Wednesday, 12 September 2012

The Watcher - Dredd 3D

Judge Dredd is back and this time he’s harder, darker and grittier than a gravel driveway. Filling the boots of 2000AD’s longest running character is Karl Urban - full of grimace and ready to wash the bad taste of Stallone’s version out of your mouth like that first swig of mouthwash the morning after the night before.

Reminds me of the Daredevil movie poster with Ben Affleck...

Now I know I will most likely offend some of my comic reading cohorts by saying this, but I haven't really ever read any of the Dredd books. Obviously I have known about the character for a long time as 2000AD began in 1977 well before I was born, but the newspaper style artwork had always put me off.

Some may feel a second offense of mine is that I actually quite enjoyed the Stallone version of Judge Dredd which was released in 1995. Growing up as a massive fan of Demolition Man (I still am) I loved the action and cheese that ol’ Sly brought to it.

It's actually quite a good poster, considering Dredd's defining characteristic is arguably his face.

Dredd 3D is a different beast altogether. Gone are the shiny shoulder pads and the flashy future, instead replaced with something a little more believable, something which could be indeed our world-to-come. Endless rioting, wall to wall slums and towering mega blocks - the council estates of the post-apocalypse! Along with the more urban city, Dredd’s suit is more functional. Now he can enter a gunfight without the worry of knocking his colleagues over with a massive golden eagle every time he turns around! One thing I did dislike design-wise were the new bikes. I felt they looked out of place and rather oddly shaped, they should have been heftier! That said, they do force the actors playing the Judges to sit with perfect posture, oddly imposing in the chaos of the MegaCity.

The basic story is that Dredd is assigned to look after a rookie judge called Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) and make sure she is up to the cut. Unfortunately their first assignment leads them to become imprisoned within a mega block which is under the control of gang leader Ma-Ma (Lena Headley). The icing on the cake? She’s manufacturing and distributing a new drug called Slo-Mo (it slows the user's perception of time to 1% of its normal speed apparently) right there in that tower and really doesn’t want to lose her control of it.

Karl Urban plays Dredd how I believe he should be, a man of few words and plenty of action. You never see his face and he never smiles. Yet while all these points which make him a good Dredd, when it comes to creating a relatable character these can also be negatives. This is why we are given Judge Anderson, she becomes your emotional entry point into the world and Olivia Thirlby is wonderful. You watch her grow as the movie progresses to the point where I think even Dredd has respect for her.

Lena Headley plays a brilliantly ruthless villain in Ma-Ma - she is completely convincing and fully committed to the performance. I feel it's a shame that there were not more scenes with her as she was just that good. Of course, if you have not already I highly recommend checking her performance in Game of Thrones.

Or for a different side to Lena Heady, check out her portrayal of Sarah Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

The considerable pace and comfortable 95 minute length of the movie were perfect; there was not a point where I was bored. Yes some of the slo-mo shots could have been cut a little shorter but they all looked stunning and were the only points in the movie where the 3D looked good. Using the same cameras as those used for slow motion natural history documentaries was an excellent touch. Action films will forever be indebted to hummingbirds! 

Overall Dredd is a pretty basic movie, what really makes it an enjoyable one is the fact its makers did not shy away from making it an 18 rating. This is how Dredd should be - ultra-violent, brutal, bloody and kick-ass!

Stefan Harkins is aware of the comparisons to The Raid: Redemption, but that film began filming in March 2011, four or five months AFTER Dredd. So just let it go!

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