Confession time: I haven’t read all of 2000AD or the Judge Dredd comics. I’ve read enough to understand he shouldn’t take his helmet off and that the 1995 version Judge Dredd – featuring Sly Stallone without the eponymous character’s headgear – wasn’t a great adaptation. (It wasn’t bad though, why it was so widely lambasted is a bit beyond me. It was over-the-top and a bit silly and nowhere near the dark tones of the comics, but it was a great film to watch and be entertained by.) I know enough to realise that Dredd 3D is a great Dredd film.
For those who have a limited understanding of the Dredd universe; the world has been decimated by nuclear war and left the planet a scarred wasteland called the Cursed Earth. Only the area of land between Boston and Washington remains liveable and 800 million people now reside in MegaCity One. To control the overwhelming amount of crime in such a place, the Hall of Justice was built and Judges trained. They are licensed with being judge, jury and executioner when dealing with ‘perps’.
In that way, Pete Travis (director), Alex Garland (writer) and the rest of their art team create a believable and awe-inspiring concrete landscape. The familiar streets and roads overrun with Mega-Highways and Mega-Blocks. For a film with a shorter budget than most blockbusters, the team have managed to create a real world. They build entire sets, signs, shop fronts and focus on all the little details that draw you in far more than a computer-generated backdrop.
It’s to one of these all-too-believable Mega Blocks that Dredd is drawn. His new rookie, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), decides that on her assessment day, this is the call she wants to take. A simple investigation turns into something much more as Dredd and Anderson willingly enter the territory of Ma-Ma (a scarred Lena Headey) and find themselves trapped in a 200-floor block filled with enemies.
This idea, even though it was well executed, was shown up by The Raid, released earlier this year and focusing on the same idea. However, Dredd 3D powers through and supplies us with a grossly entertaining look into the dark world of 2000AD. The 18 rating is well deserved and luckily the filmmakers got it right. The violence and gore is graphic and satisfying without crossing the line onto the torture-porn films created to shock. The brutality of the film is combined with mesmerising cinematography. The inclusion of the drug SLO-MO, which Ma-Ma is creating, allows us to see bullets entering and exiting bad guys left right and centre in exquisite slow-motion and there’s a particularly vertigo-inducing fall from the top of the block to the atrium, where we’re treated to another slow-motion shot of a villains head cracking open.
It’s a hugely awesome thing to see, and the large amount of the audience will enjoy it. The shots are beautiful too, cutting away from the grime and dullness of everyday life to show us heightened colours and details that come from taking narcotics.
If you’re looking for a deep thinking film, Dredd 3D isn’t it. While it may be interesting to draw parallels with the political climate, the film doesn’t slow down to dwell on it and simply provides you with an engrossing and raw action film.
Karl Urban does exceedingly well as Dredd. With the helmet remaining firmly in place he delivers the scarce lines that he has with the throaty gravel you’d expect from such a badass. Delivering all of his lines, even the humorous ones, in a straight deadpan voice that seems something straight out of the comics, Urban is great as a screen adaptation of the character.
The emotional heart of the film comes from his sidekick Anderson, played by a bewitching Thirlby. Excused from wearing a helmet because of her psychic abilities, we can relate to her as she goes through the first day from hell. Don’t get me wrong though, Anderson is just as much of a badass. Dealing with a particularly stubborn perp is a highlight, but we see that she remains a far more objective source than Dredd’s simple black-and-white view of things.
As a villain, Headey excels. Ma-Ma is given only a brief backstory and very little seeming motivation apart from a desire for more gang territory but we are faced with a twisted and sadistic antagonist that never wavers, her viciousness played to perfection by a growling Headey. The character reflects a lot of the film; violent, dark and with little depth, but depth isn’t what we came to see and we aren’t disappointed.
Like most 3D outings, Dredd 3D is offered in 2D, and it’s debatable whether it’s worth the extra money to see it properly. To be sure, the 3D, when it’s used, is gorgeous and makes the slow-motion scenes truly come alive, but for the most part it’s not so prominent. Viewer discretion is advised for this, if you see the 3D, you won’t consider the money wasted, but if you want to save a few quid and see the 2D version, you won’t miss too much of the great cinematography.
The 95-minute run time sounds a little short, and looking back it kind of is. After the film, it didn’t feel too short or like anything was left out or missed, but it leaves you hungry for even more.
I loved Dredd 3D and I’m sure that it’ll become a firm favourite for action lovers everywhere, it’s certainly a step in the right direction since the 1995 outing, and a sequel wouldn’t go amiss at all.