If you are firm with movies then you probably know the 1995 ‘Judge Dredd’ vehicle with Sylvester Stallone as Dredd. Although I think it does have some cool moments, I heard from various comic fans that it isn’t exactly very true to the original. And with an ego like Stallone in it… it’s pretty much sure that he changed quite a few things, moving it further and further away from the comic. But now there is a new one. And this version also gets a lot of good reviews from all over the press and net. But is it better than the Stallone one and more true to the comic? And is it always better to stay more true to the source material?
The story of the movie is as simple as it can be. The world we see shows a dystopian future. The movie doesn’t make a mystery about the fact that the chance, to live a good life, is very much not existent in this world. If people aren’t living in a slum or ghetto then they live in so-called megablocks. These consist to up to 70k people living in them. Really huge structures. Crime rate is over the roof and only the department of justice is able to fight the crime. At least to a certain degree. In this future the cops are called judges. These judges have the license to kill so to say. If they find you guilty in a crime then you are basically done.
We follow Judge Dredd. A man of not many words. But we can see and feel he’s eager to fight the bad guys. On this particular day he is getting a recruit to his side. Dredd’s job is to find out if the rookie is worthy enough to become a judge. A distress call gets them both into one of these megablocks. Of course this megablock inhabits a huge drug factory. Sure enough havoc breaks out, and we follow our two protagonists managing the chaos.
Yes a very simple plot and a not too original one either. Not the strength of the film to be honest. What it makes so good is that it doesn’t compromise its premise. The movie delivers what it promises and what it shows looks amazingly great. This is the first movie in a long time that makes great use of the 3d feature. The visuals are really beautifully shot. The action scenes are approached in a very old-school kind of way. Movies like Robocop, Die Hard or the 1990 Total Recall come to mind. Movies that deliver good looking and gritty action. There are no middle ways where they try to implement drama or conflicts. It’s just the good guys against the bad guys. And that simple structure, if done right, is fun.
Character moments are very rare. But when they’re happening it always makes sense. Especially when it comes to the law and jurisdiction in that world. Every now and then the recruit questions the law but also understands when it’s necessary to go the hard way. All this is done in a completely non-cheesy way. Good thing! What brings me to the acting.
The cast we got in this film doesn’t have any superstars. Karl Urban, who should be a superstar, plays Dredd without to invest too much. Not a bad thing! After all you only see his chin all the time. Urban noted that he’s a long time fan of the comic and delivers a good interpretation of his character. The recruit is played by a young lady named Olivia Thirlby. She’s pretty much doing the same thing Urban does. Trying to keep it real instead of too much drama. And that’s just right for this kind of movie. Lena Headey gets to play the leader of the bad guys. Some great makeup effects on her make her look wonderfully evil. Which fits her character of course. Overall I can see how it isn’t easy to find a character too root for. We don’t get too much background for all of them. Except the recruit. She is the connection to the audience. If you don’t root for her then you probably don’t like the movie at all.
Overall it is a movie that does a lot of things right. Especially things that have been missing in action movies so much over the last years or even decade. And that’s movies that follow a straight line. Yes the movie is violent! But in context of what story they want to tell, it’s necessary. And all the blood and gore is justified for believability and style purposes. You could argue that the movie celebrates its violence. So what? Have you seen any video games as of late? Blood and gore all over the place.
The movie is indeed better than the 1995 version and it’s closer to the comic. No compromises in style and execution. A few lengthy parts here and there though. It seems to be a good thing to stay closer to the source material in this case. The Stallone movie had a lot of cheesy and unintentionally funny moments and comic relief that made you more laugh about instead of with the movie. The new one does know very well what it wants to be. The 3d and general esthetic look very awesome. Definitely worth a watch!