Film Review: Dredd 3D

Film Review: Dredd 3D
Director: Pete Travis
Studio:  DNA Films, IM Global, Reliance Entertainment
Producer: Alex Garland
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey

“Judge Dredd” is a name that audiences thought they might never see again, for good reason as well. The tough-as-nails judge-jury-and-executioner’s last outing into theatres was subpar to say the least, Sylvester Stallone portrayed the character to the best of his ability but no matter how hard people tried they only saw either Rocky Balboa or John Rambo – It just didn’t work. The premise of the Dredd universe is meant to be self-deprecating and self-aware of its silliness whilst still providing sensationally dark and violent moments that catch audiences by surprise. During the first movie incarnation of the character this premise was more or less abandoned and the plot unwittingly spiralled into becoming a full-fledged comedy.

When I heard that Dredd would be returning to the theatres (In 3D no less) I was not interested in the slightest, partially because we had already had all of the ‘big hit summer blockbusters’ for the year (The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Expendables 2) so I could not get excited for Dredd at all. I still had the pleasant warm feeling left over from seeing The Expendables 2, much like the way one feels after a good shot of absinthe (Or adrenaline), and since Stallone had been (Thankfully) replaced by upcoming Kiwi action man Karl Urban I decided to shelf my concerns and go see if Dredd had finally earned his moniker.
Now that I have seen Dredd 3D and am sitting here writing about it I can say that it is indeed well worth seeing; It is not a flawless run of events but one can tell that a lot of effort was put into this – more than the last outing for sure!

The universe of Dredd 3D is set in the not-so-distant future where much of the world has been ravaged by nuclear war. All that remains of America is “Mega City One”, a colossal sprawling city that stretches between Boston and Washington DC. Beyond the towering walls of this metropolis is an irradiated wasteland called the “Cursed Earth”, completely inhospitable and riddled with mutants and the usual by-products of nuclear Armageddon. The remnants of American society have all congregated into Mega City One and do their best to carry on with life despite rampant crime and poverty. With the former systems of government and justice eradicated a new and ruthless form of street justice has risen: The Judges. Judges have the authorization to convict, arrest, and punish all those that break the law without need for a full-scale judicial system – It is an effective but ruthless system that has made the Judges the most feared people in the new world. The story starts with Dredd (Karl Urban) on the trail of a new narcotic called “Slo-Mo” which makes the user view their surroundings moving at 1% their normal speed. Along the way Dredd takes a rookie Judge “Anderson” (Olivia Thirlby) under his wing and brings her along on a routine drugs bust in a towering complex called Peach Towers. The bust goes south when the leader of the gang distributing the drug, Madeline Madrigal “Ma Ma” (Lena Headey), locks down the entire complex and orders the execution of the two judges. Unable to call for reinforcements Dredd makes the call to traverse the tower and bring judgement on the gang’s leader. What follows is an intense fight for survival as the two judges face off against stacked odds and their own codes of morality.

The main characters are engaging; I started liking Dredd’s character more as the story went on; He is ruthless in the line of duty and has a cold M.O but still has a thin line that he won’t cross. The outfit he dons is intimidating and his signature growl-like voice gives him an air of authority, great attention to detail was made here and both Urban and the director should be praised for it. Thirlby gives a good performance as a young woman who tries in vain to keep up with her mentor and who struggles to keep herself together this hostile situation. Headey’s villain “Ma Ma” has her moments where she can be pretty vindictive but her character is rather bland and not overly threatening, she’s just there to be the villain and nothing more. Overall the character tropes are basic but are written well enough to compensate the blandness that sometimes rears its head. Character development is hit-and-miss, most of it is focused on the two leads and precious little is left for the supporting cast and antagonists. We quickly learn that there is a lot more to Thirlby’s character than meets the eye and that Dredd himself actually has a human side and is trying to be a decent person in an indecent world.

Where this movie really shines is in its presentation and fight choreography, both of which are probably the best seen so far this summer. The environments are enthralling and depict a future you could probably see from here, it does not quite meet the standard set by movies such as “Blade Runner” but it is close enough. The 3D segments make sense when they show up when you consider the effects of the “Slo-Mo” drug, but to me it seemed like an overly convenient excuse to use a gimmick I’m non too fond of. Sure enough the movie falls into the same trap I have seen countless other movies fall into: 3D being used way too much. I think I have said it before in another review but I feel that fight scenes filmed in real time pack more of a punch than ones that are filmed in slow motion for the sake of 3D, the Bourne movies are a prime example of this. I would say that the ratio of 3D to 2D action sequences here is around 50:50 and while the 3D is not bad by any means it gets irritating after a while, that might just be down to my own preferences though so take that observation with a pinch of salt.

I really do not have a whole lot else to say about the movie, it’s a good for a night out with friends but in the long run I think easily forgettable. The plot is very mature and easily earns its R18 certificate, the performances are adequate, the action is good, and the direction is also good. It just feels somewhat empty as the credits start rolling…
Is there room for this franchise to go forward from here? There probably is but unless future directors find bold new places to take this character they might have trouble bringing audiences back for what might be more of the same. More emphasis on the “Cursed Earth” in future movies might be a good idea!

Final Score: 7.5/10
+Karl Urban as Dredd   +Action is great   +3D Works   +Plot is mature and does not get pretentious   +Franchise showing promise for the future
-3D is used a bit too much   -Slow motion wears out it’s welcome very quickly   -More effort put into developing minor characters would not go amiss  -Forgettable experience


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