October 20, 2012
I grew up reading 2000AD. It was a distant beast to the other comics I was aware of at the time: not foreign and difficult to get hold of and expensive like the Marvel and DC comics, not full of cliched daring-do boys own stuff like Eagle, not aimed at young kids only striving for simple comedy like Beano. 2000AD was, and still is, an intelligent, sometimes complicated and often challenging comic. Something thta perhaps we've come to expect of modern comics, but in the early 80s it was like a revelation to me.
At the core of every 2000AD episode was Judge Dredd, a biting satire on the state of Britain, of Americanisation, of increased police powers and crowded cities. The Judges were the law, judge, jury and executioner. The city was crowded and desperate. The film Dredd throws us into this.
A quick note: forget the Stallone version of Judge Dredd, it didn't happen, just like there was only one Highlander film and one Matrix film. Okay? Let's move on. This is Dredd.
The representation of Mega City One is shown from the start of the film and it's frighteningly realistic. Not a Bladerunner clone but instead New York magnified, with towering mega blocks and endless urbanisation. Just like Mega City One was always meant to be. At street level it could be New York. In the blocks it's like 50s built tower blocks in Britain scaled up a thousand-fold. The atmosphere of the film was instantly gripping and tense, the soundtrack electronic and grungy, futuristic and pessimistic. We're thrown right into the action, great scene setting with Dredd chasing down some drug takers in a van. Immediately the violence is highlighted. This is not a smoothed out and frindely family version of Dredd, it's the real thing, an 18 certificate in the UK (which takes some doing these days), it's incredibly violent. But that's the point.
The story is that Dredd visits a block on a routine homicide call out, accompanied by rookie judge Anderson, who has psychic powers. Judge is sceptical of a mutie. (If you're familiar with the Dredd canon it appears that the film is set before the establishment of Psi Division.) Of course the routine call out escalates as the block is controlled by a gang who produce the slo-mo drug. It quickly becomes Dred and Anderson versus the entire block.
The effects of the slo-mo drug, which mae the user experience time in slow motion, are actually shown in slow motion and a colour-saturated tinge, a really interesting slide into the narcotic haze, then snapping back to the dark, real, violent world.
Karl Urban is absoloutely perfect as Dredd. Grim and stoney faced with the perfect small doses of black humour. And of course he doesn't take his helmet off. Lena Headey is intense and scary as the head gangster Ma-Ma. And not least Olivia Thirlby does a great job as Cassandra Anderson, an outsider as a Judge yet extremely capable of earning Dredd's grudging respect.
I have two gripes. Firstly the Lawmasters didn't look like the comic version. Yeah, one for the geeks. Secondly I'd have preferred to see it in 2D as I find 3D irritating, wearing 3D glasses over normal glasses is uncomfortable and the light loss is drastic. Hopefully 3D is on the way out.
Overall though I was really, really happy with Dredd, it's the perfect encapsulation of a single prog Dredd story. These are the stories that created Dredd, short, sharp, brutal but making multiple (often political) points. The stories that created the foundation of Dredd and allowing it to then branch out into long and epic story arcs. I'll also reiterate that it was extremely violent, so don't take the kids.
If you're a fan of Judge Dredd I don't think you'll be disappointed. It left me with an urge to read and re-read loads of Dredd.
What I'd like now is a mega epic Dredd TV series tackling one of the huge story arcs. Please?