the film that would rattle anyone else who isn’t like Dredd. Olivia Thirlby pulls this character off well and I felt was a good contrast to Urban’s role and the two judges worked extremely well together. I had read many reviews saying she hardly uses her previously mentioned psychic powers making you wonder why they mentioned them in the first place, but I can’t disagree more as every opportunity where it made sense she was using these powers effectively which also provides one of the coolest scenes when she enters someone’s head.
To get back to the plot once the judges are in Peach Trees they discover the killings were more then likely done by a gang lead by Ma-Ma who emerged in Peach Trees and quickly took over the floors of the mega building until all were under her control. Some things take place that I don’t want to give away and the building enters lockdown trapping Dredd and Anderson in there with Ma-Ma’s entire gang. This is where the film has drawn a lot of comparison to The Raid, with the concept of battling up floors to reach the main objective. That is pretty much where the comparisons end as the treatment of the plot certainly feels different to that of The Raid and the action is obviously different as there is no real hand to hand combat. Even if people want to draw more comparisons between the films I still feel both can exist and be entertaining pieces of work enjoyed by fans of the action genre.
One other cool point to this movie is a drug that is pushed in the film called Slow Mo, which when inhaled causes your brain to temporarily feel as if time is moving at 1% speed. It provides a lot of cool slow motion effects that won’t feel like all the other times you saw that used (300, or any other Zack Snyder film). I felt the pacing of the film overall was pretty good, there are a few slow spots here and there but overall it never felt too boring and at 95 minutes it was the perfect length of time. The action is brutal, bloody, and satisfying as Dredd kicks a lot of ass and shows off his intelligence towards a plan of attack. There are certainly times where you feel the odds are stacked up against the Judges, making you curious to see how Dredd pulls through. The film is certainly set up as a controlled environment to get you to know the character before it opens up into any potential future films. It is truly unfortunate that box office performance is so poor for this film because I truly feel it’s something worth seeing and deserves a sequel. DVD sales can always help in the end, as some films have been driven to 2nd installments based on those sales alone, however the fact that this film will fall to the wayside is unfortunate.
It’s not just good because it’s a comic book film, it also works as a stellar action film and the characters it creates are likable and enjoyable. The only negative I can really say is it felt like Ma-Ma was never a true challenge to Dredd. Sure the entire plot of Dredd vs 200 floors of gang members is going to put the odds of success for Dredd at a low percentage, but Ma-Ma herself just felt like someone who would be totally fucked if she went head to head with him. You never felt for a moment that if it comes down to Dredd and Ma-Ma that Dredd would be in serious danger, it felt more like once that climax happens Ma-Ma is fucked.
Dredd comes with a high recommendation as seeing the film is truly and enjoyable experience. I can’t comment on the 3D because we saw a normal showing, but however you choose to see the movie please go see it. It’s packed with action, creative cinematography, and likable characters. It’s a nice last dose of comic book films for 2012 and should not be missed.