The new Dredd movie, Dredd, was just alright. There were a bunch of things that I liked and disliked. Also, while we’re doing this I might as well give a brief comparison to Judge Dredd.
Let’s start with the likes:
- The dude who plays Dredd, Karl Urban (Star Trek (2009), Doom), looks cool and got the movements down. His stiff demeanor and dull sense of humor were done pretty perfectly. Also, his helmet never comes off which is more in keeping with the character and a major complaint comic fans had of Jude Dredd.
- The rookie judge that Dredd takes out to evaluate, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby (Juno, The Darkest Hour)), is handled extremely well. It was so refreshing to see a good gal in an action movie that doesn’t have a fucking chip on her shoulder. Usually filmmakers give female leads in these types of films a huge attitude and have them flex their muscles constantly to prove that they’re just as or even more able than their male counterparts. Hallelujah we’ve got one that’s not like that. And that doesn’t mean she’s weak or a girly girl or an imbecile. This picture proves you can have a strong female character without all the fuckin’ sass. Ok, yes I did notice that she is under the orders of a man but I think it’s fine because Dredd’s commanding officer is a woman and there’s another woman Judge later in the movie. So this isn’t a totally male dominated world. Alright, yes yes Anderson does get captured at one point. That’s a very damsel-in-distress thing to happen but I attribute that to this being her first day on the job. She’s new so she’s nervous and untested. She wants to prove her worth and does it by rattling off the proper sentencing and tactical maneuver when necessary. She doesn’t do some fucking fancy back flip, kick a guy in the balls, slap the cuffs on him and then turn to give Dredd a don’t-fuck-with-me half smile with piercing eyes. Anderson gets some attitude at the end but it totally makes sense and works because she’s been through hell. She’s pissed and war torn and just wants this thing to be over with.
- It was interesting to have a female villain especially set against such a brawny character like Judge Dredd. I liked Ma-Ma (Lena Headey (300)) and thought she worked well. The badass things she does, like poking someone’s eyes out and firing a gigantic gun, makes her pretty sadistic and badass. Also, that huge scar on her face was a very nice touch.
- The Judge uniforms were cool looking and that gun they carry is still fucking awesome.
- It was probably a good idea to have Anderson not wear a helmet for almost the entire picture. I’m sure the thinking was that it would’ve been too distancing to have both our heroes’ faces half covered and not be able to see their eyes. And having Anderson not wear a helmet makes sense because she forgot it outside and that plays up the rookie thing.
- You could follow the action most of the time. It looks like the era of close up choppy editing action is coming to a close. Films have been getting better with that for a little while now and it appears that that 2000’s trend is declining. We’re definitely not out of the woods yet though.
- The plot of being trapped in an apartment building and having to fight your way to the top to take out the bad guy is straight forward and fairly well done.
- It’s R and it feels like it. Good for them for not being afraid to use salty language and for making this pretty violent.
Now the dislikes:
- While Urban looked pretty good as Dredd he felt too young. Maybe this is supposed to be earlier on in Dredd’s career but it just didn’t feel right. Also Urban doesn’t have a deep or commanding voice and that also bothered me. He had a good delivery though and put the right lack of emotion into it.
- The motorcycles (lawmasters) that the Judges ride looked really cheap and terrible. They were like something you would see in a 70’s or 80’s B sci-fi flick and I mean that in a bad way. To be fair though I’m not a big fan of how the bikes looked in Judge Dredd either.
- The psychic powers that Anderson has was pretty stupid. It felt almost like this ability was added in later after the script was written. They use it to bridge some gaps like getting information and escaping into an apartment to avoid henchmen. This aspect could’ve easily been taken out of the movie and I think it would’ve been better if they did. We’re not sure the range and how powerful Anderson is with this psychic thing and the filmmakers only used it, or didn’t use it, when it was convenient. Like Anderson gets snuck up on and captured which shouldn’t happen if you know what everyone around you is thinking and can sense where people are. And the part where she goes inside the head of one of the bad guys to get some info is probably the worst scene in the film.
- The action isn’t great. It’s ok but nothing very memorable. And I totally couldn’t understand what was happening during that massive mini gun shootout.
