Saturday, September 15, 2012

Movie Review - Dredd 3D

Ever since the embarrassment that was Stallone's version of Judge Dredd in 1995, fans of the futuristic lawman have been hoping that one day things would be set straight. Now, they can rest at ease. A decent, faithful adaptation of the comic legend has finally been made.

Dredd 3D is dark, gritty and shocking. From the moment hard-ass cop Dredd hits the streets it's bloody mayhem and violent destruction. It's a faithful adaptation that puts the previous incarnation to absolute shame and proves that throwing large sums of money at something doesn't necessarily give you a quality product.

Pretty much every review I've read about Dredd 3D has been consistently positive about the film. They've all commented on Urban's excellent performance as the titular anti-hero, and Thirlby's similarly good portrayal of rookie Anderson. The slow motion filmography has impressed, and the tight narrative has shown that you don't need overly-complicated plots and subplots (a la Dark Knight Rises) to tell a story.

Urban nails the character of Dredd perfectly. The gravelly voice is spot on, as is the way he carries himself. Dredd is a terrifying sight to behold – tough and violent justice embodied in a single man who's as hard as nails. Not only that, he keeps his helmet on. Stallone, on the other hand, played Dredd as a bit of a ponce. I'm sure he didn't mean to, but in trying to play down the violence of the comic (to keep the film's rating down), he diluted the character of Dredd so much he came across as something akin to a florist – as my friend aptly put it – which is simply not Dredd. Plus after fifteen minutes he took the helmet off (an absolute no-no when it comes to this character).

Dredd's home of Mega-City One is a truly terrifying place. Worse than any present-day crime-infested slum city I can think of. Criminals are everywhere and the Judges are hopelessly under-resourced (as Dredd casually mentions to Anderson, only 6% of crimes are ever dealt with by the law. The rest go unpunished and undetected). It's not a place I'd ever want to visit.

The comic's vision of MC-1 has tended to play with a high-concept futuristic look, with gleaming mile-high skyscrapers, flying vehicles and robot servants. Such a portrayal would always be limited by a movie's budget and I can understand why the producers (with limited cash) opted for the more budget-friendly retro-decay vision of the future.

Still, there are futuristic elements, just to keep the sci-fi geeks happy. Take Dredd's Lawgiver, for example. Like in the comics, his primary weapon has multiple firing modes and you get to see them in action throughout the film. Stallone's Lawgiver was impressive-looking but a bit silly. One of the shots was called 'Double Whammy' (seriously – what?) and when it fired it sounded like some 8-bit videogame crossed with a washing machine on rinse cycle. Also, it had a 'signal flare' option. Since when were the Judges of Mega-City One planning to take a boat trip?

I also loved the various references to Judge Dredd's wider world from the 2000AD comics. The mention of things like Iso-cubes, Juve-cubes, Resyk and Meat Wagons (all MC-1 everyday parlance) made me (inwardly, at least) squee with delight (in er, a manly way of course). Added to that, references to other characters was great fun: Chopper,  Kenny Who? and Wulf Sternhammer (from Strontium Dog) all received a nod.

One thing occurred to me while watching this film. When I watch other comic book movies, most of the heroes are endowed with special powers of some kind (like Superman), or have an array of nifty gadgets (like Iron Man). I watch these films and think 'Wow – that's kinda cool. I'd quite like to go around sorting out bad guys like that.' While Dredd is an awesome character, I would never ever want to step into his shoes. His daily routine typically consists of lots of people intent on killing him and all he's got is a gun, bike and heavy leathers for protection. No force fields, inherent invincibility or God-like powers.

Nah – I'll leave it to the hardened clone who's been trained in crime-busting since he was five.

I'm hoping to see this film again soon, and recommend you do too (unless you're under 18 of course).

Verdict: 11 out of 10 (yes, I'm that biased!)

Why not read about what happens when Christians review Dredd 3D?

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