Review: ‘Dredd 3D’ Not Faithful To The Comics, But A Gore-filled Reverie

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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.

4/5 Skulls

Reviewed by – GreenBasterd and Lonmonster

 
  • AlanStowe

    This is a really weak review and the viewer clearly missed all of the the subtext going on in this film which is really sad.

    Anderson’s journey is the key to understanding both Dredd’s and Ma-Ma’s journeys. We’re shown a world that is god awful and violent. In a world like that you have two choices: succumb or fight back. Ma-Ma became a part of the awful, one can have sympathy for the choices she made, but she still made her choices. The way she looks at Anderson when they’re in the same rooms betrayed a certain vulnerability in Ma-ma, as though she were viewing a long dead version of herself as a young girl not yet immersed full force into the world’s horrors.

    Then you have Dredd. Dredd, upon being told by Anderson that she wants to make a difference, replies dryly, “Admirable.” Anderson is also our key to understanding Dredd. She starts out unsure but hopeful and over the course of the film, we see her grow into what will eventually be a very welcome and effective member of the Judges. In understanding what a single day in Mega City One does to Anderson, we can understand both Dredd and Ma-ma as everyone in Mega City One suffers. What Dredd a Ma-ma represent are the two extremes that result from that suffering: either the unflinching desire to squash any shred of suffering possible or to use the suffering for personal gain. Throughout the film, Anderson is faced with choices and options that lead her down her path. Watching that unfold tells us everything we need to know about Mega City One and its citizens, especially Dredd and Ma-ma.

    The brilliance of Dredd is that it doesn’t dwell or harp on ideological based speeches. The film, like its protagonist Dredd, SHOWS its ideology instead of beating the audience of the head with what it means to be a hero ala Avengers and Dark Knight Rises (Rises painstakingly more so than Avengers). A character like Dredd, so sure and steadfast in his resolve, is easy to play as a wooden board. However, Urban infuses him with life in a way that any ACTIVE viewer can assertain what’s going on in his head if he so much as shifts his weight or grunts or actually uses his words. Everything Dredd does that conveys ANYTHING is substantial because its in his nature to reveal nothing about himself, to give Mega City One nothing of his humanity for it to eat up and exploit. That’s the significance of never removing his helmet. If he is merely a feared image of justice, the city will not have any chance to devour his soul.

    There is a LOT more to Dredd than gore and action. Gore and action are merely shown with a callous indifference because the world in which it takes place treats those things with callous indifference. But even in a callous world of steadfast warriors, both good and bad, there is humanity to be found, but it is buried deep for its own protection.

    Its really a shame this reviewer completely missed all of that, probably would have written a more useful review.

    • Lonmonster

      Thanks for the comment AlanStowe. We were not trying to say the film has no substance or that Dredd is a “wooden board”. There’s lots of subtext to be found, as with any movie. Regardless, we enjoyed it for being a good action movie and reviewed it as such.

      • AlanStowe

        Its just sad when a film that strives to do things outside the norm of its genre, by showing rather than telling every chance it gets, gets labeled an action movie instead of the innovative complexity through simplicity approach the film makers took with Dredd, especially considering the film’s budget.

        The review here would have discouraged me from seeing the film in a theater had I not already done so. Considering how poorly the film is doing, primarily from misrepresentation by some of the reviews out there as well as its own botched marketing campaign here in the states, it would be far more admirable to focus on the artistry and nuance of the film that merits a theater outing than to squash hopes by writing it off as an action film.

        I’ve seen bloodydisgusting.com do some great things to generate exposure and followings for far lesser films, I watched V/H/S on demand thanks to this sites coverage, its why I like the site. I come here to see the little guy championed against the back drop of the bombastic entertainment world dominated by the same studio drivel over and over again. I expected a LOT more from the site’s approach to reviewing or commenting on Dredd. I expected a lot more sense of responsibility in terms of encouraging film goers to get out there and support a film that tries to do something different, especially for a small indie Brit comic film that, if successful, could lead to a lot more innovative small press or foreign books hitting the big screen and diversifying the otherwise tights and capes dominated comic book film market.

        • Lonmonster

          You’re right, it is unfortunate that it is doing so poorly because it is a great film. Thanks for supporting us, and we do take your comments to heart.

  • inksb

    Weird, a handful of other reviewers have said that this is very faithful adaption of the source material.

  • GreenBasterd

    Kick. Ass. Movie. Whether or not this review reflects the artistic side of the film. I’m sad to hear its not doing well, its pathetic that so many pieces of shit film blow up the box office but gold like this struggles.

  • BloodyUseless

    Although it’s good to see a further positive review of Dredd 3D to state that it’s not faithful to the comics, particularly using that as a lead headline, is just so wrong it’s untrue.

    Having read 2000AD, where Dredd originated and continues to flourish, since it hit the newsstands in 1977, I’d say the movie is about as faithful to the character of Dredd as you could possibly be. Yes, the uniforms are more practical and Mega-City 1 isn’t quite as futuristic but the essence of Dredd the character, who incidentally does have a first name although not mentioned in the movie, is spot on. Urban as Dredd was magnificent.

    John Wagner, the creator of Judge Dredd, acted a consultant on the movie. He wasquoted as saying, “the character and storyline are pure Dredd”. If Mr Wagner likes it then there’s no finer endorsement.

    The creators of the movie also showed a knowledge of the comics and Dredd’s world with multiple references throughout the movie in posters, graffiti and block names that reinforced links to the comic such as Chopper, Kenny Who?, Otto Sump, Fatties and Muties and using the comics best Dredd artists as block names.

    Then there’s the humour, albeit dark, deadpan and at times ironic bordering on sarcastic, is completely British and lifted straight from the pages of the comic.

    All of the above bumph is a long way of saying that it is as close to reading a Dredd story in the comic as you will get. Not to dismiss your review, as it was largely positive, it completely overlooked the faithful interpretation of Dredd from comic to movie and to highlight the opposite as your title is almost unforgivable.

    Regarding the script; it isn’t strewn with one-liners and cliches, Urban’s Dredd is unadulterated comic book Dredd meaning he is precise and to the point, gruff and menacing with just a hint of dry humour. Dredd was based partly on Dirty Harry and similarly, Clint Eastwood wouldn’t use twenty words and an amusing catchphrase when three words would suffice.

    Oh, the Slo-Mo drug slows down perception to 1% not 4% and the “Judge’s gun” is called a Lawgiver and is mentioned as such throughout the movie. Not nit picking just correcting!

    Finally, I have to agree with everything fellow poster AlanStowe has written. You should get Alan to write you a new review…

    • Lonmonster

      Again, thanks for the comments. I really thought I heard 4% in the film for Slo-Mo, but I trust your judgement. Urban was a great Dredd, as mentioned in the review, but I’ve also read the comics and I don’t think it was a very faithful adaptation other than Dredd’s character. There are a few other reviews from other BD staff on here who say it is faithful, we just offered a different take.

  • xtago

    I don’t know you could say it’s not like the comics, The comics are probably even harder than this movie plus swearing isn’t allowed and they use dork for swearing, but the crims and the way things are handled is pretty much spot on.

    In the comics pretty much all crims are shot dead no one is judged to live really and anderson is part of the PSY judges dept in comics but I’ve not read a judge dredd comics where he meets her, only that they have worked together before a few times and are friends in the comic.

    Fro me it was dead on or close with the comic and yes the comic also has dead bodies and people falling into the ground from bridges etc but it’s never been a kids comic always an adult one where you do what the law tells you not what you would like to do, that’s why the judge’s do all the work no time for a court system in the future.