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"Mega City One. Convulsing. Choking. Breaking under its own weight "

March 7th, 2013

If ever a property held so much promise for cinema adaptation it would have to be the Judge Dredd comics. So far there have been two bungled attempts at creating a lasting franchise; the first quickly dropped all references to 2000AD'S hero (Becoming Robocop) and the second was so poorly constructed the character was banished to the shadows and only spoken of in hushed whispers. Only you can't keep a great idea down and Dredd may just have managed to claw his way back to the status he so clearly deserved.

While I may have not been a long time reader of Dredd I had read the odd issue of 2000AD prior to Stallone slipping on the helmet (and then straight out again for most of the flick). When I first saw Judge Dredd the movie I was impressed with the futuristic setting but found things severely lacking in both plot and character depiction. Over time I've grown to love the shambles that was put together but I always hated the squandered opportunity. Fortunately I wasn't the only one.

Reinstating Dredd into a gritty universe (far from the action cheese fest that preceded it) the new iteration manages to wipe the slate clean and elevate the character to the lofty heights that he deserved. Working around a rather tight budget (lets be honest after the disaster that has followed the character would you have faith in making a return) the story is kept restricted to one location.

Dredd takes Rookie Judge Anderson on a routine patrol of a mega block (giant housing estate) after the execution of 3 criminals. Overrun by a criminal organisation lead by the notorious Ma ma the Judges find themselves trapped in the futuristic tower block after it enters a state of lockdown. With every villainous scumbag out for their blood the only escape can come from scaling the floors one by one until they reach the top and apprehend Ma ma.

The main issue of the film comes not from only showing a small portion of a rather expansive landscape but delivering a story similar to The Raid. I can see how the film struggled to find a audience as even I had reservations about seeing such a repetitious story so soon. Only its an unfair comparison especially considering that Dredd was written and entered into production before The Raid (It only came out later due to the post production special effects taking longer).

Trying to ignore the similarities (which is a hard task) it doesn't take long to settle into things as we are thrust into a fast passed action film which harkens back to the ultra violent films of the past. The simplicity of the characters working their way through wave after wave of bad guys (it never feels repetitive or game like) allows the viewer to become acquainted with the reformed Dredd to a greater degree than a large sweeping action epic would have.

Karl Urban shoulders the weight of the character brilliantly and maintains believability in a role that could come off as cartoonish. Its all the more impressive that this is managed by pleasing the rabid fan base and keeping the rather oversized helmet on at all times . At no point did I think while watching the film that Karl Urban was a good Dredd, I was watching Dredd.

Even with the focus ob bringing Dredd back to the big screen he doesn't have to shoulder all the responsibility with Olivia Thirlby's Anderson. I was curious as to how the character was going to work in this realistic version of the material as of holding supernatural abilities. Fortunately things are melded well and never pushed to unbelievable extremes. On top of this Anderson is much more than just a side kick or person in need of rescue and actually at times is more useful than our main hero.

Hero is an odd term to describe anyone within the feature and even by going up against drug dealers and pimps the underscores of the fascist society of which the Judges are key are not overlooked. What I have always found of most interest in the comics is that the entire function of the protagonists is to control society (with violent means) which in essence means our heros are actually the villains in the grand scheme of the world. While we don't get to see to much (a third act addition was a nice surprise) of this theme Dredd is only the beginning of a proposed trilogy where the seeds are sown for a more in depth look at the universe.

The special effects are kept to a minimum but when used they are rather impressive. A plot device requires the invention of a new drug called slomo of which we get to see the effects and amazing they are too. Rather than using the idea to implement the use of overused (some action films rely on this too much) slow motion effects the drug is used sparingly and in inventive ways. The effects are so impressive that you walk away from the movie disappointed that such a narcotic doesn't actually exist.

One of the drawbacks is that the new world is so well crafted that I wanted to step into the streets and explore this strange new land. As such by the middle of the movie I had begun to grow slightly tired of the same location and felt that the judges journey was taking too long. Fortunately at that point things are changed up a bit (as if the creators had realised) abating any reservations I was feeling.

Dredd is a brilliant beginning to a franchise that encapsulates the best elements of the comics. Ultra violent it refuses to bend the knee to recent teenage pandering of action cinema. This is a brilliant if brisk trek to a dystopian reality that really deserves more business than it has gained. Buy the DVD you won't regret it.

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Movie Details

Movie Poster Here
Director: Pete Travis
Screenplay: John Wagner
Carlos Ezquerra
Starring:Karl Urban
Olivia Thirlby
Lena Headey