4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Good, but not great.,
This review is from: Dredd [DVD] (DVD)
I've been a casual fan of Judge Dredd for 30+ years, by which I mean I love the character and am familiar with many of the classic stories, but I've never regularly read 2000AD and have not really kept up-to-date with recent developments in MC-1. After being very disappointed with the Stallone movie back in 1995, I was pleased to hear that a new movie adaptation was being planned. The early behind-the-scenes shots were reasonably encouraging, and Karl Urban seemed like a good choice to play Dredd. Having now watched the finished product, my verdict is that it's very good, though not great. As an action movie it works well, and while it is perhaps somewhat repetitive in that it has lost of shots of Dredd and Anderson creeping down corridors, there is plenty of tension and some exciting shoot-outs . The final confrontation with Ma-Ma is a bit of an anti-climax though, and perhaps could have been spiced up with the introduction of a brutish henchman with whom Dredd could've engaged in bruising fisticuffs... but then virtually every action movie ends with a punch-up, so perhaps Garland decided to avoid that cliché
As an adaptation of the source material it's a bit of a curate's egg. On the plus side is Urban - while I wouldn't say he completely nails Dredd, he is very good and there is great satisfaction to be had in watching him coldly and wordlessly despatching perps. Thirlby is also good as Anderson. I also liked the interpretation of the uniforms, as well as the decrepit, decayed look of Peach Trees. As for negatives, I am baffled as to why Garland chose not to use one of the many Chief Judges from the comic strip - the film would've had even more credibility if the Chief Judge had been Goodman, for instance. While the level of violence was to be expected, I think sometimes it went a little over-the-top, and feel that some of the money spent on inventing gruesome ways to kill people could've been better used elsewhere, particularly in the look of Mega City One itself. This, for me, was the film's biggest disappointment. The film doesn't specify how far in the future it is set, but enough time must have elapsed in order for a nuclear war to have happened, and for Mega City One to expand as described in the opening voice-over, and the city wall looks impressively futuristic, yet the city itself looks exactly like what it is - Johannesburg with a few CGI mega-blocks. The voice-over also refers to the "ruins of the old world", yet the old world doesn't look particularly ruined; it just looks like a modern city. Using an existing city as a template for MC-1 was a good idea, but Johannesburg is just too low-rise to work in this capacity. And why people are driving around in present-day vehicles is also baffling.
Presumably the disappointing look of the city is down to budgetary constraints rather than design choices, and so if a sequel does go ahead, I hope enough money is made available to do MC-1 justice. Maybe a special edition of this film could be produced in the future with a more authentic-looking MC-1 CGI'd in (and perhaps the Chief Judge CGI'd out!)
Dredd is a solid, enjoyable film and a pretty good adaptation of the comic strip, but as has been stated in many other reviews, it feels a bit like a taster of something bigger and better to come, so let's hope a sequel sees the light of day.