My first brush with the comic book character “Judge Dredd” was when he tangled with Batman in an inter-company one-shot “Judgment in Gotham”. Then on, I took a look at several stories that depicted the character such as “Return of Rico”, “Judge Death” and “Robot Wars”, but admittedly while charmed by its character as a futuristic “Dirty Harry” with a little mystery as to what his race was, I never really became a huge fan of the stories with the character.
This 2012 film “Dredd”, directed by Pete Travis with a screenplay by Alex Garland is based on the characters from the comic book series and is totally unrelated to the film “Judge Dredd” with Sylvester Stallone (but it does follow some of its groundwork-”DNA guns” etc.). This film is more faithful to the source material when it comes to tempo and mood, and the film introduces us to Judge Anderson who has proven to be a significant part of the Dredd storylines. While the 1995 film had Judge Hershey, hints of the robots wars and Rico as part of its core premise, which captured references to the source material, it screamed “Demolition Man” all over again, and never was unable to capture the correct, enigmatic, raw, gritty mood of the character.
The U.S. is now a wasteland called the Cursed Earth, and on the vast wasteland lies Mega City One, a violent city where there are about 17,000 crimes reported each day, and the only force for order are called the ‘judges‘, who act as judge, jury and executioner. The film begins with Judge Dredd (Karl Urban, Doom) engaging a group of “slow-mo” junkies on chase which ends with them being annihilated. Called back to base, Dredd had been tasked by the Chief Judge to evaluate a rookie called Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who has failed recent tests in becoming a pure judge, but is given another chance because of her psychic powers. When a homicide occurs in the drug-controlled area called “Peach Tree”, Dredd and Anderson respond and was able to arrest Kay (Wood Harris), one of the right-hand men of Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, 300), an ex-prostitute turned drug lord. It seems like what was supposed to be an easy grab and run, becomes a fight for survival as Ma-Ma orders the Judges’ execution to prevent Kay’s interrogation. But Dredd has ideas of his own….
The first thing I noticed with “Dredd” was the eerie similarity to Gareth Evans’ martial arts action-thriller “The Raid: Redemption” when it came to its core premise and set designs. All similarities end there however, as the screenplay brings the central focus to Dredd and Anderson, and the world in which they work in. One would do well to see this film as a different story to the character, as it never adapted any of the major story arcs in the series, but instead introduces us to a mutant named Anderson and a villain named Ma-Ma.
What I liked about this film which also renders it totally different from the 1995 film, is the fact that Dredd’s face remained concealed inside a helmet, giving the character an aura of mystery as in the comic book series. Karl Urban made for an interesting character, all business and makes the law of the Cursed Earth his own way of life. There really is nothing special with the film’s plot. The story was there to deliver on the action sequences, filled with gory and bloody details, accompanied with explosions in a very gritty and gloomy, shadowy atmosphere. The direction was able to capture the right mood and tempo as I would’ve imagined from the comic book series. Dredd was the kind of futuristic cop that seemed to have lived under a very harsh environment, and to make him a little easier to connect with, he felt like a futuristic “Dirty Harry Callahan”.
The film’s flow and momentum was carried with the number of action sequences. They were gritty and rough, which made them feel a little more authentic. The film wasn’t all your usual shoot ‘em up though, the situation in “Peach Tree” allowed Dredd and Anderson to get to know one another, at least, as much as the little time they had allowed. The script also tried to inject some wit and humor from Dredd’s sarcastic one-liners to bring forth a character who had a very mean streak in him. What really became the film’s weakness was the fact that Lena Headey (as much as she tried) “Ma-Ma” character wasn’t sold so well into the screenplay. Headey had the right look, proper style, but the character just did not work for me as someone that could match Dredd’s very rough and determined exterior. There were also some odd transitional stages when Kay and Anderson had a very compromising psychic moment, but they weren’t exactly too much that it would’ve hampered the film.
“Dredd” may not be the kind of movie that would be memorable, nor something that can define comic book movie adaptations, but I have to admit, there was something about it that I enjoyed. It was gritty, mean and definitely violent; which made it a very cool experience. The blood and gore also helped in its expression of brutal action and was rightly rated “R”. I almost felt a little sorry that I did not see this on 3D, (it was obviously made for 3D looking at some of the shots). I could imagine some of the violent sequences to be much more effective with the enhancement of 3D. It was a better rendition than the 1995 film (despite Diane Lane as Judge Hershey) to the cult comic classic character “Judge Dredd”. Not the definitive “Dredd”, but certainly is a good film for fans of the comic book series.
I remember Stan Lee once saying that "Every comic is someone's first". Mine and where it was? I was a young boy sitting on my bed with my brother reading Judge Dredd #16 where Dredd has to find Fink Angel. It was such a weird story with a mutant and his pet rat running around the city, a flashback to Fink's childhood. For all I know this story is hated by fans or looked down on for being an older book when better ones were made. Years … more
***1/2 out of **** Judge Dredd is a powerhouse comic book action hero. Defined by his "man of few words" attitude and surprisingly elaborate set of skills, he exists in a futuristic world populated by typically intriguing ideas and an ever-increasing crime rate that just cannot be remedied. In 1995, the character was brought to the screen for the first time via actor Sylvester Stallone; whom most die-hard fans felt played the part unconvincingly. With comic book movies, the … more
For many, the 1995 Sylvester Stallone movie was perhaps their first and only exposure to the character of Judge Dredd. Originally created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra for British comic book 2000AD in 1977, Dredd had garnered a loyal cult following through the years, but the Stallone film brought the character to the attention of a much wider audience, particularly in America. While that movie had much to applaud from a technical and visual point of view, it was ultimately crippled … more
Star Rating: One of the biggest complaints fans had with 1995’s Judge Dredd was that the title character, played by Sylvester Stallone, wasn’t wearing his helmet for much of the film. This went against what was established in the original comic strip by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra; you saw nothing more than his nose and mouth. I haven’t so much as glanced at a single panel of the strip. I have, however, seen Dredd 3D, a remake of sorts. … more
So much of DREDD unfolds like his law enforcement exploits from the trades. Mark my words: as comic book adaptations go, you’re not likely to see anything this faithful in your lifetime. (For the record, you’re reading the thoughts of a tremendous comic book fan – started reading them in the early 1970’s, in fact – as well as a connoisseur of most comic-inspired films. If nothing else, I’d like to think I know what I’m … more
Quick Tip by Pine_Bluff_Variant.
November 05, 2012
Judge. Jury. Executioner. Way better than the Stallone version. Karl Urban takes up the mantle of one of the biggest British-produced comic characters, and nails it. I cannot comment on the similarities this film supposedly have to The Raid: Redemption as I have not seen that film, but I can say this is one of the most satisfying (and gory!) action films of the year. the minimal use of CGI (if there was CGI used, it wasn't upfront and was integrated very well) aids the gritty … more
The comic hero/facist of the future takes on a new rookie and must escape a high rise tenement where a drug lordess and her gangs declare war on the two of them. Taut and high action without the camp and cheese of the Stallone film, but doesn't touch on as much of the life and politics that the city faces as I had hoped.