Dredd movie review
Review I haven't seen The Raid, the skirmish-in-a-skyscraper flick so many Dredd reviewers have compared with this latest attempt to bring 2000AD's favourite anti-hero to the big screen. But I have been reading the comic on and off since 1977 - more on than off; it went a bit crap in the 1990s - and Judge Dredd remains a weekly joy, especially when penned by co-creator John Wagner.
And I have to admit, I have a soft spot for the 1995 Sylvester Stallone vehicle. Like it or loathe it, you can't argue that the move got the punked-up visual style of the comic, defined primarily by co-creator Carlos Ezquerra and fellow artist Mike McMahon, off pat.
I am the law
Dredd presents an altogether bleaker, more grimy view, a 2012 take on the future rather than one from 1980. With its widely spaced cityblocks, low-rise areas threaded with multi-lane motorways, dawn mist and harsh sunlight, Dredd's Mega City One look more like a developing world metropolis than the hi-tech New York version from 2000AD.
Out goes the spikey hair, safety pins and kneepads, and in come hoodies and puffer jackets, sweaty singlets, gold chains and tracksuits. It's kids who can't pull their pants up properly who scare adults today, not the punk rockers of the 1970s, and Dredd draws a bead accordingly.
It's the future and it's urban, innit?
Dredd's Mega-City One is more low-rise than high
To me it looks wrong, too far from the source material, too close to the now. The cits here could be inserted without change into any movie set in late 20th Century LA - Latin America or Los Angeles, take your pick. The decor is low-tech. The concrete bare or shit-stained. It doesn't feel futuristic at all. The action's setting, a megastructure called Peach Trees - it should have been Howard Marx Block - is more housing estate than the house of tomorrow.
But it's perhaps a fair call on the part of the film's makers. Dredd's dystopia is less culturally centred than the one depicted in 2000AD, the better to appeal to audiences across the globe, many of whom will live in places not so very different to this. And the truth is, we've seen the 2000AD Mega-City One too often in movies since, from Blade Runner onwards. Neon washed, rain splashed cityscapes have been done to death.
Likewise, as a fan, I don't like Dredd's pared back uniform, a dust-covered black glorified flack jacket that, yes, might be more practical than a full Eagle and pads, but simply isn't iconic in the way the comic's uniform is. And with all the judges as grubby as the cits, it's hard to accept this is an elite force.
Perpspotting: punks out, hoodies in. Innit
At least Karl Urban never takes his helmet off - there's an in-shadow, back of the head shot early on - the crew were wise enough to understand that, like Batman's cowl and Spider-man's mask, Dredd's helmet is his face.
A colleague enthusiastically told me Dredd will take me right back to the 1970s, with the kind of punchy, violent stories they told back then. And they were only five pages long, too. At just shy of two hours, Dredd isn't long either, its welcome is not overstayed and then some the way last two Dark Knight movies were. Director Pete Travis keeps it nicely tight.
The plot, such as it is - cops isolated and hunted down; High Noon in a high-rise - is straightforward, providing a justification for the action and little else. There are plenty of things fans will regonise - 'Muties out' and Chopper graffiti; Lawgivers with multiple ammo types, and which explode, devastatingly, when used by a civilian - but the backstory is kept to the back. Viewers new to Dredd's world will get the gist without any who, what or why interrupting the action.
The boys and girls in blue, kind of
Which is handled by Travis with appropriate intensity, though none of the black humour that informs most comic book violence, Judge Dredd's in particular. This is one bloody movie, its 18 certificate justified. It's sure to be cut for domestic viewing.
It JUST CANT be Dredd without big Shoulder-pads and flying cars!
How right youare Sir!--Except for the 3D which was nice to look at, there is almost nothing to recommend it -apart from some excellent cinematography and the choice of actors- but that aside, what honestly is there about this story that’s even half-way related to the Dredd we know and love, eh? except maybe his helmet, and perhaps the way he talks and also moves and quite a lot of the things he does?
But, apart from: the cinematography/casting/the-way-Dredd,-looks,-sounds,-moves-and-behaves,- there is nothing of merit for the fan or the casual viewer,
unless you count the powerful and relatable character-arc that Anderson goes through, the brilliantly-realised bent Judges and of course Lena Headey ( but that doesn’t count because she’s brilliant in everything, isn’t she?).
But, if you leave out all that,- then what is left, except a more-or-less typical, gory, action flick with an engaging premise which is so utterly uncompromising in execution that it powerfully llustrates exactly how lame and safe the rest of the genre has become? That’s what you’re left with, isn’t it?
"What’s wrong with a Dredd film that’s a ‘gory, action flick with an engaging premise which is so utterly uncompromising in execution that it powerfully llustrates exactly how lame and safe the rest of the genre has become?’"..you say?
Well clearly this reviewer knows what’s wrong…
No flying cars!
Where were they? I have never been so disappointed in my life! I go to a Dredd film to see one thing and one thing only and that’s some cars with no wheels and AIR IN BETWEEN THE VEHICLE AND THE GROUND… All this ‘story’ and ‘art-direction’ and ‘character-development’ and ‘genuine excitement’ and ‘pushing the envelope of Action Sci-Fi towards an art form in itself’ may fool some of the others but thankfully not us.
