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Saturday, September 22, 2012

Movie Review: DREDD 3D

In the near future, most of America is a nuclear wasteland. The only refuge are huge Mega-Cities. Mega City One lies on the east coast from Boston to Washington D.C. Overrun with violent crime, the city has only one defense: they are the police, judge, jury and executioner all in one, they are: The Judges! And the most feared and best of all the judges is...Judge Dredd! If it seems like you've heard all this before, then your right...but this time, it's different! Dredd 3D is the latest film adaptation of the comic book character Judge Dredd, who first appeared in the British comic book magazine 2000 A.D. in 1978. While this is not the first time he has appeared on the big screen, back in 1995, Sylvester Stallone played Judge Dredd alongside an annoying, comic-relief sidekick named Fergee (Rob Schneider) battling the evil Rico (Armand Assante).
This new Dredd is so completely different in every way, but I still can't help comparing it to the original, seeing Stallone loudly proclaim in his trademark way: "I am the law!" The new Judge Dredd movie is dark, gritty, serious and ultra-violent...and that's just the way I like it! The original was very campy with an original, science-fiction feel. This new Dredd reflects more of the violence in our own society by presenting the idea that we are not too far away from this future. In this post-apocalyptic world, the modern concepts of law and justice have gotten so out of hand that the only way society can enforce the law is go to extreme levels by having police officers that can dispense justice by any means necessary.
Judge Dredd, played by Karl Urban, is cold, calculating and very good at his job! When he is teamed up with rookie-Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) it seems like it's going to be another typical veteran/rookie cop team-up but with one distinct difference, cadet Anderson is a mutant and psychic. Her talents will soon come in handy when Dredd and Anderson respond to a triple-homicide in the Mega Block known as "Peach Tree", a huge, 200-story tenement/slum that has been taken over by a gang of criminals who have been manufacturing and selling a new drug known as "Slow-Mo" (which looks an awful lot like an asthma inhaler?). Led by a scarred, ex-hooker, known as 'Ma-Ma' (Lena Headey), the gang take complete control of the building and declare war on the two Judges. Now Judge Dredd and Anderson must survive as they make their way to Ma-Ma and end her reign of terror!
Karl Urban as Dredd
Dredd 3D is not necessarily a reboot of the Judge Dredd movie nor is it a sequel. While the original movie was both a box-office bomb and an embarrassment to director Danny Cannon who was so discouraged over creative disputes with Stallone, that it remains one of the worst comic book movies of the 1990's to many fans. Director Pete Travis (Vantage Point (2008)) presents Dredd 3D in RealD 3D which adds some interesting visual elements to the movie along with the somewhat over-used slow-motion scenes courtesy of the effects of the "Slo-Mo" drug. Along with the drug-scenes and multiple bullet-flying action, almost a third of the movie is in slow-motion! The main setting of Dredd 3D is this huge tenement building called "Peach Trees", which not only adds to the feelings of confinement and claustrophobia (i.e. Pandorum (2009)) to the movie but also has a strong, video game-like feel to it as the Judges literally have to move from level to level à la Bruce Lee's Game of Death (1978).  
The character of Judge Dredd is portrayed as very cold and unemotional, very much like the original comic book character.With his gruff Batman-esque voice Karl Urban, who is a popular character actor (who got his big break playing Eomer in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and as the new Dr. 'Bones' McCoy in the new Star Trek movie franchise) acts very much like RoboCop which coincidentally is also being remade, set to be released in 2013. The biggest difference in the old and new Dredd movies is the fact that in the new one, Judge Dredd never shows his face. Just as originally intended by comic book writer and co-creator John Wagner, who said "It sums up the facelessness of justice − justice has no soul. So it isn't necessary for readers to see Dredd's face, and I don't want you to." With that, this Judge Dredd seems more true to it's source material which is always an important aspect to any comic book adaptation (i.e. Marvel's The Avengers).
Olivia Thirlby as Anderson
In Stallone's version, Dredd wears his helmet/costume only for a short time in the movie. This always seemed very narcissistic and old-school action movie-star-like to me, as with many of Stallone's action-roles in the 1990's like Demolition Man (1993) another future-cop movie) in seeing the actor's face. With the new one, Dredd's costume/ and armor is much more practical and functional, not like the 1995 one where his costume/tights were very impractical as well as his cumbersome and awkward shoulder armor. The new Judge Dredd's armor is more closely akin to modern day riot gear or military body-armor. Gone are Judge Dredd's gaudy, golden shoulder ornaments and chain but he still retains his famous (although subdued) and iconic name-badge. The movie also keeps two important aspects to Dredd's weaponry and gadgets such as his "Lawmaster" bike which is really just a souped-up motorcycle (that thankfully doesn't fly in this one!) and of course, his signature side-arm, his "Lawgiver" pistol which provides a number of useful projectiles and is programmed to only recognize the DNA of a Judge. Both elements come heavily into play in the movie. The character of Judge Anderson (a fan-favorite of the comic since the 1980's) is presented as a very strong heroine/sidekick and provides sympathetic side as well as a moral insight to Judge Dredd's otherwise cold and unemotional demeanor. DREDD 3D was BADASS!!! It blew me away...literally! I was really impressed with it, originally skeptic that this "reboot" of such an obscure comic book character would be successful but I was dead wrong! It is nothing like the Stallone movie! The action is brutal and intense, the story is very simplistic but straight-forward. It's serious and not campy at all with very little comic relief aside from the occasional dry remarks from both Dredd and Anderson which do not take away from the mood. The villain is so sadistically evil and manipulative of her devoted followers that you can't wait until Dredd takes her down! Screenwriter Alex Garland has already made remarks on a proposed sequel and I hope it will include the villain Judge Death, another fan-favorite, from the Judge Dredd comics. "DROKK IT!" Go see DREDD 3D or you WILL be judged!
 LINKSDredd 3D Official Website, 2000 AD Online