- (Spoiler) I don’t understand why Dredd didn’t shoot Ma-Ma with the stun setting at the end. As soon as Ma-Ma said she couldn’t die or the building will blow then I immediately thought “ok, use the stun and you’re good to go”. I have to admit though that the route they went was really badass. Although I don’t get why Dredd made Ma-Ma take a hit of slo-mo before chucking her over the side. That was just weird. I mean Dredd didn’t know that’s what she did to those three guys in the beginning and it’s not like he had a connection with them and this was revenge or something. I guess it’s all in the name of cinema and they wanted the audience to have some extra satisfaction as well as make the finale look pretty.
- And finally it’s unfortunate that The Raid: Redemption came out earlier this year (in the US). You’re probably gonna hear this a lot and it’s true, the two movies are very similar. They share not only the same basic overall premise but also a bunch of the same plot points. There’s the bad guy announcing over the PA to take out the good guys, the tenants of the apartment building comply with the request, the good guys duck into an apartment and hide there for a minute, there’s a drug lab in the building and a fight takes place there, the main villain gets taken down rather easily, there are cameras all throughout the building monitoring the good guy’s moves, there’s police corruption and I’m sure there are more. Dredd pales in comparison to The Raid though and it’s kind of a shame. I don’t blame Dredd because at the time the people making it couldn’t have known about this Indonesian action picture. It’s just very bad luck man.
Real quick Dredd vs Judge Dredd:
- I like the look of Judge Dredd better. It’s more stylized and comic booky and is pretty to look at. Dredd goes for the more if-this-existed-in-real-life look that’s still going strong today. Nothing wrong with that. Dredd is darker in lighting, color and tone. All good shit. Judge Dredd tickles my fancy a little more though.
- Sly Stallone was perfectly cast as Dredd. His face (even just his bottom half), his voice, his movements I loved the whole bit. Yeah I know he shouldn’t have taken the helmet off. I agree. But he’s still the better choice in my opinion. Again, Urban wasn’t bad but I wish he was a little older and had a cooler voice.
- The Judge outfits look better in Dredd. I wasn’t sure before but the Versace ones they used in Judge Dredd are too gaudy looking.
- Between the two stories I think Judge Dredd’s is the better one. An evil brother bent on replacing the Judges with sinister ones of his own creation is a badass idea. It’s grand in its scope. Compare that with Dredd which might be the smallest comic book film I’ve seen. The whole thing takes place in one apartment building over the course of a day. And I know you’re thinking “but Die Hard takes place in one building over the course of one night, asshole”. But this is a comic book movie and not all comic book movies need to be big but…all comic book movies kind of should be big. Usually they take place throughout an entire city and on one hand it’s refreshing that they went for a more intimate and focused story but on the other it’s a little restrictive. I feel like they used the world of Judge Dredd better in Judge Dredd. They go out in the Cursed Earth desert, fly around the city on lawmasters, fight in a relocated Statue of Liberty (or Statue of Judgment), etc. It’s more engrossing.
Now hold on to your hats because I kind of can’t believe that I think I like Judge Dredd better than Dredd either. I predicted Dredd blowing away its competition fairly easily and that didn’t happen. Dredd isn’t a bad picture at all but there were enough things that I didn’t like that it added up. And really most of the items I listed are personal preferences rather than actual problems with plot or flaws in execution. It’s definitely one of the better comic book films. It’s darker, edgier and the characters are handled better than most. Like there isn’t some fucking goofy comic relief guy. Dredd provides the comedy in a very successful manner with our hero’s dry as shit wit and delivery. That kinda shit makes me dig the movie. But then there’ll be a just ok action sequence that’ll remind me of The Raid and make me want to watch that instead or the psychic thing will come into play whenever it’s needed and cause me to roll my eyes. And I know Judge Dredd has Rob Schneider as that bad comic relief and it sucks but I like the look, the story and Sly better. No apology.
But I say see Dredd. Show these folks that you’ve got some love for this character and that there’s a thirst out there for R rated action. Hopefully they’re already thinking about a sequel. I’d love to see it, especially if they ramp things up.
And no, I didn’t see it in 3D. Fuck that shit.