Dredd 3D Review
September 20, 2012
The latest comic book adaptation to hit cinemas is Pete Travis' Dredd 3D. Not even Bill Weasley stands a chance of the limelight with Karl Urban, an actor so talented his snarl has more screen presence than most contemporary actors entire faces, blowing everyone out of the water as Judge.
It wasn’t until I was a little older that I really came to appreciate graphic novels. My comic book knowledge has improved considerably since the days of JTHM, Bear and Squee! during my formative years. Subsequent reading has been considerably grown up, thankfully a little more mixed and has included the brilliant Persepolis, Maus and The Walking Dead. Despite this diversity, I haven’t read anything like the ultra-violet world of 2000 AD. Normally one to favour the unconventional, my existing current comic book knowledge seems incredibly straight laced compared to Judge Dredd’s average day in the magazines. It wasn’t until I saw director Pete Travis’ adaptation of Dredd 3D that I realised how intense life is for citizens of Mega City One.
In a future where America is an irradiated waste land (known as the Cursed Earth), law and order lies in the hands of Judges; urban police who are judge, jury and executioner all rolled into one. Mega City One, a vast and violent metropolis where criminals rule chaotic streets along the East Coast, is Dredd’s (Karl Urban) jurisdiction. The ultimate Judge, known and feared throughout the city; he and psychic rookie Judge Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) are intent on ridding the city of the latest dangerous drug SLO-MO; a narcotic that allows users to experience reality at a fraction of its normal speed.
Pete Travis’ Dredd 3D remains faithful to the comic in at least one respect; it continues to be ultra-violet. Despite my many years of watching films, the violence still shocked me a little. There’s something about squished brains and skinned criminals that just doesn’t appeal to me. This doesn’t make the film any less awesome. The dark, gritty violence of Dredd is part of the appeal; there isn’t anything quite like it (except for The Raid but that’s another post). Similar to District 9 in some ways, Travis’ ability to capture the bleak Mega City One with such beauty is an astonishing achievement. The scenes of drug usage are especially beautiful; it seems that not only does SLO-MO make everything deliciously slow, but processes every scene through Instagram. It’s a hipster’s dream come true.
No review of Dredd 3D is complete without the well deserved praise of Karl Urban’s stellar performance. Thankfully not removing his helmet once, something Sly Stallone received harsh criticism for the slated nineties adaptation. Showing more emotion with a snarl than most actors convey with their entire face; Urban delivers deadpan lines with smouldering splendour. Similarly, Lena Headey as former prostitute turned criminal kingpin Ma-Ma is quietly powerful. Not thinking twice about ordering the onslaught of various citizens, Ma-Ma is one of the finest female villains on the big screen. Commanding just as much screen presence as Urban, other performances are quickly forgotten.
Potentially one of the best films of 2012, Dredd 3D just isn’t perfect; it’s deceptively slow paced at times, sagging considerably in the middle. Although a far greater crime is the 3D. The titles and credits admittedly look fantastic in 3D, but it largely seems unnecessary. Garland’s screenplay and Travis’ unique ability to make the bleak beautiful are more than capable of success without the gimmicky extra dimension.