Director: Pete Travis
Writer: Alex Garland (screenplay), Carlos Ezquerra (characters), John Wagner (characters)
Cast: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headley
While on a routine assignment and assessment of a rookie, two Judges (a specialized police force acting as judge, jury and executioner) become trapped in an apartment complex after they become the target of the local drug queen and her gang.
It’s been about 17 years since the character of Judge Dredd hit theaters. The original 1995 film starring Sylvester Stallone didn’t open to much fanfare. It was pretty much a disaster for fans of the comic and general audiences alike, and just wasn’t a good movie.
Jump forward to the present, where we now have the latest film version of the Judge Dredd character, starring Karl Urban in the titular role. With a more serious take on the character and a desire to stay true to the comics, how would this film fare?
It’s quite easy to say that this movie is a big step in the right direction away from Stallone’s Judge Dredd. However, the bar was so low by comparison that the previous comment on this film, Dredd 3D, doesn’t really amount to much. Dredd 3D is an entertaining film and an interesting one at that, but it has its fair share of flaws, many of which were similar to what I didn’t enjoy about The Bourne Legacy. What I mean by that comment is that for a film attempting to reintroduce us to the character of Dredd, this film winded up feeling more like a side story focusing in on the character of Judge Anderson — played by Olivia Thirlby — rather than being a jumping off point for this character, and possibly a new franchise. It really felt like the movie was misleading me since very little is actually known about Dredd in this film.
Instead, as stated earlier, this movie feels more like a side story focusing in on the character of Judge Anderson. She’s the only Judge in the film to appear without a helmet, and understandably so, since they state her reasoning early on.
Despite that, I found Olivia Thirlby to be the best part of the movie. Her role really doesn’t ask much of her, but I really liked her character and Thirlby’s performance. This movie was really more about her and pretty much focuses on her development from a wet rookie to a hardened Judge, and she goes through quite the ordeal throughout. She learns the harsh realities of what it means to be a Judge and the kinds of tasks required of her in that role. She’s given the most background information in the film and winds up as the most relatable character. But that isn’t saying much when there were only about seven real characters.
On the flipside, I wasn’t too big a fan of Lena Headley’s character, MaMa. Now I found her to be a pretty decent villain, but the movie doesn’t really give her much to do. There was only one instance in the movie where she really came off as menacing and downright evil, but I never really felt like she showed off why she was in full authority of the Peach Trees Mega City block. As a gang leader, she came off as incompetent, with no real sense of why she became the leader of her gang other than through sheer savagery. I was left divided with her character, and by comparison to other drug lords in cinema, Lena Headley came off as a bland villain despite her appearance.
As for the titular character himself, I really did like Karl Urban as Dredd. I liked his portrayal of the character much more than Stallone’s. The way in which he carries himself throughout the movie felt imposing, and that’s really what I would expect from a character like Dredd.
Despite all that, Dredd didn’t come off as interesting as he should be. There was only one instance in which we got a sense of the kind of character Dredd is and only one reference to his fame or infamy as a Judge, so for a good chunk of the film he came off as a pretty regular cop for those who are unfamiliar with the character. Knowing only the barest info on Dredd from the previous film, there wasn’t a lot to go by in this film as to why Dredd stands out among other Judges as a compelling character. There were hints provided by other Judges, including Anderson (Thirlby), but nothing concrete was ever really said about him, and because of that, I couldn’t invest in the character.
As for the action, the film provided a variety of sequences that wound up being hit and miss. The kills are gory and, at times, pretty stunning to watch, but at other times they are rather dull and lack imagination. The biggest example of this would be in the film’s rising action and climax, which ends rather anti-climaticly. The rest of the action was just alright, but nothing really wowed me. I’m not really asking for something extravagant, but when your only tool to elevate the action is slow motion, you’ve got to do something interesting with it since so many directors overuse that technique (e.g., Paul W.S. Anderson).
One last note on the film is its 3D, which I had some problems with. I’m not gonna put too much of an emphasis on it simply because I wasn’t sure if the problems I saw early on in the film had to do with my screening or not, so I can’t really say if this is a movie worth watching in 3D.
There was a lot for a new franchise and its character to expand upon, but the movie itself wasn’t as great as I thought it could be. The story it told was something more of a side story about a sidekick rather than the lead, and I felt that it was a misstep. I felt they didn’t give me enough of a reason to care about Dredd or even understand how he came to be the character he is. However, for what the movie is about, Dredd 3D is a passable film.
GO Rating: 2.5/5