I have now finally gotten around to watching Dredd 3D, and I liked it quite a lot.
Some of you might remember Stallone’s Judge Dredd from the 90s, and if you’re from the UK you might have even read the Judge Dredd comics. Heck, maybe even some of you outside the UK have read them. Dredd 3D is a somewhat different beast from the Stallone movie, and apparently closer to the comics themselves (I have not actually read them, so I can’t say either way).
I will give a short summary of my impressions before we move onto the spoilers. The movie feels very tight and very focused. The 3D is actually good. The slow-mo is brilliant and used to great effect, and thankfully very sparingly. Karl Urban does a great job as Dredd, Olivia Thirlby does a decent job as rookie Anderson and Lena Headey delivers a very psychopathic antagonist. The movie feels like it could be the very definition of hardcore. It won’t blow your mind, but it’s a solid action movie. If you don’t mind the gore and violence, you should check it out.
Now for the spoilerific version.
The plot is not particularly complicated. Judge Joseph Dredd narrates to us about the reality of Mega City One, and what is rest of the world outside. I really love that his name is actually Dredd. It stands out as rather silly contrasted with the seriousness of the rest of it. We are introduced to our hero as he chases down some guys driving recklessly under the influence of drugs; namely the plot-important ‘Slo-mo’. We get to see just how effective and outright brutal Dredd is in his service. Fighting fire with fire, I’d say. And the comments he made about how the dead bodies were to be taken for ‘recyc’ really made me lift my eyebrows.
We are not given the impression that this is a happy future, or even that there’s really much hope. Even Dredd admits that they can only handle 6% of crimes happening. Perhaps they rely on all the crime to keep population numbers down? Even so I felt drawn in to the world and wanting to know more about it in a way that the Stallone movie never pulled off.
In comes a rather hopeless rookie named Anderson. She was born rather close to the wall that shields the city from the irradiated wasteland, and ended up as a mutant with parents dead from radiation illness. Specifically she became a psychic. She failed her tests by a few points, but people at the top felt her ability was too useful to throw out. So Dredd is given the task of her evaluation in a trial by fire.
They head out to a triple-homicide scene in a huge 200-story mega-building called Peach Trees. They determine the murders were likely committed by the Ma-Ma clan, and raid one of their drug dens and arrests one of Ma-Ma’s top men. Since Ma-Ma doesn’t want the bastard telling on her plans, she traps them in the building through devilish trickery, and the shooting starts.
I really like Dredd in this movie. While it is a shame we didn’t get to see his face before he put his helmet on, I liked how he never took it off while on the job (which he was the entire movie). It helped enforce his no-nonsense attitude. He is a veteran, he is professional and he is dedicated. He can assess situations and judge in mere moments. He knows all the tactics. He is the law. And he certainly acts like it.
Anderson really does come off like the idealistic rookie. Her character doesn’t feel as strong as Dredd’s though. The movie doesn’t seem quite as determined what it wants her to be. She only wears her helmet for the short bit where they ride the bikes, which felt weird. There is a weak excuse about how the helmet would interfere with her psychic powers, but unless it’s made of the same stuff Magneto made his out of I can’t see how. It feels like the director just wanted to show off her pretty face. She ends up having to grow up pretty fast. Her transformation into a badass action girl is perhaps a bit sudden, but personally I didn’t really mind.
Then we have the head of the Ma-Ma clan: Ma-Ma herself. She is a psychopath, and I think Headey does a pretty good job with the character. She gave me the shivers occasionally, was very brutal, and seemed to quite enjoy the brutality as well. She had plans within plans, and steel control over her underlings. The final face-off between her and Dredd was quite the thing. I don’t really want to spoil that bit, but I will say that Dredd acted pretty true to character.
I’m certain it won’t appeal to everybody, but I really do like how Dredd is the hero, and yet he is so brutal when he needs to be. He doesn’t hesitate, or struggle with morals. He doesn’t anguish. He knows what he is, and he is pretty smart as well. He always understands what needs to be done, and he does it. As much as I liked it, I’m equally certain it will put others off. (Yes, I did indeed give him a second paragraph. It’s my post.)
Now let’s talk about the slow-motion. The drug the Ma-Ma clan manufactures is dubbed ‘Slo-mo’, because it makes the user perceive the world as if it moves in slow motion. Everything looks more glorious, sparkly and shiny. And it can also make a fall seem like it lasts forever. These shots are used sparingly, so the movie doesn’t feel over-saturated with it, and that scene where they bust into a drug room and start shooting while someone is using is very over-the-top gory.
I am actually amazed that the movie got away with a 15 rating. I feel like it easily qualified for an 18 rating. I guess it did cut away from gore fairly fast and only showed it for a few seconds at a time, which might be why it dodged the 18. Or standards have just changed so much that violence isn’t as important for a rating as it used to be.
As for the 3D, it was actually good. I had heard this was the case, but didn’t really believe it until I saw it for myself. It worked to the point where I stopped really noticing it, and I didn’t end up with a headache by the time I walked out of the theatre.
I personally think this movie is much better than the Stallone movie. I have nothing against that one either, but it never really grabbed me. This one pulled me into its dark, dystopian world and left me wanting to see more after it was over. I am now seriously considering getting into the comics to learn more.
At the very least I hope the movie does well enough that they make another one. They’d probably be best sticking to a small story like this one did though. I think the fact that they kept the film very focused was a big plus. If they try to go for the big epics in the next one it could kill the quality outright. I guess we might see.
I do kinda wish I had one of those guns.