What happens when a beloved yet underground comic book character hits the big screen via creators and stars who seem to have zero clue what makes said character tick.
Now, let me be clear – back in 1995 I actually enjoyed Sylvester Stallone’s Judge Dredd. I thought it was vastly superior to Batman Forever, which brought in all the money that summer. Though it featured a helmet-less Dredd for the majority of the film, something that never happens in the comic, and a ridiculous buddy role for Rob Schneider, the movie was still a lot of fun. Of course, fun doesn’t always translate to money, and Judge Dredd was a box office bomb. Just like 2012’s take on the character, simply titled Dredd.
That’s where the similarities end, mind you. The big difference between the two is quality – which this latest version has in spades. Check out the trailer and then read my take on the flick after the jump.
The 2012 version of Dredd stars Karl Urgan as the title character, who is tasked with evaluating rookie Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) while taking down a notorious gang leader Ma-Ma (played by Lena Headey) in a locked down 200 story apartment building. This version of Dredd is less sci-fi than the previous film – though it takes place in the future, you’ll find no robots or flying cars. Instead, Mega-City 1 is a rough and tumble landscape, home to 800 million, with the only nod to sci-fi tropes is Judge Anderson’s psychic abilities.
New vs Old
While 1995’s Judge Dredd was relatively kid-friendly, this Dredd is a hard-R film, allowing for some mega-violence and a more realistic film. The performances are also much stronger – while Urban never removes the helmet, he does a lot with his voice and mouth. He heartily delivers and its a shame that the film didn’t make more money, since it would have been awesome to see Urban continue on in the role. Amazingly, he doesn’t carry the film – Thirlby and Headey both deliver very strong performances as well. Great actors in a great action flick.
The only negative I found watching the film on Blu-ray was that I wasn’t seeing it in 3D. Director Pete Travis clearly was working with that method in mind, as there are some scenes and effects that would have been more appreciated in 3D. Someday I’ll get that 3D tv, I tell you.
It’s unfortunate that Dredd isn’t a more familiar character in North America, as I think action fans would have really enjoyed this film. It certainly did great with critics, but audiences virtually ignored it when it was in theatres, much like the original. Now that it’s out on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD, don’t miss your chance to watch a fantastic, balls to the wall action flick.