There was a time that I thought that no movie based on a comic book could be better than The Dark Knight. But then, this past summer, I saw The Avengers, and I had a new faith in comic book adaptations. I hoped to be wowed yet again only a couple of months later with The Dark Knight Rises, but it turns out I couldn’t really stand that movie, and it looked like Marvel had overtaken DC with the best comic book movie ever. But then, a flick that no one even bothered to see—and a reimagining, at that—came out a few months later that made me change my mind yet again. And that movie is Dredd. All hail the new king of comic book cinema!
is the greatest comic book movie I’ve ever seen. Here’s why: Judge Joseph Dredd is just an ordinary man who stands by his principles, and that’s it. He doesn’t have a bazillion dollars and a utility belt like Batman. He doesn’t have superpowers or a suit of mechanized death like Iron Man
. He doesn’t have anything but his adherence to the law. So much so that when he says, “Ma-Ma’s not the law. I am the law,” in this picture, you believe it, and you can see that his soon-to-be-victims believe it, too. The audience, just like the criminals, is left with a man who, against all odds, stands against the scum and takes back the streets, if only in just one area of a crime-ridden city. He’s like Travis Bickel or Dirty Harry, but set in a fantasy world of intense crime and violence filled with a new street drug called Slo-Mo. What’s not to love?
Well, apparently a lot, since nobody bothered to see this movie back when it hit theaters. I think a big reason for that is because of the stain the original Judge Dredd
left on the name of the character. Being one in probably only ten people who liked
the original movie though, I can mildly understand. Most people don’t fully understand that the Judge Dredd from the first movie is not the same Dredd that Karl Urban is portraying, here. This Dredd is much closer to the character in the British comic 2000 A.D.
, and since Judge Dredd isn’t a household name like Batman or Superman, most folks don’t know how great an ultraviolent picture could be with a very serious Dredd in it, which is what Dredd
is. In fact, it’s probably the most badass comic book adaptation ever made. If you like gritty films with morally ambiguous protagonists, then you need to see this movie. It’s one of the best.
The primary reason for its greatness is Karl Urban’s portrayal of Dredd, which is spot on. He plays Dredd gruffly throughout the entire film. He has no character growth whatsoever, much like Dredd in the comics. And instead, it’s the world around him that changes because he’s in it, which is a unique approach to storytelling, but one that pays off big time in this film. His rookie sidekick, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), also changes, making for an interesting team dynamic. The law is unflinching, and as established earlier, Dredd is the law.
The setting primarily takes place in a single building located in Mega City One called Peace Trees, which is another key to this film’s success—it stays grounded. Dredd’s fight to the top of the building is a scenario that was also used effectively in last year’s The Raid: Redemption
, but I think it’s more effective here, and surprisingly, more realistic (Come on, you’re going to tell me that everybody in that building knew martial arts in The Raid
?). With Slo-Mo, on the streets, Dredd is sent to investigate some murders and finds that the main source of the drug is in Peach Trees. He finds the drug runner to be a ruthless boss called, “Ma-Ma” (Lena Headey). It’s refreshing to have a female antagonist.
I don’t have a single complaint with this film, other than the fact the humor found within the comic is all but absent in the film. That said, the pacing is great, the acting is phenomenal, and the slow-motion special effects are beautiful and stylistic. See this picture now, and give Dredd
the audience that it’s deserved all along.