To be perfectly honest, I was never a huge fan of Judge Dredd.
I loved 2000 AD. The British anthology comic was one of my favorites growing up and I could never get enough of them particularly living in Canada and having to rely on relatives or importers with a high markup to obtain copies.
My favorite strips were Strontium Dog and Ro-Busters initially, and later of The Ballad of Halo Jones, but I never really warmed to Judge Dredd, the violent hero of the comic strip created by writer John Wagner and artist Carlos Ezquerra. I read it, of course, but it was never really a favorite.
So when Judge Dredd was made into a movie starring Sylvester Stallone, I thought; “Well, that’s it. Judge Dredd will never get another screen treatment after this!”
Turns out I was wrong.
Dredd adapts the comic series in a far more gritty and street level way then the previous film. One thing about the character from the comic books is that he never shows his face. He is always hidden behind his helmet. That wouldn’t do for Stallone, but Karl Urban gamely steps up and does the whole movie without showing the top half of his face. In that regard he captures the character far better.
This adaptation is raw and gritty and, in some ways, hardly looks like a science fiction picture at all. Sure, the film explains that this is Mega City One, the only sity to survive the irradiated wasteland of the Cursed Earth, but it feels just like today’s inner cities. That kind of disappointed me at first. In some ways I was missing the futuristic city scape from the previous film. It seemed to have more of a kinship with the original Robocop movie than the comic book that I remembered.
Once the action gets going, however, and the fight turns to the struggle between Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson against the gangs in a locked-down building, I was finally able to get into the picture.
I enjoyed it more or less. It had the requisite shoot-em-up scenes, explosions and slow motion visions of bullets tearing their way through human flesh, but it also had a small shred of humanity in the character of Judge Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a telepath as in the comics, but here a rookie under the tutelage of the senior Dredd.
It was an interesting redemption for a character who has had an unfortunate cinematic history, and I could see how this could easily become a Netlix series (a possibility that many on the internet are talking up), It felt like a pilot episode. But then it also felt like a music video.
In the end I’m not sure what Dredd actually was, but it certainly wasn’t pretty, or over-glitzed with CGI. It felt small and a little claustrophobic and maybe that’s just one Judge Dredd storyline, but it certainly wasn’t the best.
It was a better treatment of the character to be sure but as a film, I can’t give it much more than that it was watchable… as long as one is not squeamish.
It’s on Netflix now.