'But Dredd is a Judge. And Judges are not ordinary men'
Dredd himself, of course, makes a terse statement or too, but there are none of the pithy one-liners that would become the mainstay of action hero dialogue in the 1980s. Or of the short, sharp declarations of intent that established Dredd in the early strips as the personification of the law not merely a man with a gun killing to uphold it. Even his 'I am the law' catchphrase is played down.
That perhaps is the one real flaw here. In attempting to avoid the comedy - intentional and unintentional - of the previous film and, yes, of the strip too, writer Alex Garland has taken something away from the source's personality. And of the character's too. In the first half of the film especially, there's a sense that, but for the helmet, this could be any tough cop or commando yomping through the concrete corridors, gun in hand.
Not a mopad or ten-wheel truck to be seen
Urban makes a bold stab at the Judge, but Garland gives him so little to go on. He has the sneer right, and the raspy, Eastwood-esque voice so many fans read into the strip, but script and direction fail to give Dredd the presence he has in the strip. 2000AD's Dredd may be nicknamed 'Old Stoney Face' by his fellow Judges, but he's no blank monolith. He is here. It's a testament to Urban that he manages to invest the character with any personality at all.
But the action and momentum pick up in the second half, after a stunning set-piece in which Lena Headey's Ma-Ma - a slightly spaced, more visceral version of her Game of Thrones Queen Bitch of the Universe persona - machine guns the shit out an entire level of Peach Trees, and the first and only time we see some BFGs of the kind that might appear in the strip. Dredd gets to operate on his own - which is when he's always best - and can use smarts as well as brawn and marksmanship to mete out judgement.
The last part of the movie begins to feel like a real Judge Dredd story, with the character taking centre stage, more judges getting involved and sidekick rookie Judge Anderson getting to flex her abilities and skills too, and do a little more than trail after Dredd. Only the anticlimactic ending lets it down.
The chin's the thing
This is no glossy megabudget blockbuster of the kind Marvel is churning out these days, but a taut, low-budget, dark, urban thriller. It sure as heck isn't SF, the drug McGuffin - called Slo-Mo, a time-dilating narcotic that makes for some very cute cinematography, courtesy of Anthony Dod Mantle - notwithstanding. Viewers expecting bright lights and spacecraft will be disappointed.
Dod Mantle does well with the 3D tech too, though it never rises above gimmick status. I'd trade the showers of lights, blood and glass splinters for a more colourful and brighter image any day. You won't miss out waiting for the 2D version.
I'm a Judge Dredd fan, and this isn't a fan's movie. For me, that's not good, but for the movie, it's the right way to go. It bravely - in part out of budget necessity - avoids that old sci-fi clichés, the dystopia, and plays down the hi-tech too. The result is a realist hyper-violent thriller intended to be accessible to a broader audience than SF buffs and fortysomethings who've been reading 2000AD since they were kids. It's the most un-comic strip comic strip adaptation that has ever been made. It's just a shame that, in the process, it has taken much of the personality out of its titular hero. ®
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.