Apr 15, 2013

[Movies] Dredd (2012)

In 1995, Sylvester Stallone portrayed the titular character in the movie Judge Dredd, as based on the comic series. And while the movie had its positive points on its own, a lot of folks felt that it had been a bad adaptation and a bad movie overall. And I have to admit that I didn't really like that movie either.

That older adaptation ended up being more like a prior Stallone film, Demolition Man, given all we had was a lot of Stallone being, well, Stallone. Sure he's a badass action star, but then our knowledge of him as an actor can often override whatever his character is supposed to be.

So when they announced that they were remaking Judge Dredd with the movie Dredd, I wasn't quite sure how I was supposed to feel about it. Normally I instinctively hate remakes and reboots since I have some degree of affinity for the original production. But in this case, I didn't like the original movie, but that still didn't necessarily make me automatically open to the thought of a remake. And that may be more due to the fact that I continue to advocate for Hollywood and other movie makers to just focus on telling original stories instead of constantly looking for existing work to send through the meat grinder.

But maybe this one wasn't too bad.

Synopsis: Dredd is a 2012 science fiction action movie of British-South African origins. It was directed by Pete Travis and written and produced by Alex Garland. The movie is a standalone reboot of the Judge Dredd movie franchise so you don't need to worry about looking for a copy of the Stallone version.

In a distant future, the United States is largely a wasteland. Humanity is now huddled in the remains of the once-great cities that have become Mega-Cities as far too many people are clustered together in the remaining habitable space. And thus in order to further optimize the criminal justice system, law and order are put in the hand of judges who combine the functions of the police, the judiciary and the penal system - or at least the executing part of things. And one of the more effective judges is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), who has now been tasked with evaluating a new recruit, Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who hasn't done well in aptitude screening thus far.

Currently a deadly drug known as Slo-Mo has become popular in the city. And when three dealers are executed in Peach Trees, Dredd and Anderson are sent to investigate. The area is controlled by former prostitute named Ma-Ma or Madeline Madrigal (Lena Headey) and when Dredd manages to arrest a criminal named Kay (Wood Harris) in order to ask more questions, she manages to get the judges locked in the 200-storey slum tower together with her forces. So now Dredd and Anderson need to keep their prisoner safe and find a way to get out of the tower before Ma-Ma and her forces take them out.

Now the decision to have most of the movie set in this one massive building was both a stroke of genius and yet a horrible mistake. It was certainly clever to have the movie done this way since it controlled what the filmmakers had to create and it reduced most if not all of the action to the sort of things that can be done on controlled soundstages. Sure there was the opening chase sequence, but otherwise they didn't have to worry about putting together stuff like that. But then it also meant that the action was largely limited to running down corridors and shooting at one another instead of being able to show more of Mega-City One or something. So boo on that.

Karl Urban wasn't too bad as Dredd, I'll give him that. I can understand why they opted to make sure he never took his helmet off this time around - no one wanted to repeat the mistakes of the past. And his Dredd-voice wasn't too bad either - at least it didn't seem as unnatural as Christian Bale's Batman voice. I kind of wish the uniform stood out a bit more or that he had been a little more top-heavy from a physical perspective, but those are just little items. Beyond that, he was largely the stoic and deadpan Judge Dredd that we expected.

It was an interesting choice to bring in Anderson as a character, given how it is revealed early on that she has telepathic abilities. Thus beyond all the blood and gore you do have this one judge-to-be trying to leverage her unique talents to interrogate suspects and basically make sure that people were being truthful with her. And she wasn't too bad with a gun either.

I have mixed feelings about the generous (or excessive) use of slow-motion camera moments. On the one side, it did make for a great visual to depict the effects of the Slo-Mo drug on one's perception. On the other hand, the sequences were really, really long and I think we could have tightened them up a bit. so while they were visually stimulating, they also ended up making us viewers feel more and more desensitized to the wanton violence going on. And that sort of takes awake from the experience when you start to feel numb.

On the whole, Dredd is a decent movie that tries to be a bit more thoughtful than your typical action movie, although not by far. The violence does get a bit excessive at times to the point that I feel it takes away from the narrative, but it's still a better Dredd adventure than the 1995 movie. This I rate the film as 3 creative bullet types loaded in Dredd's Lawgiver gun out of a possible 5.

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