We're REAL FANS: and the cars must fly or we won’t buy.
I didnt even realise Peckham was a real place that existed outside of "Only Fools and Horses" . Now ill be travelling 1 1/2 hours across London to get to a 2d showing of dread. Drokk this 3D nightmare
i guessed as much from the trailer
as soon as i seen the trialer i was disapointed. it looks too real. dredd is ment to be OTT.
The stallone version may have been rubbish, but it got the look right. this clearly is an action movie, with dredd thrown in.
bit of a shame really. dredd could be a good film
Ha ha! When I started reading this comment, I thought you were likening the new MC1 to Peckham!
I'm a 2000AD fan and totally despised Stallone's attempt. Mega City is a dystopia, and Judges are outnumbered, so how would you portray the world? The gritty, grotty dystopia portrayed in this film fits the bill perfectly as the gaudy shiny happy things that make other SF totally fail in my opinion, and makes them look, quite frankly, terrible. The film provides a perfect setting of Mega City One. Sure there could be a few more notions of 'future' put in, but that's just a matter of budget and in reality don't add anything meaningful to a film other than opportunities for product placement.
Yes, there are some things I would have made better. Dredd's bike could be a bit more of a monster - some hybrid of a Harley Davidson and the Batman Tumbler batbike minus the ridiculous gold trimmings in the comic would have been much more awesome than the Japanese tin that was used in the film. The lawgiver also didn't look mean enough to dish out Dredd law. That said, the crappy eagle and chain on the judge's uniform being removed and his general look to a more practical flak jacket, is actually worthwhile - even in the comic it looks unrealistic, unwieldy and crap. Similarly with the battle scarred helmet and dusty uniform just adds to how Judges are fighting a never ending battle - so I think 2012 Dredd makes him look better, more realistic and more potent as a result.
My view is that a lot of the aspects of the comic were well placed, and well thought out too, from the chopper posters, to the portrayal of fatties and so forth. The story didn't really lend itself to telling the story of Mega City, so only parting shots were shown to allow the viewers to concentrate on what's happening in the block. Tony Smith's view that Garland has pared down Dredd to any commando tough cop is ridiculous. What is Dredd other than the epitome of exactly that? The one liners were delivered, without being made into the climax of a ridiculous set piece as are cliches epitomised by Bond. Dredd delivers one liners in the dry, laconic and as a matter of fact manner we know and love, and that portrays his personality better as a result. The ending of the film is also typical Dredd: to paraphrase not to ruin it 'just another day in the office, ma'am' - short, sharp, succinct and 100% pure unadulterated Dredd.
Anderson's portrayal is admirable too. A slightly more fragile judge with a different take on the law than Dredd is apparent, and quite frankly great even though somewhat different (better IMO) than the comic. From the visit into the mind to the 'wait' sequence, she develops in the film from a fragile no-hoper to a deliciously mean mind fucker, and in the process begins to overrule Dredd 'He's a victim, not a perp'. Naturally Dredd mostly gets his way (third option: attack) that any other Judge wouldn't logically choose and only Dredd would, could and does.
As a big fan of Drive, the artistic breaks shown in the slo-mo sequences were brilliant to give the viewer a totally unexpected, beautiful and welcome break from the relentlessness of the film. The director kept it tight and sweet without any lingering, yet in the process the artistic violence makes John Woo's best look like Bambi. The story is deeper than a simple take the block, but the fact it is so tight and doesn't linger too long in back stories that will only confuse non-Dredd readers leaves it open to make Dredd the franchise that he deserves. That said, the story is complete, with plenty of points of views to keep it interesting. Garland has made a story that isn't Garland-esque and generally slow and boring, but genuine and relentless.
Again, I disagree with Tony Smith - this film has not been made for the mass market at all. You have to like violence and gore. You have to appreciate Dredd is a cornier toon than Dirty Harry. You have to appreciate beautiful cinematography and you have to be able to think outside of the comic and into an original perception of Dredd's world if your a fan. But I think it's all done so brilliantly, it's actually in my view, an even more gritty and realistic view of Dredd's world than the comic.
Lastly Karl Urban's intimate knowledge having grown up himself reading Dredd does give the character the treatment he deserves. In fact, as an actor he's got into Dredd's carcass so well this is an award-winning performance - you don't really need to say more than that. He never takes the helmet off apart from the aforementioned shadow shot where he's putting it on. The chin, the voice, the grimace and Dredd's single minded 'Justice' and dryness is all perfect.
So no, Tony, I totally disagree with your critique. Justice has finally been done on film to the ultimate law giver. It's gritty, relentless, beautiful and makes absolutely bugger all attempt to appease itself to the mass market by fully embracing the violence and gore deserving an 18. It is so unexpectedly good and so astonishingly exceeding my expectations it really is fantastic.
Lets hope something similar will be done to my personal favourite 2000AD character: Rogue Trooper.