Review: DREDD 3D

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

I grew up reading mostly Marvel and DC comics, the usual superhero stories most kids did.  Judge Dredd, the comic book, was never one that caught my attention or the interest of my childhood friends, for some reason.  So, when the first film adaptation opened in theaters in 1995, I missed it. Mainly because of the bad reviews by critics and comic book fans, I never ever bothered to try watching it.  As one of my esteemed colleagues told me at the screening for this latest version, “it is probably for the best.”  Now, after watching and enjoying Dredd 3D, I don’t think I could ever go back and I honestly don’t really want to do that.

Based on the comic characters and stories created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, Dredd takes place in a dystopian wasteland of a future. In Mega-City One, the police not only enforce the law, they also serve as judges and executioners.  Their on-the-spot brand of justice earns them the title judge and Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most infamous of the force.  On one particular day on the job, Dredd is tasked with assignment of training and testing rookie recruit Anderson (Olivia Thirlby).  Dredd and Anderson are called to a murder scene in the 200 story Peach Tree slum, an architectural monstrosity run by a drug lord known as Ma-Ma (Lena Headey).  When a key suspect in a murder is apprehended by Dredd and Anderson, Ma-Ma executes a lockdown of Peach Tree and orders her minions and the residents to eliminate the judges.

With intense violence and action and thrills galore, Dredd delivers dark and sometimes disturbing entertainment at its finest.  Never too overly cartoonish, director Pete Travis doesn’t shy away from capturing the grim harshness of the violence.  Based on my discussions with the comic’s fans and the comic’s reputation, this just feels right.  Travis and writer Alex Garland do some tremendous work here creating a dark and demented world that should please most fans of the stories that inspired the film.  I viewed the film in 3D, and while the effects aren’t always consistent, the more hypnotic moments of the movie look incredible in this format.  I must tip my hat to the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and editing by Mark Eckersley, who with Travis perfectly create this hideous future nightmare of a world.  I must also praise the original music by Paul Leonard-Morgan whose electronic sounds beautifully enhance the scenes.

As far as the cast is concerned, I absolutely loved Karl Urban as Judge Dredd.  He simply is incredible as the cold steely Judge who is just damn good at his job.  Always shrouded by his helmet, Urban manages to make this work to his benefit using his mouth to express himself.  I loved Olivia Thrilby as the rookie Anderson.  I’m just not sure I really buy this casting choice as a judge.  She looks too young and adorable to play a tough cop/judge. Regardless of the questionable casting, she too manages to win me over with her heartfelt performance.  The lovely and gorgeous Lena Headey supersedes all of my expectations as the truly frightening villain Ma-Ma.  It’s not that I didn’t expect her to do well in this role. I just didn’t realize she could be so hellishly scary.

I know this movie will not appeal to everyone, as it is intensely violent.  It certainly is not intended for young children either.  For fans of the Judge Dredd comics or stories of dystopian futures, I feel it safe to say that this film will greatly please.  I’m actually going to recommend 3D for this film, simply for its hypnotic moments.  I would also like to recommend that Marvel Studios recruit Pete Travis and Alex Garland for a Punisher film. These guys have an undeniable talent for adapting this type of material.


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