Back from the Dredd
Special guest reviewer- Eamonn Clarke
2000AD has been one of the biggest proving grounds for British comic book talent over the last 35 years. So much so that it is a bit of a mystery why none of its iconic characters have been adapted into successful films before now. Obviously there was the other movie but we all try to forget that one. But think of the creators who started out with 2000AD: Alan Moore, Brian Bolland, Neil Gaiman, John Wagner, Mark Millar and Grant Morrison to name just a few. Many of them have gone on to create stories for other comics that have been adapted for the screen, but still the only 2000AD character to escape from the comic pages is Judge Joe Dredd.
Dredd 3D arrives with an enormous weight of expectations from the fans, and also the big question of whether it can cross over and attract those who don’t read the comics into the cinemas. Fortunately everyone involved seems to have been aware of the expectations and were committed to treating the character seriously. Another huge factor in the success of the film has been the involvement of the creators John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra who get first billing in the end credits. Getting the popular 2000AD artist Jock to help design the look of Megacity One was also a very smart move by the producers.
So how well do they succeed in adapting the world of Judge Dredd? The opening shots of the Cursed Earth, the wall, and then Megacity One along with Karl Urban’s voice over set the scene quickly and efficiently. Director Pete Travis makes sure we know where we are straight away, and it is a believable world that doesn’t seem that far from our own. The slums, the battered vehicles and the street crime recall images from films like City of God and even the riots that plagued London in 2011AD.
And then there is Dredd himself. Right from the opening shots of him donning his armoured clothing and helmet Karl Urban is Judge Dredd. Terse, brutal and deadly. Obviously the uniform had to be adapted from the comic book depictions into something more functional, but the interesting thing is Dredd’s outfit looks well used and somewhat battered. Even the famous helmet is scarred and scratched in contrast to the Stallone movie where everything gleamed as if it had come straight out of the factory, or had just stepped off Versace’s catwalk.
The storyline is kept fairly straight-forward and simple with the two Judges outnumbered and outgunned as they try to work their way up through Peach Trees block to the final showdown with Lena Headey’s Ma-Ma. If I had any criticism it would be with the portrayal of Anderson as somewhat nervous and uncertain at the start of the film, I would expect a cadet Judge to be tougher but it does allow the the writer Alex Garlandto give us her character progression through the 95 minute film. Those minutes are perfectly paced and it feels is just the right length for an adult action film which is not affected by the bloated running times that are increasingly common.
While on the subject of time the depiction of the effects of the drug Slo-Mo are central to the plot and allow for an impressive combination of slow motion filming and the 3D effects. The water splashing from Ma-Ma’s bath and the shattering of a glass window later in the film are stand-out moments. I will don my medical hat for a moment to wonder how the drug works. Slo-Mo slows the user’s perception of time passing to one hundredth of normal. It is taken taken through an inhaler device and appears to work almost instantaneously. To affect the experience of time passing I would assume that Slo-Mo must work on neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. That means the drug must be inhaled into the lungs, cross into the bloodstream and then get across the blood brain barrier which would take some time. It would be quick but not as fast as shown in the film but we will just have to allow some artistic licence here.
Along with Karl Urban the rest of the cast are fantastic. Fans of The Wire will enjoy seeing Dredd and Anderson arrest Avon Barksdale (Wood Harris). It was also nice to see one of the Weasleys, Domhnall Gleeson, graduating to a more interesting film role as the Clan Techie, and Rakie Ayola makes the jump from Holby City to Chief Judge look easy!
Overall the film is a fantastic action adventure which remains true to the spirit of the comics while opening the character up for a wider audience. Let us hope that it makes enough money so that Travis, Garland and Urban can give us a sequel. The medic-droid gives Dredd 3D a full 5 stars. Film of the year for me.