Monday, September 24, 2012


It is so very, very rare that I walk out of a movie and say, "man, I should've seen that in 3-D." Never happens, ever. It's too ridiculous to me to even think about.

It happened last night.

I am a fan of the long-running British comic Judge Dredd, which presents a post-apocalyptic America which is a radioactive wasteland, with the exception of, I beleve it's three, huge "Mega-Cities" that sprawl over the land. Dredd patrols Mega-City One, which encompasses most of the East Coast. The Judges are a para-military police force, serving as Judge, Jury and, if needed, Executioner, and Dredd is their most legendary officer.

The comic has always been presented with a very wry sense of humor, and as a piece of social commentary through parody. Yes, the Judges represent a oppressive police state, there's no getting around it, but the comic presents a society so rife with debauchery, corruption and selfishness (as a thin parody of modern America) that you can't help but think it's kind of badass when Dredd puts his jackboot down.

It should be made clear...the fascist society of Mega-City and Dredd is a relatively "harmless" (in terms of a sci-fi/fantasy environment for VERY hard-boiled crime stories) one. The oppressed are "lawbreakers," criminals of various stripe, with ludicrously over-the-top punishments for various crimes. "5 months in an Iso-Cube for littering citizen!" You won't see Dredd manhandling anyone over race, religion or sexual preference, for example. In fact many stories have had Dredd crack down of Judges who step over the line.

I go into all this because I LOVED the new film version of the property, DREDD, but I acknowledge that it presents the police state of Mega-City without this element of parody that softens the harder edge. The world of Mega-City is also much, much less full-bore sci-fi than the comics have ever presented (read - No flying cars). Some will be put off by that, and some will find it a "betrayal" of the character. Me, I think they found the right way to portray Dredd; make the perps he's hunting so awful, you just jump into the action, and let it work in that vein.

And DREDD is a pretty kick-ass action film. Very, very, very violent. Not just in a "lots of people get shot" way, but in a "gore" way. It's not for the squeamish or faint of heart. It's also propulsive, and wonderfully inventive, visually. The use of a drug called "Slo-Mo," that slows perception of the world down to 10% of usual, is a really great visual hook for the story. Those sequences are really cool and I wish I'd seen them in 3-D.

It's also got the winning card in the performance of Karl Urban as Judge Joe Dredd. Even if all the elements you may have loved from the comic aren't on display (although there is a really chuckle-worth moment when Dredd poses infront of an American flag), Urban is absolutely spot-on with his portrayal of Mega-City's greatest Judge. I mean spot-Drokking-on. You also heard correctly, he never takes off the helmet, and director Pete Travis really does make wonderful use of the costume piece. Many of the shots that took my breath away (as a fan of the character) simply used the reflective surface of the visor as a contrast to Urban's grizzled chin.

I also love that Urban just gets Dredd's sense of humor. His pitch-black, fatalistic sarcastic side. The character's made for one-liners, and Urban does just enough to be enjoyable, while not enough to start sounding like a self-parody (Looking at you, Expendables 2).

Although, I did think about this before I went to bed last night...You couldn't have Dredd say "Drokk it" once? Just once? I mean you gave us a nice, underplayed, "I am the law" that was fantastic. I did miss Dredd's favorite curse.

I also loved Olivia Trilby as Judge Anderson, who is a trainee Judge assigned to Dredd, and gifted with psychic powers. The character isn't the free-spirit, who likes to push Dredd's buttons, that we know from the comic...yet. There is a nice scene near the end where we see how she's developing, and I think it does tie to the character as we know her.

Lena Headey (Game of Thrones) is virtually unrecognizable as 'Ma‑Ma' Madrigal, who "owns" the 200-story "block" that Dredd is trapped inside. I found her absolutely repellant, which is pretty much the idea. The callous cruelty is, well, pretty much part and parcel of a Dredd villain.

The bottom line is that I had a great time with this movie, because I know who Dredd is. I understand the mindset and concept behind the character to not get in a twist over the...let's be honest, disturbing...overt politics of the thing. Your mileage may definitely vary.

As a post-script....

I think it's pretty obvious that this film, overall, is a MUCH better adaptation of the material than the Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd. That said, the Stallone version's Mega-City One was MUCH closer to the environment presented in the comics, and, God help me, the costume was actually probably closer. In fact, I think the first 15 minutes or so of Stallone's film is a really good adaptation...then it goes to hell in a basket.

Urban gets it by a mile.

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