Monday, 10 September 2012


I was going to compare Dredd to Kick-Ass.

Superficially they seem to have a lot in common. In both cases an American setting, but used by British writers in British films . Kick Ass did not come from 2000AD but it's writer, Mark Millar, did. Both Dredd and Kick-Ass are drenched in OTT violence and twisted black humour. They sit giggling maniacaly on the boundaries of taste in a way that even Nolan's Batman series has managed to avoid. For Hit Girl's profanity in Kick Ass we have the art house 3D splatter in Dredd, both coincidentally condemned in The Daily Mail.

Having seen Dredd, I realise I'm wrong , and after what the team have done with the character and the potentially ground breaking use of 3D ( used for adults at last) I'm ditching the comic book comparisons. I'm more inclined to compare it to an unconventional indie film which completely changed the whole industry : Easy Rider.

If you love, hate.. or just 'meh'... Dredd 3D, you will definitely have seen something different. Just like Easy Rider.

Ironic, as Dredd opens with a little tribute to another movie
mentioned by Wagner and Ezquerra as an influence (which I remember watching specifically because it was name checked in 2000AD). Electra Glide in Blue 's opening tool up scene is repeated at the start of Dredd. Electra Glide in Blue is of course the cult companion piece to Easy Rider, the same two wheeled counter culture story told from the other side of the fence.

As you might have guessed, there is plenty in this movie to enjoy outside the 2000AD geekdom.

Despite problems on set between writer Alex Garland and Pete Travis this is a very well directed movie and I will be checking out Travis's other output in very short order. Any movie looking to ape spag westerns in an urban almost Scorsese like environment has absolutely no need to look this good, and when it needs to Dredd looks as beautiful as any art film you'll see this year. There is no chance Dredd is going for Oscar nominations but it wouldn't surprise me if  DOP Antony Dod Mantle gets some attention. Dredd will be playing in colleges for decades, and because of the genuis use of 3D will probably be a big money maker at the cinema for a long time.

Will a notoriety for spectacular art-gore 3D influence the story in
future Dredd sequels? My spine literally shivered at the thought
of what this crew and this technology (and Lars Von Triers' Drector of Photography) could do with Judges Death, Fire, Fear and Mortis.

Paul Leonard-Morgan provides a great soundtrack, and it will be fascinating to hear it next to the unofficial
DROKK soundtrack by Geoff Barrow Ben Salisbury

as they have taken exactly the same inspiration, John Carpenters theme's from Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape From New York. Once again I'm left thinking that there are so many people working on this film, and even NOT working on this film, getting it so spot on, it is amazing how far off the previous film was (part of the crushing disappointment with the 1996 Dredd was knowing that parts of even that doomed screw up really captured the comics. I'm not supposed to be talking of that atrocity though.. that's here)

For dialog and story Garland is bringing his 28 Days Later/Sunshine
voice, tough people pushing on through a believably lousy world as if it was just another day. It is grim funny when it needs to be and
ditches the melodrama when it needs to be serious. My favourite line is when the Chief Judge is asking Dredd to take the rookie out and evaluate her.

"Stick her in the deep end" she says
"It's all deep end" replies Dredd with a grimace

The other big surprise is Olivia Thirlby as Anderson. Garland steps around the problem of basing an entire film around a character with no face by having it told from the perspective of his sidekick. Urban is not Stallone and, obviously no fool, realises that Dredd becomes an even more impressive figure seen from the rookie's perspective.

For those in the know, Anderson isn't rookie for long and has had her own strip in 2000AD for twenty years ("Anderson : PSI Division"). There is plenty of scope for development in Thirlby's version. She has some of the best scenes in the movie, and makes such an impression  that a movie spin-off could be launched for Anderson straight from Dredd, (if the Jinx character from Die Another Day can seriously be considered for a spin-off then Anderson really isn't such a stretch). Considering that Garland is supposedly saving Judge Death for the third Dredd film, and that Dredd's arch bad guy is initially brought to MegaCity 1 by Anderson, it would seem a great excuse for an extra
movie between the official Dredd sequels.

Yes Urban does nail it. One scene where Dredd is vulnerable and
grimacing, Urban has the exact grim Dredd expression we've been
looking at for years. The juve I was watching the movie with the end exclaimed "he doesn't even smile thoughout the entire movie!" Again, like Thirlby, Urban gives just enough away to suggest there is a lot more coming from this character, and Dredd like Anderson is no ordinary human being.

Sorry the bikes, the "Lawmasters" still suck. I've seen the
pre-production art and they look better on paper. Somehow they don't translate well on screen and, as the earlier allusion to Electra Glide in Blue suggests, it is a vital part of the character. They need to be as imposing as the Judges, not big mopeds. If there is no screen for the rider they don't need to be encased in plastic. Someone show the design team a picture of a V-Max. And the weaponry? Machine guns? They are referred to as  'bike cannon' in the comics.

The low tech mad max atmosphere is actually a bonus,  in that it further takes us from the previous movie. On a Spanish review it suggests Dredd 3D can be considered a prequel to Judge Dredd (if you wish to stomach that, I'm not discussing that here, you can find my final catharsis on the subject after 15 years of hurt and some other movie recommendations on the subject here) and with Dredd and Anderson looking so young in this movie it gives plenty of scope for  background and setting to grow with the characters.

Something else for those new to world of 2000AD; unlike Marvel and DC who periodically reboot their comics to keep their characters young, 2000AD has (so far) aged their characters in realtime, and beloved characters like Anderson, Hershey and Dredd himself are noticeable older and more worn after 35 years of Mega City 1.

Dredd 3D does eventually turn into shoot outs in identical corridors but that is a restriction of the budget and I'm prepared to except it. A $40million film budget is peanuts compared to some of the other garbage reaching muliplexes.

Don't compare Dredd with the similar Indonesian instant classic The Raid, both are effectively indie films and should be mutually supportive if anything (I would try some cross promotional thing next time guys, you are obviously on the same wavelength).

Compare Dredd instead with Battleship, a movie based on a board game that illustrates the desperate creative bankruptcy in Hollywood. Battleship will cost $209 million, will take decades to recoup its money and had probably nill chance of generating a franchise even if successful. While Universal Pictures was buying up the film rights to board games canny Rebellion Games was poaching the creative rights to 35 years of 2000AD...

<Dredd related cinema>

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