Michael and I saw Dredd 3D on Sunday. Interesting comic book movie. If you’re not familiar with the premise, Judge Dredd is a British comic book about a dystopian future in which crime-ridden American cities are patrolled by Judges, who act as cop, jury, judge and – if necessary – executioner. They see crime, they act on it. Dredd is a dedicated cop in Mega-City One, with an unbending moral code and lethal abilities. One of the conceits of the comic book is that Dredd never takes off his helmet, so you never see his face. (Although he has removed his helmet once, his face was never seen.)
(There was a Judge Dredd move in 1995 starring Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante, but it was terrible. If you want to learn more about Dredd, skip it.)
Anyway, the movie is in 3D and stars Karl Urban, who is GQ-handsome and a great actor.
The filmmakers stick to the mythology, though, so you never get to see more of his face than his mouth and chin. He also does this low, gravelly Clint Eastwood-esque voice and never smiles, so he comes across as pretty grim. However, Dredd does have a few humorous lines, so he’s not completely without emotion.
I found the 3D distracting at first, but it was amazingly effective for a particular plot point. SPOILERS AHEAD.
The movie revolves around Dredd and a psychic rookie (Olivia Thirlby) first investigating several deaths in – and then struggling to get out of – one of the 200-story super structures known as “blocks”, where hundreds of thousands of people live. Many stories are little more than slums. Life is desperate and gangs run many floors. And it appears there’s a new drug on the market.
This is where the 3D is marvelous. The drug is known as “slo-mo”, and once inhaled, it slows down the brain’s perceptions to a fraction of what it normally is. The effect is mesmerizing! In one scene, the villain Ma-Ma (Lena Headey) splashes soapy water in her bathtub, and the water glistens like jewels, the bubbles and foam arcing up and away slowly, spreading like frothy webs, the regular splashes and drips suddenly violent, nearly frozen waves. It’s just so beautiful.
In another scene, shattered glass twinkles and refracts light, bits and pieces flaring and dying as the shards slowly vanish away into darkness. (In this case, because someone is thrown off a balcony.) You can see every tiny bit of movement, and it’s hypnotic.
I think it was one of the best uses of 3D I’ve ever seen.
On the other hand, the slo-mo 3D effect is horrifying when used during gun battles. Bullets rip into bodies so slowly you can see skin and muscle and organs rippling and tearing, and exit wounds exploding and splattering in blood and bone and teeth and brains…all in micro slow motion. It was so gory I had to look away several times. It’s certainly effective, though.
Overall, the story is pretty basic – the two Judges have to fight their way out while every gang member and criminal with a gun is looking for them. They also have to keep a prisoner alive while doing it. Standard dialogue, some witty one-liners. A great motorcycle chase. (Urban apparently did his own motorcycle stunts.) There aren’t any real surprises except for the slo-mo effect.
I can recommend the movie if you’re a comic book fan, a Judge Dredd fan, a fan of apocalyptical science-fiction, or just like seeing big guns and lots of blood in 3D. If you’re not specifically into those things, you probably wouldn’t like it.
If you are a Judge Dredd fan and plan on passing it up only because of the sour taste left in your mouth from the ’95 version, you should give this one a try – it’s heads and shoulders above that piece of dreck.
Overall, I give it 3 out of 5 stars. Watchable, with caveats.
And here’s what Karl Urban really looks like: