Spoiler Alert – This Post May Give Things Away
The Set Up
Judge Dredd is one of the more famous comic books under the 2000 A.D. banner, I’m not a reader but I grew up knowing it was fairly dark. I never felt the 1995 Sylvester Stallone film hit the right tone so I was intrigued about this one.
Some time in the next 100 years civilisation is forced to gather together into Mega Cities. Mega City One sprawls across much of North Eastern USA. Huge tower blocks 100 stories tall containing entire communities dot the landscape. Crime is rife, law and order having broken down in the chaos. Justice is now exclusively dispensed by ‘Judges’, super-cops acting as on-the-spot judge, jury and if necessary, executioner.
Among the most fearsome is Judge Dredd. He’s been tasked with assessing a rookie candidate to see if she is worth training up. They respond to a murder report at one of these blocks tmo discover a gang has completely taken over the block and they’re dealing a new narcotic.
All of this you learn in the opening 15-20 minutes.
Okay, this is different to the 1995 Stallone film!
There’s a realism to the main city which is similar to District 9. It’s like a modern city but bigger, more run-down and crime-ridden and with these huge structures dotted all over it. Obviously the action then switches entirely to the block, which is one way to cut down the massive special effects demands of a future city!
(This is where the spoilers begin).
Yes I was a little cynical of the move to keep it within the block but it does actually work. Dredd and Andersen have to fight their way up the building which lends it an almost claustrophobic feel despite the size of the place.
I thought Karl Urban played a much better Dredd than did Stallone, I’ve not read the comics but I’ve seen enough excerpts over the years to be able to figure out that Urban’s Dredd is much closer to the original than Stallone’s. For one thing he never removed his helmet, just as Dredd has never done in the comics. You just get this gruff, stubble-chinned grimace. He’s not supposed to reveal a lot of personality, that’s the whole idea, the masked man of justice by whatever means necessary.
Olivia Thirlby was good as Anderson on the journey from raw rookie. I’ve no idea if this was a character from the books. Having her as a psychic was an interesting touch, made it a little bit X-Men perhaps, but at least most had rarely encountered the like before. Her interaction with the prisoner in the interrogation was classic! Good to see Wood Harris again too, he was Avon Barksdale in The Wire which I watched a lot of last year.
One of the minus-marks was when they did the little routine of the kid wandering into the corridor, Judges wave him back, the Bad Guys shoot the place to pieces, kid wanders out unharmed. I mean really? It would’ve worked as a joke or in a kid-friendly film, but it just didn’t fit here.
I thought the 3D effects were really well done, it was more immersive and ‘normal’ than other films I’ve seen recently where they play 3D tricks and fly things at the screen, even including whole scenes of it purely because they were able to. In this it was more that they blended into the action and it was the action your focus was on, which is exactly how it should be.
The real effects were in the Slo-Mo sections, the drug makes you experience time 10x more slowly than real time and they showed us what that would be like – fantastic in 3D! Also a great way to torture or murder somebody, say by dosing them up on this stuff and throwing them off a 100-storey building, which is what prompted the Judges to arrive in the first place. Nasty.
I don’t know if it was the film or the cinema (Cineworld Yeovil) but the sound and music were very loud, too loud at times. It got uncomfortable in places.
If you like gangster vs cop movies, darker (non-Superman) comic-book movies, or anything with an underdog vs bad guys theme, this film is for you.