Dredd 2D

Yes, that’s 2D not 3D. Despite the best efforts, or so it seemed, of the distributors and the cinemas I managed to get to one of the rare 2D screenings of the new adaptation of 2000AD‘s most famous character.

Dredd 3D (in 2D)

“I am the law.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bad guys take over big tower block; two law enforcers pretty much have to kill them all.

See it if you like: Good, accurate comic adaptations and a healthy dose of extreme violence

First of all, let’s get this out of the way – this pisses all over that Grud-awful abomination that Stallone released back in 1995. In torrents. Torrents of piss. All over one of the biggest carbunkles in comic adaptation history. What Judge Dredd got wrong – aside from having Stallone in it – was buggering around far too much with a staggering amount of established history which alienated pretty much every fanboy out there. In other words, the potential market.

What Dredd gets right is that it takes that history, language and setting and uses it. References it. Jokes about it. It treats the viewer as if they should already be a fan of Mega City 1’s finest. The beauty of it is that it’s a simple world to become immersed in if you’re not a fan (the language is hardly Newspeak), and adds a huge amount to the atmosphere if you are. From the off-hand use of terms like “Resyk”, “meat wagons” and “hotties” (not that type…) to the block names in the background (Sternhammer, Ezquerra, Bolland…) and even a very fleeting glimpse of a poster advertising the Krysler’s Mark (referring to the Judge Child saga from way back when). Oh, and some Chopper graffiti. Oh, on the language, the only thing missing are the futuristic “expletives” that the comic uses to replace the swearies. In their stead we have the familiar yells of “shit” and “fuck”. A lot.

Lovely.

OK, my inner nerd aside, how is it as a film?

First up, there will be (and have been) inevitable comparisons to the excellent The Raid. A small number of protagonists up against an all-powerful crime-lord who has locked them inside a tower block. It’s a very similar plot. In fairness to both creative teams, Dredd was in pro-production around the time that The Raid began work. The Korean effort was also completed and marketed well before this movie came out. I reckon it’s just a huge coincidence. The bonus being that both films are superb and worth a watch.

Dredd is set in a post-apocalyptic future, in a city populated by 800 million people. City-blocks are starting to appear amongst the crowded ground-level buildings, soaring into the sky 200 floors high. Peach Trees is one of these, owned and controlled by Ma-Ma – a rather scary female crime lord who has discovered a narcotic that slows time for the user.

After a couple of incidents draw the titular Dredd (Karl Urban) and his rookie-in-training Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) into the tower, things start to fall apart for Ma-Ma and she locks the block down to prevent them leaving. The Judges’ solution? Find the person locking them in and sentence them for their crimes.

There is plenty of blood, some guts, snapping bones, splattered bodies, bullet wounds in extreme slow-motion, punches, kicks, scuffles, explosions, immolation… All the grisly events of the comic come to bloody life on the screen with great effectiveness. The plot isn’t deep (something I think would improve a sequel, or – dare I hope for it – a TV spin-off), but the characters are spot on, the dialogue just perfect and the visuals of the highest standard.

Urban is almost as monosyllabic as Schwarzenegger in T2, but it works. Dredd, simply, doesn’t speak unless he needs to. And when he does, it’s with authority. His throwaway lines with a completely straight face raised a few laughs in the cinema with their dark humour, but there aren’t so many as to turn him into a Bond-a-like with a cheesy quote for each death.

If I have any criticisms, they number exactly two:

1) The film is very obviously expected to be watched in 3D as can be seen by a handful of scenes which just scream it. Sorry, I can’t watch 3D. Please stop trying to shove it down my throat. Thankfully these scenes are few and far between, but still jar and – on the whole – the film would be no different if they were missing entirely.

2) I can’t grasp the setting history-wise. No spoilers here, folks, so do read on. I appreciate Mega City 1 being a bit more downscale than it is in the comics. Huge cities filled with skyscrapers have been done to death in other films (the 1995 Judge Dredd obviously, Blade Runner, and the recent Total Recall remake to name only three), so I’m fine with that. However, the easy assumption is that this sets the movie near the beginning of Dredd’s career. But the Mega-Cities were built around 2030, and I’m sure the film states that there is only one of them. MC-2 and MC-3 came later. This is fifty years before Dredd would have graduated from the Academy of Law.

Yes, I admit it. Geek factor 5, Mr Sulu. But it niggled.

My inner nerd was  otherwise wholly sated by the film. Urban keeps the helmet on, Anderson is portrayed well as a rookie (not sure how this fits into the timeline – anyone know if the comic ever states who took her out on her final assessment? Was it Dredd?), the technology is slightly more believable, as are the costumes… The whole thing reeks of quality and care for the fans who have made Dredd as popular as he is.

Highly, highly recommended. But I do urge you, if possible, to save a couple of quid and just see it in 2D. I gather the 3D version is a good example of how to use the technique well, but still – trust me – this film doesn’t need it. It’s far and away good enough without having to resort to gimmicks.

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