Writing, Reviewing and Criticism In The Internet Age

Tag: Dredd

Dredding Part II, or, He is the LAW

Dredd by Pete Travis

Dredd by Pete Travis


What’s that? A Follow up review to something I’ve already done?? First off, this is a first for the PageBoy site, and if there is anything the internet is good at it is getting people to try new things and new expressions of the things they love, (that and cat gifs right, everyone loves those…) So without further ado, let’s start talking about ‘THE LAW’ and it’s personification in the form of Judge Dredd. As a life-long nerd I’ve always loved the comic character from 2000AD, and whilst the Stallone film was a guilty pleasure of mine (I gave it a good review, promise) I also always felt like the film completely missed what it was about the character of Dredd that made him so compelling, and a great way of exploring difficult themes.

This version was written in 2006 by Alex Garland despite the film itself not being announced until 2008 (now THAT’s optimism!) and after Duncan Jones passed on it directorial duties went to Pete Travis. Karl Urban takes on the role of Judge Dredd, Olivia Thirlby takes on the role of the rookie Judge Anderson and Lena Hadley is the bad guy, drug lord Ma-Ma. It’s usually here that I give a run down on plot, trying to avoid spoilers but as the plot is so simple I don’t think I need to worry about giving any major spoilers. In the future lawless metropolis of Mega-City One a new drug is causing havoc, two judges are sent into a high rise controlled by the drug lord who seals them inside and the two have to fight their way out. I’ve simplified a few of the details there but that is pretty much the long and the short of it. As with the best action movies the stakes, characters and motivations are set up early leaving the rest of the run time for the action. If there’s one thing this film gets right it is that – the action is gorgeously choreographed and brutally violent and when coupled with the simply jaw dropping design and VFX work make this one of the best looking slices of action violence you are ever likely to see from the past few years of mainstream cinema. The design work, especially the Slo-Mo sequences are wonderfully put together and the subtle details (making Dredd’s suit seem like it could take a blow or two) make the world seem compelling and absorbing – a dystopia that could actually occur.  Karl Urban does a great job as Judge Dredd, managing to convey emotion without using his eyes at all as, thank goodness; he keeps on his helmet throughout the film and doesn’t scream ‘LAW’ like Stallone did.

So is it a good film? Yes. Absolutely and the fact that it didn’t do that well at the box office is a crying shame as it meant that any chance of a sequel was dead in the water. It’s slick, well done and tries to be an action film with a good aesthetic standard.

Whether or not this is a good adaptation though is another thing entirely, as, arguably, it isn’t possible to condense the complexities of a character that has been in existence since 1977. The initial drafts of Garland’s scripts dealt with things integral to the world of Dredd too, such as his relationship with Judge Death but these were rejected because it would have been just too much work for audiences not used to the world of the comics. Another adaptation criticism is that the comics used Judge Dredd as a tool for satire – the violence and over the top style was a deliberate choice – a way for the writers to make specific points about the rule of the law, the power of the police and how authority is used against citizens. If the film has done anything wrong it is the whole thing is played far too straight-faced. The violence and action is over the top and incredible to look at but the exaggeration is never something questioned by the film and thus audiences just get to accept Dredd as another action hero who can kick ass and take names without ever getting the deeper level of meaning the writers of the original character intended.

That may well be nit-picking however as whilst cinemas are buried under a slew of grey, dull, mechanical action films Dredd was a blast of bloody good fun. It’s just a shame we won’t get to see anymore.



Dredding it, or, ‘Do you see what I did there?’

If ever fans could feel aggrieved at the treatment of a Hollywood adaptation then Judge Dredd fans clearly have a case to make. First appearing in the second ever issue of the massively influential British magazine 2000AD Dredd became one of the most iconic and certainly one of the most successful British comic characters ever created. The writers used the dystopia setting and the violent characters as a chance to explore issues such as free speech, authoritarianism, the role of law and the police state. Such is the measure of the character that Judge Dredd has been mentioned in Parliament when British law makers have been discussing just these same issues.

