Dredd Blu-ray Review
When people think of comic book films, the first images to fly through their heads are usually super powered and colorful costume clad characters that regularly bombard their lives through the overuse of commercialization. However many characters that would not even be found on a milk carton in the United States, have risen to “Man of Steel” or “Dark Knight” status elsewhere in the world. Judge Dredd is such a character, premiering as a comic strip in a sci-fi magazine back in the mid ‘70’s, touting no other powers than those given to him by the law. The character took off in Britain and even inspired an ill-conceived Hollywood “blockbuster” in 1995 starring Sylvester Stallone that angered loyal fans and staggered the momentum of new ones in the US. Screenplay writer Alex Garland (28 DAYS LATER) hoped to create a faithful depiction of Judge Dredd’s world with a modestly funded project and perhaps ignite some interest in a new generation of sci-fi fans who’s “cups runneth over” with avengers and bats. Garland’s vision and fan service couldn’t be more on point with his film DREDD, however the crux of the film does not even begin to approach the level of story needed to offset the relative shoestring budget and the character’s American ambiguity.
In a dystopian future where vast cities are surrounded by barren wastelands, the only remaining advocate for law and order is an elite assembly of enforcement officials knows as “judges.” They have the power to fine, arrest, convict and even sentence offenders to the fullest extent of the law right at the scene of the crime. One of the most famous of these Swiss pocket knife cops is Judge Dredd (Karl Urban, STAR TREK, RED). On this day, Dredd’s assignment is to evaluate a new recruit in the field, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby, BEING FLYNN) happens to carry a very unique and inherent ability that has glossed over her slightly less than average aptitude scores.
Since DREDD had limited funding for a movie of its ilk, instead of exploring a vast dystopian future and racking up the dollars with location shots and special effects, this story calls for Judge Dredd and his rookie recruit to investigate one of the mega residential buildings that are now commonplace in the cities. The building is run by a violent gang led by Ma-Ma (Lena Headey, GAME OF THRONES, 300), who is also the primary supplier of a new narcotic called Slo-Mo, that greatly slows down the perceived passage of time by its user. After Dredd discovers this, Ma-Ma places the building on lockdown and sends every criminal inhabitant after him. In true video game fashion, Dredd must work his way up the levels of the building and get to Ma-Ma before her minions get to him. At the very least, it’s a plot that sounds entertaining, but supposedly an early script for DREDD was leaked a few years back and was used as inspiration for the 2011 Indonesian film THE RAID: REDEMPTION. And even though DREDD may have been penned first, it’s the latter of the two films that contains the superior execution.
Even for passionate comic book fans here in the US, ‘95’s JUDGE DREDD was most likely their first glance at the character. 2012’s DREDD does a pretty respectable job trying to shove the toothpaste back into the tube as far as showcasing the true traits of the character and reformatting the now 18-year-older brains who may have been wondering if Rob Schneider was in this new film. Garland even boldly delivers what many fans of the comic world wish to see more often in the films of their beloved champions, a non-origin story. DREDD is simply just another day in the middle of the character’s overall story arc, pandering to the audience that already has extensive information engrained in their heads on Dredd’s backstory and supporting characters. And that’s not a problem at all, the Judge Dredd layman can handle the lack of character depth or obliviousness to certain references, but the one thing that is absolutely essential in a film like this is an incredibly entertaining plot. In THE RAID: REDEMPTION all of the scripts shortcomings were buried under a massive blitzkrieg of original martial arts and innovative stunt work. DREDD’s idea of originality is discharging a small country’s amount of ammunition in 96 minutes.
Karl Urban is a no-contest winner over Stallone and should be an inspiration to all the modern unmask-happy directors, as he keeps the helmet on the entire film and actually relies on that thing called “acting,” in order to correctly portray the character. Thirlby does what she can with the wooden dialogue and Lena Headey is completely wasted on a 2-dimensional psychopath who emits about as much fear as a BATTLEFIED EARTH John Travolta.
DREDD was definitely a movie that should’ve been made to try and amend a great character’s reputation, and even though that goal might have been achieved with the portrayal of Judge Dredd alone, it’s still a crime that he has not been properly demonstrated in a story that thoroughly exploits the character’s most obvious and captivating aspect, his job.
Video: 2.40:2 Widescreen, 1080p/AVC/MVC DREDD was natively shot in 3-D so if you have the capability on your set it will give off that “wow” AVATAR-like factor. The standard 2-D image is also good, but not nearly as eye-popping. There are some instances where blacks become a little gray and some noise is evident.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 with DTS Neo:X compatibility. The sound is actually quite incredible and far surpasses the confines of the film’s budget. Even subtle details of objects that create sound are captured in this mix and the score is one of the only things that keeps the story flowing.
Mega-City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd (14 min): Some backstory for those who are not very familiar with the character of Judge Dredd. Included are interviews with the comic series creators and comments from other artists in the business like Mark Millar. Nothing groundbreaking here and it definitely does not take the place for the missing director’s commentary, but it’s worth a watch especially if you’re still curious about Judge Dredd’s history.
Day of Chaos: The Visual Effects of ‘Dredd’ (15 min): This is a behind the scenes featurette on all the special effects used to create Mega City One. This is probably the most entertaining of the bonus features on the disc even though most of the film takes place inside of one building, the external shots of the city are very realistic while maintaining a ROBOCOP/BLADERUNNER essence to them.
‘DREDD’ Featurette (2 min): Just some promo footage for the film.
Dredd’s Gear (3 min): A short feature on Dredd’s advanced weaponry, costume and motorcycle.
The 3rd Dimension (2 min): A look at how the film was shot in 3-D and the process they used for creating the “Slo-Mo” effect. Pretty interesting if you’re able to see the 3-D version of the film on your set.
Welcome to Peach Trees (1 min): Design and some effects work on the Peach Trees, the main background set for the film.
‘Dredd’ Motion Comic Prequel (3 min): This is a motion comic giving a little depth to the incredibly vapid villain of the film, Ma-Ma.
Trailers – The film’s cinematic trailer and the trailers for the films that are shown before the main menu.