Plot: What’s it about?
Well, well, well…what have we here? Is it a movie based on a *gasp* comic book? Why yes, yes it is! I’m only kidding, of course, but long time readers of the site will know my stance on movies and the apparent lack of screenwriters in Hollywood. It seems they get their ideas from comics, television shows or in re-making previous films. And with Dredd, it looks this actually falls into two of those categories. Yes, lest we forget Sylvester Stallone starred in the first version of this movie back in 1994 when the film was called Judge Dredd and, to be honest, I never saw it. However seeing as it’s been remade, I don’t think it withstood the test of time. Then again most everything Stallone has done, save the Rocky and Rambo movies, has withstood the test of time. As we delve deeper into the recesses of comic book lore, the characters will undoubtedly get more and more obscure. Yes, the Spider-Man’s, Superman’s and Batman’s have already been done (a few times, actually) and it was only because I used to read comics that I realized that Dredd was a comic book character. But for those that aren’t familiar with this British hero, let me educate you.
In the not so distant future, the United States is mostly a nuclear wasteland. The only inhabitable place is the Eastern seaboard from New York down to Washington which houses 800 million people in what can only be described as a super city. Naturally crime is rampant and the only law are the “Judges” who take their lives in their own hands day in and out as they do their best to maintain order. Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is breaking in a new rookie, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) who has failed her exam, but seems to possess psychic powers. The duo head to the Peach Trees, one of hundreds of 200 story buildings that house up to 75,000 people. The Peach Trees is the headquarters of the Ma-ma clan who are making a new drug, slo-mo. After the building is locked down with the Judges inside, their fate is most likely sealed. However we have to ask ourselves if Judge Dredd and his new companion have what it takes to not only make it out alive, but take down the Ma-ma klan to boot?
I won’t say that I wasn’t ever a fan of Judge Dredd in the comics because I never read it. Certainly the character is almost instantly recognizable with the Nazi-esque attire and executioner-style helmed, but that was about it for me. I’d heard pretty good things about the movie and figured I’d give it a try. Without giving too much away I’ll say that this is probably one of the most violent, if not the most violent film I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen a lot of movies). I’m talking violence in the form of a super slow motion bullet piercing a man’s face with an exploding exit wound coming out of the other side. Then again I’ve become so desensitized to movie violence it really didn’t affect me after a while. Though I’d not really classify him as a superstar, I have to wonder why Karl Urban is in the lead role here. We never see more than his jaw, so why not give a struggling actor a break? This is along the same lines as using celebrity voices in animated films – I just don’t understand why they don’t use someone else’s voice. At any rate, Dredd is certainly an interesting watch, though I feel it was a bit overrated.
Video: How does it look?
One thing I will say for the film is that it’s easily one of the more visually ambitious titles I’ve seen in a while. While some directors steer clear of 3-D films director Pete Travis seems to really want to embrace this “new” format. I watched it in standard Blu-ray, but may need to watch it again in 3-D. Several of the close up shots were made for 3-D along with some of the “slow motion” shots that must look amazing with those glasses on. Having said that, I also noticed my fair share of faults with the transfer, notably some of the exterior shots having a bit of blocking issues in the shadows. Detail is about average and some of the arial shots of the matte paintings are impressive, but by and large this is a very dark movie. While the 3-D aspect is sure to impress, I felt I was left wanting a bit more polished image.
Audio: How does it sound?
Everything about Dredd reeks of a dynamic soundtrack and let me say that the film delivers on this level. My step son walked into the room when the movie was playing and said “this movie has more bullets fired than lines of dialogue.” And I have to say that I agree with him. If it’s shots fired, things blowing up or anything in between, then this is the film for you. The DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack is certainly robust enough to fill a room with sound and Karl Urban’s raspy, grizzled voice takes front and center for the majority of the time. Surrounds are constantly humming and the LFE are engaged during several key moments in the film for some added extra ‘oomph.’
Supplements: What are the extras?
I won’t say that the film is lacking on supplements, I’ll say that the supplements are lacking in substance. The supplement I got the most out of was “Mega City Masters: 35 Years of Judge Dredd” and in this we essentially get the history of the comic from its roots in the 2000 A.D. series. We get some interviews with the artists and creators of the comic that tell us of the character’s history and cultural relevance. It’s a very interesting supplement. We’re also treated to a bevy of more “techincal” featurettes like working with 3-D, how the looks were achieved, the costumes and set decorations as well as the use of CGI and matte paintings. One thing I found interesting was the use of Johannesburg, South Africa as the “city” in the film. Who knew? We also get a motion comic prequel as well as the original theatrical trailer. A Blu-ray, 3-D Blu-ray and an Ultraviolet copy of the movie are all included.