Sadly though it couldn’t stay that way forever and in the mid-1990s Hollywood came a calling. It’s worth noting at this point in time Hollywood was in the middle of the what fans of actions movies would later call ‘the dark time,’ (not actually true but 90s action movies were god awful) and the chances the adaptation would be faithful were…well…not great…

If that non too subtle clue at the end of the last paragraph wasn’t a big enough give away I feel I should probably spell this one out as simply as I can, the Judge Dredd movie has as little to do with the original source material as I did with the JFK assassination – (this is a blog on the internet, you all should have known it was only a matter of time before I mentioned at least ONE conspiracy theory.) That said there is one final piece of information I should give in order to be completely honest with my pre-held opinions. Despite having almost nothing to do with the original comics ‘Judge Dredd’ is, in my opinion, easily one of the best Sylvester Stallone vehicles ever committed to celluloid. Yes, that’s right – it is high praise indeed.

Anyone who thinks they can detect even a trace of hipster-ish cynicism is wrong. This is genuinely one of those movies that wins out on sheer unadulterated fun and if anything, movies should be at least that. It’s become a staple of television schedules and a film beloved by men of my generation for its charm and cheese in equal measure. For those of you who don’t know, allow me to offer a recap of what is tenuously termed as the ‘plot.’ In a dystopian future society is kept away from the brink of anarchy by the judges –a group of law enforcement officers possessing the power of judge, jury and executioner all in one. The most feared is the notorious Judge Joseph Dredd, in the comics, a violent faceless figure of overreaching authority – here in the film, its Stallone. Obviously as the marquee star Dredd quickly loses his helmet and is allowed to wander around chewing the scenery and spouting ‘dialogue.’ The bad guy is the mysterious ex-Judge ‘Rico’ played with wide eyed and malevolent glee by Armand Assante who is clearly having the time of his life as he demonstrates how to turn a villain into a cartoon character over the course of about 90 minutes. Max von Sydow pops up as the paternal Chief Judge and as was mandated by law back then, there is a ‘comedy sidekick,’ played by the films one black spot, the execrable Rob Schneider.

The details of the story I will not bother to relate as they don’t really matter. This is a big, bonkers action movie. The explosions will be loud, the guns will never need to be reloaded, the scenery won’t stand up to the actors demolishing it and no matter how hard you hope the comedy side kick will make it alive to the end of the film. And to no surprise that is exactly what happens here. It’s dumb, loud and hugely over the top as well as being an absolute pile of stupid fun – (perhaps best exemplified by Stallone’s apparent complete inability to pronounce the word ‘law’, seriously…)

So, I really enjoy this movie but there is a part of me that feels a little disappointed. There are occasional flashes in the movie that there was the plan to maybe make a more ‘faithful’ version. The brief glimpses we get of the dystopia actually look as if they had some care put into them, the costuming is all really well done – thanks to the costuming work by Versace. But it wasn’t to be – originality may well have compromised the film’s box office takings so the film is the pure throwaway entertainment its makers were aiming for. If you’ve never seen it, do yourself a favour – get a few beers in the fridge, a few friends on your couch and have a great night in. For those of you to whom that may sound beyond grim, maybe you should take a different route. Go to your local bookstore and find some Judge Dredd; it’s a wonderful slice of British comic history, often gleefully over the top but always well drawn and always trying to make a serious point. Most of the comics are being collected and released as collections and are well worth looking at, if you’re a comic fan.

This may not have touched on all the adaptive issues here but, well, I’ve been away for a while and this is me trying to get back into the swing of things so there will be more intense adaptive discussions coming up in the next few weeks I promise. One question worth considering though, is, if the adaptation had been more ‘faithful’ to the world of the original comics would the movie have been as fun? Thankfully, in keeping with this week’s laid back approach to the adaptation discussion it seems that question may well have already been answered, here. It seems to be a new kind of Judge Dredd movie for a new generation of action fans not satisfied by just cheese. Frankly, I’m just happy they found someone able to pronounce the word law. (Seriously, look it up..)



Ps. It’s good to be back!