Friday, March 15, 2013


Judge Dredd and his world of Mega-City One is such a vast work of
fiction that I’m not sure it’s possible for any live-action movie
to completely realize it on the screen.  But I am sure Dredd (2012)
comes as close as any film is likely to.

I have been a fan of Judge Dredd and the 2000 AD weekly in which he
appears from the moment I first saw them.  Despite the frequently
unstable distribution of the title to the comics shop I owned and
operated for over a decade, I did my best to acquire and read every
issue of the title, along with whatever collections and spin-offs
were published, and continued to do so for many years after closing
my comics shop. 

There have been times when I had to take my leave of Dredd and 2000
AD.  Sometimes I didn’t have a good supplier for the publications.
Sometimes I couldn’t afford them.  I always come back to them and,
indeed, recently adjusted my budget so I could do just that.  Soon
I will once again be adventuring in cruel future worlds and loving
most every minute of it.

For those who have somehow never managed to cross paths with Judge
Dredd in the comics, he is the ultimate lawman of his dark future
times.  He is cop, jury, judge and, when need be, executioner.  He
enforces often-harsh laws in a insanely enormous city that occupies
most of what’s left of the Eastern Seaboard. 

Created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra, Dredd has
often been called the villain of the series.  Certainly, he’s done
things many of us would find abhorrent.  On the other hand, were I
a citizen of Mega-City One, surrounded by an irradiated hell zone
and beset by enemies who would gleefully slaughter me and mine, I
would be simultaneously terrified of the man and damned glad he’s
around.  Dredd is a legend in his own world and, in our world, one
of the greatest comics characters ever created.

Turning to the movie...

Dredd is a British-South African movie directed by Pete Travis and
written and produced by Alex Garland.  It stars Karl Urban as Dredd
and Olivia Thirlby as Anderson, a psychic rookie judge who failed
her aptitude test and whose last chance of earning her badge is to
successfully complete a tour of duty with Dredd.

That tour of duty takes them to Peach Trees Block, a 200-story slum
which is home to 75,000 residents and under the control of vicious
drug lord Ma-Ma.   Some of the residents are innocent civilians and
some are either part of the drug operation or users of the drug
Slo-Mo, which slows a user’s perceptions to one-hundredth of their
usual time. Ma-Ma is utterly ruthless in enforcing her rule and
distributing Slo-Mo throughout Mega-City One.  Cross her and your
death will be painful and seemingly endless.  Dredd and Anderson,
alone in Peach Trees, have to bring Ma-Man and her gang to justice.
Talk about a killer final exam.

Urban is great as Dredd.  Like the comics character, he never takes
off his helmet.  No actor’s vanity there, he gives his portrayal of
Dredd 100%.  Thirlby is almost as convincing as Anderson, a strong
woman overcoming her difficult past while trying to leave up to the
high standards set by the Judges and Dredd in particular.  Though
most of the villains are one-dimensional, Urban and Thirlby give us
more with their characters.

Dredd works.  By focusing the action in one block, the movie does
convey the enormity of Mega-City One without getting overwhelmed by
the special effects that showing more of this world would entail.
The action is rough and tough, the body counts are insanely high,
the explosions are exciting, the villains are appropriately nasty
and the ending of the film is a satisfying one.

Dredd works...and I recommend it to anyone who’s ever enjoyed the
comics adventures of the character.  

I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

© 2013 Tony Isabella

1 comment:

  1. I appreciate you not giving everything away here. Since it's Dredd, you know that he and Anderson will both survive and eventually succeed. Still some reviewers seem to feel a need to give scene by scene recaps, which can ruin some films.

    I've got the film on Hold at the Library and can't wait to get a chance to actually see it. Like you, I've been a fan of the Judge since reading the my first issues of 2000 A.D. way back in the early '80s.