“Inhabitants of Peach Trees, this is Judge Dredd. In case you have forgotten, this block operates under the same rules as the rest of the city. Ma-Ma is not the law…I am the law.”
- Judge Dredd
Here’s what I wrote about this one in my theatrical review:
“I’m not familiar with the Judge Dredd comics created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra. I’m not familiar with the character, his world, how it works or what the ins and outs of it are. I’ve just never been that interested, and while I know the following for the material is passionate for my part I’ve never cared to discover for myself why that is.
Be that as it may, even I can tell that screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Never Let Me Go) and director Pete Travis (Vantage Point) have constructed a version with Dredd that’s far more authentic and truer to the source material than the unintentionally hilarious 1995 version with Sylvester Stallone ever could have hoped to be. Gritty, oozing in grime, filled with stylized visuals and punchy, ear-shattering sonic effects, the movie is a nasty piece of work dripping in violent nihilism. It takes no prisoners and is resolute in its unapologetic embracing of the character, fearlessly marching to its own militaristic beat of ripped out jugulars, severed limbs and gooey flattened corpses.
Now, if only I actually enjoyed myself while watching all this mayhem instead of being moderately intrigued but overall bored, then we might have something to talk about. The simple truth is that the movie, for all its technical virtues, is nothing more than an over-stylized, just as thinly plotted remake of The Raid: Redemption, the two films following almost identical paths before reaching a bone-cracking resolution with all the urgency and emotional heft of an iron spike driven through an ankle. Like that one, it’s easy to be impressed with elements of Dredd, and it’s almost certain genre fans and enthusiasts of the comic will be entertained. I’m just not certain I see what the fuss is about, and much like the Stallone version I’m positive I’ll be forgetting the majority of this sooner rather than later.
It doesn’t help that Travis shoots large portions of the midsection more like a first-person video game, making comparisons to the ill-fated Doom almost unavoidable. Like similar projects, this one ends up being one those times where I wished I had the controller in my hand and wasn’t being forced to watch someone else play, at times the whole thing nothing more than a PlayStation 3 meets X-Box greatest hits highlight reel more than it is anything else.
For those needing a plot synopsis, the story revolves around Judge Dredd (Karl Urban, thus the Doom connection), a fearless upholder of the law roaming the streets of Mega City One doling out justice as he sees fit. In this barren, overcrowded dystopian future he and his fellow Judges are all that stands between peace and chaos, those who get in his way nothing more than foolish imbeciles digging themselves an early grave.
Tasked with training psychic rookie Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), events conspire to put the pair smack-dab in the middle of the Peach Tree mega-block, a 200-story complex controlled by a vicious drug lord known only as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). She wants the Judges dead, needs to see their bodies overflowing with bullets in order to protect her turf and keep her operations a secret. With no escape and no hope for backup, Dredd and Anderson must make their way up floor by perilous floor to the top of Peach Tree and into Ma-Ma’s stronghold, the entire mega-block out for their heads in order to appease the bloodthirsty matron who controls every facet of their humdrum lives.
I liked how aggressively nasty Garland’s script is, appreciate the fact it doesn’t pull its punches or try to gloss over any of the seedier aspects of the scenario facing our heroes. At the same time, the fact this motion picture follows so closely on the heels of The Raid: Redemption doesn’t do it any favors, while Travis’ somewhat frenzied, at time unfocused handling of it all tends to be something of a minor distraction.
At the same time, Urban embraces the character, and for the second time this week I’ve ended up sitting through a movie where the main character tends to express himself most honestly in a series of grunts and growls than he does with his abbreviated use of the English language (Trouble with the Curve being the other). Even with his face continually shrouded by his helmet (a fact sure to please the fans to no end), there’s something about Urban that’s hypnotic, and as violence-prone antiheroes go his take on Judge Dredd is a solid one.
Yet I’m not sure I get why this effort has been receiving as many accolades as it has. Nothing all that interesting happens, and as far as surprises go there’s not a lot to talk about. While the visuals are impressive, even at a midnight screening filled with enthusiasts ready to hoot and holler every crazy, blood-splattered moment there wasn’t much here that ever got my pulse racing. Dredd didn’t do much for me, and while my final judgment is hardly as negative as it could have been that doesn’t mean my passing of sentence labeling the film as instantly forgettable is anything close to a positive.”
Dredd played better for me at home than it did in the theatre. At the same time, still not in love with the movie, and I can’t for the life of me figure out what all the fuss and positive buzz surrounding it – fueled by its vocal, if rather smallish, group of devoted followers – continues to be about.
Dredd is presented on a dual-layer 50GB 3DBlu-ray MPEG-4 AVC Video with a 2.40:1/1080p transfer. A 2D version of the movie is also included on the same disc.
The Blu-ray feature English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtracks as well as English Dolby Digital 2.0 and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks and feature optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles. The disc is also Neo X enabled.
Extras here include:
· Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd (14:27) – Great, if admittedly brief, retrospective on comic and its impact on the cultural consciousness.
· Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of Dredd (15:21) – Standard short looking at the visual effects. Considering the budget wasn’t exceedingly high, what they pulled off is admittedly rather impressive.
· Dredd Featurette (1:53) – A glorified trailer masking as a behind-the-scenes featurette.
· Dredd’s Gear (2:31) – Very short (too short) look at the tools of the trade Judge Dredd uses to unleash his form of justice.
· The 3rd Dimension (2:00) – Interviews with producer Andrew MacDonald, cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle and lead stereographer Vincent E. Toto.
· Welcome to Peachtrees (2:33) Again, much too short featurette looking at the signature ‘megablock’ where the majority of the action in the movie ends up taking place.
· Dredd Motion Comic Prequel (2:57) – Great little animated short on Madeline, how she came to be and the origins of the ‘slo-mo- drug.
· Original Theatrical Trailer (2:30)
It’s an impressive Blu-ray release, that I must admit, but overall I still don’t get what all the fuss over Dredd is about.