Dredd 3D

I was sold on the movie the second I finished watching the red band trailer that was released to promote a couple months back.  Ultra slow-motion gun fights with every bullet hit captured in excruciatingly gory detail, combined with a gritty, realistic futuristic style and Karl Urban’s awesome portrayal of Judge Dredd’s brutal grimace was a combination I simply could not resist.  Well, after checking it out this past weekend I can tell you this is one that lived up to the trailers.  One thing that unfortunately took a bit of steam out of this movie was the rather unfortunate coincidence that the basic set up and story is nearly identical to that of another kick ass actioner recently released this year in the form of The Raid.  Although on paper the two sounded pretty near identical, I am happy to report that Dredd has enough differences that it wasn’t really a problem.  This one is a lot more about the sci-fi and futuristic elements whereas The Raid focused more on the martial arts combat, so the feel of each movie was fairly different, at least within the confines of them both being action pictures anyway.  I will say that this movie all but erases the rather foul taste left in most Judge Dredd fans’ mouths after the Stallone version (Rob Schneider, really?).  OK, I’ll admit the old one had some cool shit (the big mech guy and the cannibal cyborg dudes in the wasteland were cool as shit, there’s no denying), but everything about this new Judge Dredd reboot just works much better.  I especially liked that the tone is kept 100% serious throughout, and never resorts to trying to cheese up the material just because it’s based on comics.

What was really cool about this one is you get a much better sense of how awful a world it is to live in.  Where Judge Dredd 1995 always ad this overly sound stagey feel to everything, this movie comes across much more in line with something like District 9 where the world is totally believable.  I felt Dredd did a much better job of making you really aware of just how fucking horrid it would be to have that many people crammed into a giant city like that living in massive apartment complexes.  When Dredd tells the rookie he’s evaluating that the Judges can only respond to approximately 6% of reported crimes, you definitely get much more of a sense of just how insane the amount of crime is in that world.  I also liked how the movie treated the material a lot more along the lines of a police drama in that there’s no ridiculous “take over the world” type shit going on that only Judge Dredd can stop.  It’s simply a day in the life of a Judge in Mega City One.  It’s a good approach.  I thought the method for deciding if a Judge makes the grade was pretty awesome too:  basically you go out on duty into some slum war zone, if you live and don’t get disarmed or fail to follow an order, you’re in.  Now that is throwing someone into the deep end of the pool.

So how was the action?  Hard hitting and hard core and occasionally bordering on artful, if you can appreciate the sight of crimson gore spraying out of a facial gunshot wound in sparkling 3-D globules that spurt out of the screen right at you in ultra slow-motion anyway.   It was fucking awesome.  Every hit is bone crunching and every gunshot wound produces the requisite burst of gore.  Dredd delivers the goods in terms of the ol’ ultra-violence and put a great big grin on my face the entire time.  You get all sorts of sweet shit in this one, people being skinned alive, some of the best scenes of bodies slamming into concrete after falling dozens of stories, people’s heads being burned with some kind of napalm round from the inside out, brains being splattered ,faces being blown apart, self surgery, all the stuff you want to see in a flick like this.

Oh yeah, and the 3-D was actually worth it for this one too. The SLO-MO drugged out scenes definately looked really cool, and aforementioned ultra slo-motion death scenes were definately enhanced by the addition of the 3rd dimension. So I guess now there's like 6 movies worth seeing in 3-D instead of 5. Good job.

Performances were also uniformly solid.  I wasn’t 100% on board with Karl Urban even after the trailer, but after seeing the movie I definitely think he was a good choice.  I was a little surprised he didn’t try to over exaggerate how gruff his voice was, and instead played Dredd as much more calm and collected.  A cold, hard, killer bad-ass to be sure, but he didn’t take it over the top, even with that mighty grimace.  Also, respect for NEVER taking the helmet off the entire movie.  Urban literally only has his mouth to act with, but the helmet is such a part of Dredd’s character I am glad it stayed on.  I found out Urban actually fought for that when the guys making the movie had suggested removing it in some scenes, so respect to him for that. 

I liked the rookie, Anderson (played by Olivia Thirlby), quite a bit too.  Dredd is charged with taking out Anderson who’s a mutant with ultra powerful psychic abilities, but hasn’t passed the entrance exams into Judgehood.  Of course her abilities supersede her academics, so they pair her up with the infamous Dredd to see if she can make the grade in a trial by fire: survive the streets one day as an acting Judge.  Happily her psychic abilities actually get utilized throughout, and they do some cool shit with it that I thought was quite unique such as a psychic interrogation where you literally spar with the person you’re interrogating inside their heads by trying to out imagine each them.  I like how it even showed some of the negatives of being able to read minds in that whatever they think of you can see in your mind, so depending on the person (and in Mega City one there’s some sick puppies) that may not be particularly desirable.  You get the impression this isn’t a selective thing for her either.

The soundtrack was really great too.  The whole movie has this really intense industrial electronic soundtrack that perfectly fits with the cold, harsh, totalitarian future.  It kinda mixed elements of composed score, harsh industrial, deep electronic bass and even a bit of dub step (but don’t get your panties in a bunch if you hate that stuff, it isn’t like Skrillex scored it or anything).  The theatre I saw it in was cranked too, so that was awesome.  Apparently there was an alternate soundtrack made for it that was much more along the lines of a retro Carpenter style keyboard soundtrack (found that out from Outlawn Vern’s review) so I’ll definitely have to seek that out.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll include an alternate soundtrack on the blu-ray, but that brings me to my next point which makes that seem kinda unlikely.

So then I find out that Dredd 3D, despite pretty much nothing but positive buzz (it had a 100% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes 25 reviews in, that’s fucking pretty damn impressive), and in my opinion it lived up to the hype, tanked at the box office.  Overall the box office for the weekend was pretty weak, but 6 million on over 2500 screens?  Really?  I read articles where they said the movie catered to “fan boys” too much so general audiences didn’t go see it.  Umm, ok, I guess making a solid, R-rated, serious action movie based on popular comic book source material is just catering to fan boys too much.  I think maybe it needed to be re-written by 5 people and shown to more varied test audiences so we could completely neuter it and water it down into generic flavorless PG-13 soup so a wider audience would want to go see it.  Maybe it just needed more product placement, fucking terrible references to pop culture, a comedic side kick, maybe a banging soundtrack from Little Wayne.  Fuck that shit.

Prove those fuckwads wrong.  If you like action, go see this fucking movie so we can get more movies made like this.  Movies that are good, and don’t compromise their vision so that “general” audiences will find them more appealing.  Action Frankly making a product appeal to a herd of sheep is not making a good film, it’s shitting out a disposable fast food product.