Until recently comic book film adaptations have been less than stellar. Prior to the ground breaking Batman Begins, many comic adaptations flopped hard. In 1995 this rang true with the inaugural film adaption of Judge Dredd where director Danny Cannon and lead Sylvester Stallone did a magnificent job completely f*cking up an adaptation with real silver screen potential. With the resurgence of comic-to-film adaptations, films like Ironman, The Avengers, Kickass, and The Dark Knight Trilogy, consistently came out on top as big summer money-makers. It was only a matter of time before a studio gave ol’ Judge Dredd another go. This comes in the form Pete Travis’s Dredd 3D starring Karl Urban as Judge Dredd, and Olivia Thirlby as the mutant Judge Anderson. While it’s not all that faithful to the comics, Dredd 3D is a beautifully badass gore-fest, ranking up there with the best “comic book” movies.
The film is set in a desolate futuristic America, where the 800,000,000 people left on the planet live in massive apartment complexes known as mega blocks. The streets outside the blocks are filled with violence, poverty, drug abuse, and gang wars. The only law enforcement is a one-tier system that eliminates trials, giving the law enforcers, known as Judges, complete autonomy as judge, jury, and executioner. Judge Dredd and his rookie partner, Anderson, are sent in to one of a massive block to investigate a rather brutal turf killing. The judges quickly realize they’re in for more than they bargained for, as the leader of the mega block, Ma-Ma, and her clan are solely responsible for the sale and distribution of a new narcotic known as SLO-MO, which slows down time to 4% its normal speed in the mind of the user.
Travis’ directing is simply stunning. The use of incredible camera tricks to capture the slow motion action is awe-inducing, and coupled with the use of 3D effects, Dredd is one of the most fun action movies of the year. Travis delivers a visually heart-pounding wet dream on screen with non-stop action and highly stylized fight sequences like you’ve never seen. Throughout the film, Judge Dredd employs a plethora of weapons from his handy Judge Gun allowing him to shoot bullets, stun bolts, incendiaries, and more. Dredd’s bullets pound through layers of skin and teeth in slow motion for some of the most unique on-screen kills in recent memory. The variety of weapons and policing strategies used by the Judges keeps the action sequences fresh throughout the film, and thanks to the R rating, there’s loads of realistic gore and bloodshed.
The plot is quite basic, so don’t expect a high-concept sci-fi flick. The simplicity of the plot adds to the movie by letting the audience fully immerse themselves in the action and aesthetics of the film. Taking place almost solely in the mega block, it allows Travis to focus on constant action without having to change locations. Travis relies a bit too much on the action genre tropes and one-liners, which are overused, verging on cliché. The badguys are useless, none of them offering a remote challenge for Dredd. These are the same that you’d find in any Arnold Schwarzenegger movie with terrible strategic planning and worse aim. Luckily, the shortcomings of the script are covered up by a big wall of aesthetic gore.
Karl Urban’s Judge Dredd is picture perfect. He nailed everything from his catchy one liners to his excessive scowl. Urban is a menacing force on screen with his heavy strut and Judge helmet, which he thankfully never takes off. Though Dredd has no back story or first name, it only adds to his apathetic attitude toward everything but the law. Olivia Thrilby delivers a solid performance beside Urban as a nice counterpart to his stern character. Her character develops substantially as the film goes on, and you realize the journey is hers, not Dredd’s. Her psychic mutant powers add a much needed element of sci-fi to help break the film from its action driven mold.
Paul Leonard-Morgan’s score mixes low-fi bass driven beats with natural drones that seems to emanate from within the mega block itself. The pseudo-electronic sounds elevate the feel of the post-apocalyptic city, blending in with the derelict scenery and Dredd’s will to kill.
Dredd 3D is nothing but badass. While it’s not a faithful comic adaptation, we’re living in an age where it seems no longer fair to judge a film based on how similar it feels to the comic. These are two different mediums, and as such should be judged on their own merits. Urban’s performance and Travis’ unique style will leave you wanting more, and I hope that some of you find that in the comics. Dredd 3D is a big, stylish, and violent action flick that absolutely has to be experienced in the theatre.
Reviewed by – GreenBasterd and Lonmonster