In the future, America is a wasteland and the Human race lives in Mega-City One, a large metropolis spanning along the East Coast from Boston to Washington DC, where violence is rampant. “Judges” are tasked with maintaining order in the chaos as judge, jury, and executioner. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) take on Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) and her drug operation in the Peach Trees mega-block.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the character of Judge Dredd, he appears the British comic book 2000 AD. The first Judge Dredd story appeared in 1977, and since then has developed a rich mythology. Dredd doesn’t try to incorporate much of its source material. Instead, it focuses on the titular character, giving us a brief, but satisfying, glimpse into the dystopian world of Mega-City One.
The plot is simple: Judges Dredd and Anderson are trapped in Peach Trees and must ascend to the top of the building to get to Ma-Ma and lift the lockdown. It really is that straightforward. This simplicity is very beneficial because it allows the narrative to breath and not get bog down by twists or too many details. Instead, the movie focuses on the relationship between Dredd and Anderson, as well as the action and violence (you know, the important stuff).
The thing that stands out the most in this film are the special effects. Slow-motion, coupled with the other CGI effects, make Dredd look absolutely gorgeous (maybe not the most flattering way to describe a gritty movie, but hey, whatever). Several scenes were shot at 4000 frames per second, so you can see pretty much every detail. I don’t have a 3D blu-ray player, nor did I see it in 3D when it was in theaters, but I can only imagine how much that may have actually added to the experience.
Dredd carries an R rating, and takes full advantage of it. The violence can get pretty brutal and has Tarantino-amounts of blood at times. It’s actually comical how much blood is flying around; there were several moments I laughed at the amount of gore. But for some reason, when this satirical violence is combined with the slow-motion, it become something quite elegant. Understanding the violence of the source material and embracing that comic book nature of it really helps this movie from becoming overly serious.
Initially, Urban didn’t strike me as a good fit to play the character of Judge Dredd since it is much grittier than the other roles I have seen him play. But I must say I am pleasantly surprised how well he made the character work. Most of his face is obscured by a helmet, so Urban had to use his mouth to convey any kind of emotion, granted there wasn’t much to convey. He uses a hoarse voice, similar to Christian Bale’s Batman, that really establishes the experience and hard history of the character.
It’s too bad Dredd didn’t do well in theaters because it offered a great introduction into a world that is ripe for exploring. The initial outing focused on Dredd, Anderson, and their relationship. A sequel could expand the mythos around the Hall of Justice, mutants, and the rest of Mega-City One in general. The stories are there, it’s just a matter of whether or not Lionsgate will make a sequel. I hope they do, and I know others do too given the Dredd sequel campaign.
Dredd is has become a cult hit and I think it really needs a sequel (or two). The simple plot allows for a tight focus on the major characters. Although the violence is over-the-top, when it’s combined with the slow-motion effects, they become hypnotically beautiful sequences. I really hope its cult status gets noticed by the people that can make a follow-up film happen, because I don’t think there are many movies that I actively hope for a sequel for more than Dredd.